Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed
In this wide-ranging and original book, James C. Scott analyzes failed cases of large-scale authoritarian plans in a variety of fields. He argues that centrally managed social plans derail 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 on 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. And in discussing these planning disasters, he identifies four conditions common to them all: the state's attempt to impose administrative order on nature and society; a high-modernist ideology that believes scientific intervention can improve every aspect of human life; a willingness to use authoritarian state power to effect large-scale innovations; and a prostrate civil society that cannot effectively resist such plans.
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It has been, I dare say, a fundamental book for me – though I only discovered it in 2013. I am now re-reading it, as I think it might be morphing into a classic. It's that important.
Nature and Space
Cities People and Language
Authoritarian High Modernism
A Plan and a Diagnosis
Soviet Collectivization Capitalist Dreams
An Agriculture of Legibility
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administrative aesthetic Agrarian Aleksandra Kollontay authoritarian Bolsheviks Brasilia cadastral map Cambridge capital central collective farms collectivization colonial complex context Corbusier create crops cultivation cultural designed ecological economic engineering environment example experience experimental fact factory farmers farms field fiscal forest forms function grain grid high modernism high-modernist human Ian Hacking Ibid industrial institutions Jacobs knowledge kolkhoz labor land landraces Le Corbusier legible Lenin living logic Luxemburg Marglin measurement ment metis modernist Nyerere officials organization Paris peasantry peasants planners plant plots political polyculture population practice precisely production quoted resistance revolution revolutionary rules rural Russian schemes settlement shifting cultivation simplification social socialist society soil Soviet standard surnames Taming of Chance Tanzania techniques tenure tion transform typically ujamaa ujamaa villages uniform University Press urban utopian vanguard party visual workers yields