Ethnography of Faith-based Development 2


Child Sponsorship, Evangelism, and Belonging (Chapter 3)

Sponsor a child

Child Sponsorship is a type of aid that allows for individuals, usually from developed countries, to fund and support a child in a developing country. These funds are provided, usually through an organization, in hopes that child will have the needed resources and supplies to live a good life full of health and opportunity.

  • World Vision receives “monthly payments” which benefit rural economic development.
  • The sponsorship for children last between “one and ten years”
  • In 1997 the United States sponsored “526,694 children around the world … over 30,000 children were sponsored by an estimated 26,000” sponsors.

Bornstein gives her readers two different perspectives on child sponsorship:

  • One from the perspective of a sponsor:
    • Interested to see the results of his sponsorship.
    • Was “disappointed” in his lack of ability to connect with his sponsored because he had given money but had never written the child.
  • The other from the perspective of the sponsored child.
  • Sponsorship can shows a “complex and contradictory nature of humanitarian assistance.”

Throughout the entire third chapter there are examples of both sides of the child sponsorship debate. Bornstein writes about child sponsorship creating a relationship across the world.

  • Corresponding with the children, developing the relationship, creating an “international family”
  • Bornstein describes letters as seeming “reasonable attempts to bridge the intimacy and strangeness of sponsoring a child in a country [they] had never been to.”
  • Many of the relationships seems too been sincere. Sponsors attempted to share Jesus with the children they were developing an international relationship with.

The other half of the debate discusses what Bornstein describes as “generic humanity,” claiming that child sponsorship threatens to make children commodities. That the relationships previously mentioned are “being purchased,” in turn exploiting the children.

  • Sponsorship can create jealousy and division in local developing communities. Not all children receive the same attention from their sponsors.
  • While sponsorship empowers the child, it seems to come at the expense of parental/familial authority/power.
  • The children are forced to write back and if they can’t write, someone writes for them and the child “send[s] a drawing.”

The Politics of Transcendence (Chapter 4)


Bornstein delineated the definitions of “civil society” and “NGO” – innumerable numbers of which have led to tensions between society and state:

  • Civil society as:
    • A social movement characterized by protests, strikes, and other citizen-led events that situate it in the middle ground between state and society.
    • A structure that replaces pre-existing structures in order to align with the values of free-market democracy. A structure applied with regard to context – social, economic, historical.
    • A global force, part of a grassroots resistance.
  • NGO as:
    • “Nationalist, autochthonous sphere[s] of grassroots political advocacy.”
    • “International sphere of humanitarian aid,” likened to a global network of an international civil society that functions outside of states.
    • Fulfilling the “coming to the rescue” paradigm that is so prevalent throughout the West.

Similarly, Bornstein recognized the varying definitions of the functions and interactions NGOS, civil society, and states engage in, noting that they, too, were ambiguous, as well as being too abstract:

  • Neoliberalism draws the central point of power away from the state.
  • Civil society engages with the state at a consistent level yet is not bound to it.
  • NGOs should not work against the state Vs. NGOs should be a moral critic for the state.

— More in terms of how they are recognized by the state, a further blurring of the definition of an NGO and its function comes about with religious vs. secular:

  • Religious NGOs tended to come under the concern of the Church, but in fact dealt far more with tricky subjects and political endeavours than did secular NGOs.
  • An interdependent relationship between churches, NGOs, and states exists leading to a “one cannot be without the other” trap.
  • Many employees of NGOs are members of the community.  While this is “walking with the people” as Jesus did, it also results in complex relationships between bodies of people.

Funding is a point of contention between NGOs and states:

  • The transnational context of funding that allows NGOs to bypass state structures has fuelled conflicts of interest.  It also means the extent of control states have over NGO finances is very little.  Some acts and legislated
  • Such control over their own funding threatens the authority of the state,

Being “apolitical” and the Politics of Transcendence:

  • NGOs express themselves as being “non-state” actors but by practice they are directly involved.  No NGO can be “apolitical” because their actions always incur political effects (Ferguson) that paves the way for the state.
  • Religious NGOs in particular play a confident role in challenging controversial issues.  Elevating God as the leader of development, combined with the neutrality of neoliberal free markets, means organizations such as World Vision and the Council of Churches transcend boundaries.


