Developing differences: post-structuralism and political economy in contemporary development studies

Mohan, Giles (1997). Developing differences: post-structuralism and political economy in contemporary development studies. Review of African Political Economy, 24(73) pp. 311–328.




Difference can mean many things - inequality, the non-same or change. This article explores all these interpretations in the context of recent debates around development theory and praxis. In particular I focus on the ways in which post-structuralist ideas have challenged those of various marxisms and how political activism may change as a result. I have taken ten books published in the last two years and drawn out themes which run through them. In many, the concept of development as discourse is opened up and various discourses are, to use the contemporary parlance, deconstructed to reveal the power relations underlying them. In doing this we see development as Eurocentric, patriarchal and disciplining. This also brings our analytical focus onto human agency and the construction and deployment of identities which has the potential to move us well away from materialist accounts of political action. The post-colonial literature is examined briefly as it focuses on such complex issues of identity. After destabilising this knowledge-action axis I look at how the various authors conceive of future change. For some the answer lies in civil society where these identities and resistances form the basis for 'post-developmental' change. Others see a need to engage with the existing institutions, especially the state and the international lenders, and work both within and against them. I conclude with some problematics for future research and practice which centre on the need to re-engage with political-economy, re-conceptualise class as an analytical and political category and place clear pressures upon the major institutions of neo-imperialism.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions