Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed
"Illuminating and beautifully written, this book calls into sharp relief the nature of the world we now inhabit."--New Yorker
"A magisterial critique of top-down social planning."--Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times
"One of the most profound and illuminating studies of this century to have been published in recent decades."--John Gray, New York Times Book Review
Compulsory ujamaa villages in Tanzania, collectivization in Russia, Le Corbusier's urban planning theory realized in Brasilia, the Great Leap Forward in China, agricultural "modernization" in the Tropics--the twentieth century has been racked by grand utopian schemes that have inadvertently brought death and disruption to millions. Why do well-intentioned plans for improving the human condition go tragically awry?
In this wide-ranging and original book, James C. Scott analyzes failed cases of large-scale authoritarian plans in a variety of fields. Centrally managed social plans misfire, Scott argues, when they impose schematic visions that do violence to complex interdependencies that are not--and cannot--be fully understood. Further, the success of designs for social organization depends upon the recognition that local, practical knowledge is as important as formal, epistemic knowledge. The author builds a persuasive case against "development theory" and imperialistic state planning that disregards the values, desires, and objections of its subjects. He identifies and discusses four conditions common to all planning disasters: administrative ordering of nature and society by the state; a "high-modernist ideology" that places confidence in the ability of science to improve every aspect of human life; a willingness to use authoritarian state power to effect large- scale interventions; and a prostrate civil society that cannot effectively resist such plans.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - Paul_S - LibraryThing
I learned a lot and gained a new perspective on the state-individual relationship. This in itself is enough to make me appreciate the book. It's written clearly and concisely, sometimes with too many ... Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - Stevil2001 - LibraryThing
I don't know how I found this book. I wish I remember where I saw it cited, in such a way that I was inspired to read it, because it's one of those books that's affected my thinking-- not just as a ... Read full review