Tree of Hands

  • The writer of this blog sees the traditional arguments for/against child sponsorship as being aimed towards the big charities.  She defends child sponsorship in the localized sense.
  • The large underlying concern is about  whether or not child sponsorship actually works.  This article written by The University of Chicago Press is on the benefits of child sponsorship:
  • The Nazarene Compassionate Ministries has a child sponsorship ministry. This is a video showing examples of adults who had sponsors as children and how it impacted them (this is only one half of the debate):



  1. How do you feel about child sponsorship? Do the positives outweigh the negatives (or vice versa)?
  2. Do you think the apolitical approach favoured by the NGO community has only served to keep the poor oppressed because it is ignoring one of the primary drivers of poverty – the lack of individual rights and economic/political freedoms?
  3. While websites such as Markerble are attempting to appeal to the masses, do you think they are facilitating too much of a pick and choose, let’s go shopping attitude?  (A little like choosing a child to sponsor).  Or do you think they help people to realize which cause they are passionate about in a world that is overwhelming us?
  4. Is the fact it is the haves who are defining what “poverty” and “suffering” etc. mean, damaging to development?


  • This BBC article and the following video, “Through Their Eyes,” attempt to show what the sponsored children themselves think of such programs:

  • A paper exploring the interplay between transnational religion and secular institutions.
  • The evolving definition of global civil society according to Prof. Helmut Anheier:

  • Mario Rizzo talking about the state Vs. civil society:

Compassion Child      Christian NGOs

Ethnography of Faith-based Development



Summary (Bornstein, 2005)

Bornstein’s Faith-based development: Religion and economic development are bound together in Zimbabwe. The work of two Protestant NGOs (World Vision and Christian Care) is examined through their understanding of salvation, progress, the individual, and neoliberal economics.

  • Faith informs how development projects are constructed and how they are received in trans-national contexts; it gives meaning to development – to the why and the how of economic change.
  • Protestant ideas of development include
  1. Divine imperative to transform this world
  2. Salvation: tension between religion and forces in this present world
  3. Evangelism: the urge to change people’s spiritual convictions
  4. Progress: in material and spiritual realms; encourage a “Christian lifestyle” that mirrors a capitalist lifestyle (accumulation & consumption)
  5. The individual in relationship to God; parallels neoliberal and neoclassical assumptions of individual “choice” that underlies free-market economics

Three Lenses for Viewing Christian Development in Zimbabwe (Chapter 1)

  • Historical: Development as a charitable act carried out by Christian NGOs
  1. Colonialism (1890s – 1965): Christians worked with the stats
  2. Liberation Struggle (1965 – 1980):  Religious organizations became vehicles for social activism and the liberation movement; the Christian Church Council formed its development arm, Christian Care, as a separate NGO.
  3. Independence/Establishment of Socialism (1980 – 1990): Christian socialism forms welfare state, churches are at the forefront of development efforts.
  4. Structural Adjustment (1990 – 2000): State becomes less stable as foreign aid goes directly to NGOs and CBOs; tension between NGOs and the state grows, churches become more political.
  • American Evangelicalism: Individualism combined with the spirit of American free enterprise; trans-denominational and active in political and social action. Two key groups:
  1. Fundamentalists: fight modernism, preserve faith
  2. New evangelicals: transform culture, evangelize; founded World Vision
  • Productive: NGOs became prominent in economic development, focusing on projects connected with agriculture, drought relief, credit and loan programs, healthcare and sanitation, education, feeding programs, job skill training, and assisting refugees.
  • Reflexive: NGOs, development and Christianity are central to Zimbabwean life
    • Development is a Christian endeavor, motivated by scriptural mandates to assist others
    • There is a spiritual reality at work in the work of development
    • The NGO landscape is dynamic and changes quickly; the boundaries between the “office” and the “field” are fluid and the locations where work takes place are interconnected.

