Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

Front Cover
Yale University Press, 1999 - Political Science - 464 pages
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 20th 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 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 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 human life; a willingness to use authoritarian state power to effect large-scale interventions; and a prostate civil society that cannot effectively resist such plans.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User 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

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - MargaretPinardAuthor - LibraryThing

Great insights into social nature, urbanization, statebuilding and such. Can go on into more dense field issues, but I found the historical treatment very good. Read, Kat! Or at least flip through... Read full review

Other editions - View all

Bibliographic information