Book Review on James Ferguson's 'Anti-Politics Machine'

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The gap between developed and underdeveloped is evident in today’s world. In naïve effort to bridge this gap a host of aid projects and development schemes are plotted onto less developed countries. But what is development really? James Ferguson attempts to explore this concept in his book “The Anti-Politics Machine: ‘Development’, Depoliticization and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho”. The book is an extension of Ferguson’s PhD dissertation and was published in 1990 by Cambridge University Press. The book is interesting in that it seeks to give the reader a critical understanding and insight of the actual processes that take place when development projects are implemented. Using the small African country of Lesotho as his setting, Ferguson’s book is centre around the Thaba-Tseka Development Project. This book is likely interest a variety of audience, namely anthropologists, sociologists, economists, development practitioners or any lay person interested in the field of development.
In this book Ferguson aims to create an understanding of the workings of the concept of development through the case study of the Thaba-Tseka Development Project. To achieve this he gives detailed accounts of the setting and conditions of the project, as well as emphasize where and how development practitioners went wrong in this particular case.
To present his argument, Ferguson uses the first three chapters to define and analyse the concept of development. In this analysis he implicitly implies that there is a gap between what is planned and what is implemented in development schemes, that development is a gross injustice. This theme is continued throughout the book and can be seen over and again other examples that Ferguson uses. The next two chapters ...

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...suasive. At the end of the book the thesis is unanswered and he favours to discuss the spread of bureaucratic power into the Thaba-Tseka region and development is merely a “tool” for bureaucrats instead. Ferguson’s anti-politics machine is only but one of the workings of ‘development’ leaving his thesis largely unanswered. Personally we don’t find the book useful despite its excellent detail and capture of concept. Instead we find it considerably outdated as a lot has changed since the early 1980s. Both Lesotho and the approach of development programmes have changed since and are completely different. Nonetheless we do see the book’s value as fundamental read and it was revolutionary at its time and how it possibly impacted the field of development to what we see today.

Works Cited

Ferguson, J. 1990. "The Anti-Politics Machine." Cambridge University Press. London

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