Theologies of Development (Chapter 2)

  • Evangelized/developed realm and unevangelized/undeveloped realm: poverty as both material and spiritual; development is a form of salvation involving both the body and the spirit.
  • Holism: Spiritual and material transformation, development for the whole person; religion is concerned with all aspects of life.
  • Lifestyle Evangelism: Faith is an approach to development that frames the work of development.
    • Become part of the communities; this is the first step
    • Through the way you live your life and do development work, people can see Christ
    • Christian faith is proclaimed by deeds and through social interactions
    • Expressions of faith in development
      • At rural project sites, Christianity and development were intertwined: “faith was part of the interpretation of development and development was an act of faith” (p. 54).
      • In NGO offices, faith was a framework for interpreting the logic of development
      1. Faith as disciplinary tool: language of faith structured employee behaviors
      2. Faith as power: transform others into believers (potential to change lives)
      3. Faith as unifier: expressed through prayer / devotions, and created a family environment for some
      4. Constant navigation between personal faith and institutional expectations
      5. Employees used faith to assess colleagues’ performance




  • In the Introduction, Bornestein writes that Faith Based Development presents a “linguistic contradiction.” She asks the pertinent question, “How can economic development, a symbol of this-worldly, material improvement, of science, and of progress, be based on faith?” Do you remember your initial response to this rhetorical question? If so, what was it? Why would such a question be warranted? Did reading through the chapters shift your initial perspective on religious-based development?
  • Bornstein notes that the separation between religion and the “secular” realms of thought was not always the case. In fact, the Christian faith, economic and social equity were and are key theological trademarks. Is this modern separation a good or bad thing for society and consequently for development work? In what ways do faith based development organizations have advantages to secular development practices? Disadvantages?
  • With the imperative to spread the gospel in hopes of people’s salvation, should it be seen as necessary that the Christian developer also boldly proclaim the gospel? In Christian development, there’s lot talk of living out the gospel in deed, but does it lose its power if it never proclaimed?




Development Assistance and Foreign Aid


Easterly: Planners Versus Searchers

In Easterly’s piece he outlines what he believes has failed in terms of foreign aid. He believes there are two tragedies:

The first tragedy: there are poor and marginalized who are dying everyday from lack of food and proper medicines.

The second tragedy: The West has spent 2.3 trillion dollars in foreign aid and has yet to get $3 medicines, that would have prevent 5 million deaths from malaria, into the hands of mothers.

In other words, the second tragedy is the fact that good-hearted money, and good-hearted people are not dong the right things with extensive resources. Additionally, Easterly asks should the West even be sending people and giving money to the Rest?

Easterly categorizes people and the thought process behind aid:

Planners: Advocate top-down grand strategies (traditional)

Searchers: Advocate bottom-up solutions to specific needs (alternative)



See poverty as a math equation that can be solved or figured out

Admit that they don’t know the answers surrounding poverty

Look for blanket solutions

Hope to find answers to individual problems through trial and error experimentation

Believe they have enough knowledge at an outsider to fix the problem.

Believe solutions must be homegrown and from the “insiders”

Tend to get distracted by doing too many interventions at once.

Will do anything it takes to get a solution to a customer (ex. Malaria meds)

Look to keep pouring resources into a fixed object

Look for opportunity to relieve suffering

Asks, “what does the end of poverty require of foreign aid?”

Asks, “What can foreign aid do for poor people?”

Three Key Easterly Quotes

But if rich people want to help the poor, they must face an unpleasant reality: If it’s so easy to end the poverty trap, why haven’t the Planners already made it history?

The needs of the rich get met because the rich give feedback to political and economic Searchers, and they can hold the Searchers accountable for following through with specific actions. The needs of the poor don’t get met because the poor have little money or political power with which to make their needs known and they cannot hold anyone accountable to meet those needs. They are stuck with Planners. The second tragedy continues.

If there were such simple answers, there would be many more development success stories than there are now.

Child Sponsorship

SummaryChild sponsorship is a proven mechanism for raising large amounts of funding but there is little to no research concerning its impact (p.5)

Child sponsorship programs divided into two:

  1. Individual child as the recipient of the sponsor’s donation
  2. Development programs to benefit all children into community

Sponsorship – Two Sides of the Argument:

  • Fowler (1997) makes a distinction between ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ money, arguing that ‘sustained micro-development needs hot money’.

Argument Against Child Sponsorship

  1. It has a negative impact on the Child, the Child’s family and community.
  2. Agencies mislead sponsors and play on their ignorance of the complexity of development issues
  3. It is cumbersome and expensive to administer

Argument For Child Sponsorship

  1. Sponsorship is a means of supporting development work
  2. It is an effective fundraising strategy
  3. A tool of development education amongst sponsors


Is it Possible to Just Give Money to the Poor – Hanlon

Summary: “We are not giving enough attention to how poor people get themselves out of poverty. We always assume that we must do it for them.”

Hanlon looks at two situations (ex-soldiers and flood victims) in which poor people were just given money. Ultimately he concludes that it is an effective means of development, that the money was used prudently, and that it had a positive effect on their lives with comparatively low overhead. He talks about its efficiency and scalability.

Hanlon also makes an assertion that one of the reasons we do not just give money to the poor is rooted in a belief that we deserve to be rich (we are smarter, harder working or ‘better’ in some way) and we have to help them out of poverty. He also discusses how many people in the north and the elite of the developing world make their livelihoods off working in the system of aid.

Forward to Dead Aid – Ferguson:

“Aid is the disease of which it pretends to be the cure”: In his forward to Moyo’s book, Ferguson discusses Moyo’s militant dismissal of foreign aid in Africa; this is on the assertion that it does not work, and does more harm than good. More importantly, Ferguson claims, is that Moyo’s opinion is the opinion of an actual intelligent, educated African, rather than many white men bickering about it. Ferguson applauds Moyo’s conviction that Africa must learn from Asia, that the aid taps need to be shut off, and that Africa undergo some development of the “tough love”/”shock therapy” variety.

Ferguson outlines Moyo’s four essential economic suggestions:

  1. Africa should follow Asian emerging markets
  2. Africa should encourage Chinese policy of large-scale direct investment in Africa
  3. Africa should continue to press for free trade and free agricultural policies
  4. Africa should encourage financial intermediation (especially microfinance, as has flourished in Asia).


  • Easterly and Jeffrey Sachs ( each represents the two poles of the foreign aid debate: bottom-up solutions to specific needs (Searchers) versus top-down grand strategies (Planners). Do you believe there is room for both Planners and Searchers in the development process? Why or why not?
  • What are your personal experiences with child sponsorship? Where do you fall on the debate?
  • How do you respond to Hanlon’s assertion that the aid system, at least in part, is rooted in our own prejudices and self-care?
  • How do you (as an African, as a white/western person involved in Aid, or as a person outside of either party) respond to Ferguson/Moyo?
  • What are the possible negative effects of Moyo’s four economic suggestions? Are there any? Does her emphasis seem to parallel modernisation theories of development or human
  • transformational theories of development?



States and Governments: Facilitators or Impediments to Development

“The fight against corruption is the other modernization, whose necessity makes itself felt at the hour of going forth to compete in the world, of attracting foreign investment. The rest of its liberalizing efforts probably depend on its success.” (El Negro Mapa de la Corrupcion)


 I want my votes back

Martinussen, Ch. 24

Mainstream thinking: preference for existing bureaucratic organizations, public or private

Very few theories: emphasize the role of individual citizens as independent actors.

Class theories: do focus on people

People-Managed Development: Development starts with and controlled by civil society (Martinussen, p.332).

Guy Gran is a central theorist of this paradigm. He critiques bureaucratic governance and current development strategies because they are based on neoliberal principles (i.e., favoring free-market capitalism). He believes a) much of the world’s misery can be traced to the interests of the economic and political elites, and b) no government will engage in sustained mass development unless the poor are sufficiently powerful to force such policy.

Development via people happens when a) The poor are aware of their situation (this is conscientisation à la Paolo Freire), b) barriers that prevent the poor from having influence on decision-making and participation are eliminated, and c) people are organized into small “base communities” to ensure horizontal decision-making and ensure consensus (similar to Jean-Jacque Rosseau, 1712-1778)

Decentralization is key because is requires that decision-making powers are transferred to the local citizens. The rationale is that participation + decentralization = the release of dormant resources that will sustain a process whereby basic human needs are satisfied.

External Catalysts for people centered development are required to a) facilitate the processes and b) provide technical training to chosen members of the local ‘target’ groups. Gran prefers NGOs (rather than gov’t) because NGOs are less bureaucratic, better at grass roots work, and more flexible.

Chambers claims that people from the rich industrialized countries are generally unable to play decisive/catalyst roles.

Opposing view: Both researchers and practitioners with first-hand experience from development co-operation reject Gran’s positive assessment of what external development agent can achieve.

Critique of People-Managed Development: Small community projects and other small-scale efforts are not rejected, but are increasingly seen as only one type of intervention among several others, and there is increasing awareness of the need to integrate these into much more comprehensive macro-economic and macro-political strategies (Drabekk, 1987; Korten, 1990).

“Bad governance in a small country” -Collier

The maximum rate of economic growth possible is 10%, but decline can occur rapidly. Some countries get away with having poor systems because governance and policies interact with external factors, creating different opportunities. For example, coastal Bangladeshi exporters “simply need an environment of moderate taxation, macroeconomic stability, and a few transport facilities” to thrive, in contrast to Chad, which relies on money from oil and outside aid, and so depends on proper governance of these resources.

Why is bad governance so persistent?

  • Leaders gain from it, so they keep citizens uneducated and ill informed.
  • Those who are knowledgeable often leave, and reformers are suppressed or put in jail.
  • Also, the IMF coerced governments to adhere to certain conditions when giving loans, so there is a stigma to reform.

What helps generate a turnaround of a failed state? Three things: large population, higher proportion of people with secondary education, and recently emerged from civil war. After civil war, politics are changing anyway. Democracy does not seem to help policy turnaround, but impetus for change comes from within society and takes a critical mass of educated people. The average length of time to get out of being a failed state is 59 years.

To sustain a turnaround, there are six characteristics that matter:

Good—higher country income, larger population, greater proportion of educated population

Bad—leader in power longer, country experienced favorable shift in terms of trade, recently emerged from civil war

The economic cost of being a failed state builds each year and negatively impacts growth of neighbor states. The estimated cost of a single failing state to itself and its neighbors is around $100 billion, which equals what its turnaround is worth. External support/intervention raises chance of turnaround, but it costs money.

“Making government institutions work better” -Klitgaard


Free-market reforms limit the role of the state, but it is still active in regulating certain industries characterized by economies of scale in nonrenewable resources, as well as transportation and infrastructure, education, public health, and dealing with poverty.

The reasons governments fail and corruption emerges:

  • Objectives are multiple and vague
  • Measures of performance are incomplete and inaccurate
  • Technologies for providing public services are ineffectual, and tasks to be performed are not well defined
  • Motivation and coordination are lacking because of fixed civil service rules, inability to hire and fire, and weak incentives linking pay to performance, corruption, and waste
  • Authority is unclear and fractionated with many levels of bureaucracies and politicians

Corruption is the misuse of public office for private ends. It can be large or small scale, licit or illicit, systemic or sporadic. It can be initiated by a public servant or the interested citizen and includes promises or threats. Sometimes it is helpful, but almost always it is harmful; it stunts economic growth, undermines political legitimacy, and demoralizes officials and citizens.

Klitgaard approaches corruption not as the moral failures of individuals but as structural failures of information and incentives. People ascribe corruption to many things, but pragmatically, government officials have a motive for corruption when they cannot live on what they are paid, when the payoffs for being corrupt are large, and when the chances of being caught and punished are small. They have a monopoly in relation to the public without accountability.

Each public official (agent) must weigh the “moral cost” of being corrupt, as well as the risk of being caught and punished. He will accept the bribe if:


Each aspect of the calculation can be altered through government policy. Bonuses can be offered for discovering corruption to help augment pay, organizations can change their “culture” and institute a code of ethics to alter moral costs and satisfaction, size of bribe can be lowered by reducing monopoly power and discretion of individual officials, governments can amp up enforcement of catching corrupt officials to increase risk, and introducing stiffer penalties reduces corruption.

The prevention, discovery, and prosecution of corruption is costly. Justice Plana of the Philippines employed a three part strategy to reduce corruption in his Bureau of Internal Revenue: establish a new performance evaluation system and link incentives to it, collect information about corrupt activities, and punish the highest level violators (“big fish”) to set an example.

The best way to gather information:

  • Find “heroes” in the organization who are clean and have them examine offices for evidence of corruption and inefficiency
  • Convene inquiry commissions
  • Use undercover agents
  • Devise indirect measures of corruption
  • Involve the public through various measures (like hot lines, civic committees, and citizen oversight boards).

Citizens are a valuable source of information, provide outside trustworthiness and competence, and are a sustainable constituency against corruption.


Bad governance and the bottom billion: Paul Collier talking about bad governance and development in many developing countries, mainly those in Africa. He invites us all to be “ambassadors:”

President Barack Obama talking to Nigerian students about the consequence of bad governance on the issue of terrorism and Boko-haram-Islamists in Nigeria:



This is an interesting map of corruption around the world:

An article from the Department for International Development in the UK about what they are doing to help other countries be better run and more accountable:

Helping Countries Combat Corruption: The Role of the World Bank:



  1. What makes someone a good catalyst? Who should people look to in organizing the poor and marginalized into a cohesive bloc?
  2. Should wealthy countries invest in turning around failed states? Why or why not?
  3. Corruption is a central issue in popular uprisings. The UN said “the larger the public sector, the greater the scope for corruption.” Free markets, free press, democracy, and separation of powers help curb corruption, but “the greatest enemy of corruption is the people.” How have we seen this evident in recent news? What are other ways besides protesting that individuals can fight against corruption?
  4. Do you think corruption is generally caused because of greed and immorality of individuals, or is it caused by the system?
  5. If you were living in a country where bribery was expected and considered acceptable, would you use bribes to get through the system? If there were no way around it, would you feel guilty?












This week Martinussen’s Chapter 11 discusses development, natural resources and the limitations surrounding these resources.  Martinussen introduces us to important thoughts by social scientists on the position of the “population problem”. Popular thought has said that technology and developmental advances of the future will solve environmental problems. This has been criticized in many ways:





Must be a Balance between RESOURCES and # of PEOPLE.


 There must be a decrease in resources used per capita (especially in rich countries) and more environmentally friendly technologies must be introduced. These two ideas will only help the world and its resources if the total number of people on earth is reduced. (Paul Ehrlich)

 o   Kids are an asset to poor families. Population reduction by means of family planning and population control is not enough. There must also be a change in “economic and social development” to accompany it. (Cadwell- p.146)


  Overpopulation of the Poor:


 Perhaps we are only criticizing overpopulation as it relates to particular races and socioeconomic conditions. –(Mahoomed Mamandi)

 Population pressure = greater INNOVATION in agriculture practices:


 Overpopulation is not a threat, rather a chance for productivity improvements.  -(Ester Borserup)



 WOMEN and Population Reduction:

 Researchers trying to find reasons why certain societies have high fertility rates, believe that is has to do with power structures. When women in certain societies have recently gone through a radial social change in their particular societies, then we see a reduction in fertility rate. (Francis Lappe and Rachel Schurman)



 Environmental Protection & Economic Development (p.147-8)


       Hard Path: Environmental concerns are unimportant because technical solutions will be found.


       Soft Path: Global capacity has been reached and further exploitation of resources should be avoided.


       Middle Way: Without environmental protection, long-term economic development is subverted; without economic development, environmental protection is not possible (because local natural resources will be exhausted by the poor) p.152




Garret Hardin

       Lifeboat Ethics: The earth is like a sea full of lifeboats (wealthy nations/people) and “swimmers” (poor nations/people). The swimmers are crying out for help, to be taken aboard the lifeboats. But the lifeboats have a limited capacity. The boats are already full of people and riding low in the water. How should we respond?

o   Be charitable to all — and we’ll all drown.

o   Be charitable to some people. But this will never be fair in the selection process.

o   Do nothing for the swimmers and survive while they die.

       Tragedy of the Commons: Environmental degradation resulting from many individuals using a scarce common resource. (In other words, the tendency of a publicly available resource to be overused.) Video outlining “Tragedy”.

o   Ostram believes this tragedy can be averted if a) authorization of common-pool resources are clearly stated, b) a system for monitoring authorized users is established, and c) a system of punishment is instated for violators.



  Naomi Klein

      Climate Debt: The idea that rich countries should pay reparations to poor countries for the climate crisis.

o   Why? About 75-80% of the damages caused by global warming will be suffered by developing countries, although they only contribute about one-third of greenhouse gases.

o   How? Rich countries a) pay the costs associated with adapting to a changing climate, b) make deep cuts to their own emission levels, and c) pay Third World countries to leapfrog over fossil fuels and go straight to cleaner alternatives.

      If debts are not paid, and climate change continues to worsen, countries (including the U.S.) will be forced to see climate debt and damage as an issue of national security. As sea levels rise, crops and produce fail to thrive in certain climates, nations will be come vulnerable. This vulnerability will lead to warlords, government coups or take over, and dependence on outside governments.



Christian Response to Environmental Exploitation


 Who is to blame?


 Lynn White blames environmental, poverty and justice issues on Western technology and advances in science. He also notes that the Judeo-Christian doctrine and teachings are the “most anthropocentric the world has ever see.” This view has caused Christians to believe they have the God given right to take, colonialize and exploit what is not theirs.


  The Primary Issue  


 Gnanakan believes that the primary issues with Christianity and an anthropocentric theology is that Christians tend to exploit people, resources etc in the name of what they think is their right or religion, causing injustices in many contexts of the world. This has been seen throughout history, but is still present today.


The Christian Response:


  •     Think about and take responsibility with Global Injustices, climate change, and the way we use in excess.
  • Consider what the Bible has to say about environment, poverty, justice Sabbath and Jubilee principles.
  • We must be on the forefront of seeking justice for the poor. In our search of justice, we find we will ultimately and undoubtedly concern ourselves with environmental practices in order to bring true justice. Eco-poverty is about restoring relationships with the environment as we consider the environment as a basis of survival for everyone. (Gnanakan p. 2)



  • After reading the different opinions and thoughts on overpopulation and natural resources, who do you align yourself with? Are we in a “tragedy of commons like Hardin suggests? Are we doomed if the world keeps growing? Is it good to realize that overpopulation is hurting, but look to fresh ideas like Ostrom and Wade suggest? What are your thoughts on overpopulation?
  • Climate change is real. Who pays the price for this change? Who is to blame? Do we all play a part, or should the west and other “rich nations”, pay for the damage caused by climate change? How could one “pay the price” for damages caused by climate change?
  • The last few weeks we have been talking and reading about globalization and how it affects the poor and marginalized. How can globalization help in the realm of natural resources? How can it hurt? Do globalization and the preserving or destroying of natural resources align themselves somehow?
  • What is your response to Biblical commands surrounding environment, poverty and justice outlined in Ken Gnanakan’s piece? What other Biblical passages inspire and “speak into” issues of environment, poverty and justice?
  • Hardin argues that resources should not be shared for “the common good” because countries need to learn from harsh experiences and because the land can only support so many people. How does this make you feel? Does his argument align with what the Bible teaches?




  • An interview with Garret Hardin. His thoughts on over population, limits and growth and how he deals with criticism attached to his views.
  • More thoughts on overpopulation: a Ted Talk.
  • Klein on Climate Debt: Video


Additional Resources

  •    An interesting article about the idea of putting monetary value on natural resources, and how people may be willing to pay the price to ruin/deplete a resource.  

  • An interesting project that is going on is urban farming. This organization builds/teaches people to farm in the most unlikely areas. An interesting way to provide basic needs for people, and using resources in a sustainable way: . 
  •   Here is a graphic that shows how quickly some common natural resources will be used up if we continue to use them at the rate we do.




Agricultural Development

 Agricultural Development

Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.” –Samuel Johnson


Agricultural contribution to aggregate growth: initially seen as a hindrance to industry and aggregate growth, agriculture later became a focus of development to ensure industrialization and better lives for rural areas.

Lewis & Rostow:  agriculture was reduced to merely a new resource of labor that could be reassigned to the industrial sector.

Kuznets: emphasized three main forms of contribution that agriculture made to development & growth:

1. The market contribution
2. The factor contribution
3. The product contribution

The interrelations between the agricultural and industrial sectors fall into four categories:
1.Both sectors are linked through the domestic market.
2. The two sectors enter into exchange relationships indirectly as well through the international market system.
3. The agricultural sector and the industry sector both connect via the credit system.
4. Financial flows between both sectors in form of taxes, subsidies, etc.
* Extraction of economic surplus could be accomplished at each level as agricultural goods could be devalued while industrial goods’ values were inflated.  Also, investments, savings and profits could be used for industrial development.

B.F. Johnson & John Mellor:  These two economists argue that agriculture should not only provide resources for industrialization, but also create crops and raw materials. If this was not developed in correspondingly equal rates, then the whole process of agriculture would come to a stagnate halt.

Agriculture’s distinctive features
Soil: recognized as the most crucial production factor in the agriculture sector.

Climate: to reduce the possible detrimental impacts on production yields, the crops depend on specific climatic conditions. If one crop yield drops the whole market is affected.

Seasonal variation:
Gill argues that seasonal variation has an important social dimension that tends to only affect the poor. This period before harvest to the poor is known as the ‘hungry season’ as they have no work or savings to draw financially from that the rich tend to have.


Peasant Rationality: Shultz
Peasants are poor, but efficient, contrary to the idea that they are lazy and irrational; they achieve the highest possible efficiency given scarce resources and technology.

Urban Bias: Lipton
The most important class conflict in the third world is between the rural classes and the urban; the city and countryside.  Usually the urban classes dominate because political power is held in the city.  The most reasonable strategy to solve the gap between classes is through more resources to agriculture as farmers are highly effective and productive in relative output.

Institutional reforms in agriculture
These are processes of removing institutional barriers to growth, as well as the removal of inequality of access and control over land. This is via land reforms, redistribution of land to small farmers and extended rural services, expanded credit and incentives.

Technological innovations and ‘the green revolution’
The green revolution, basically a few large international organizations and corporations deciding the direction agriculture would take in regards to new technology, worked to produce new varieties of crops meant to be high-yield, and useful for all size farms and all-conditions of soil, as well as increase labor use, production and profit, which, arguably, benefits large-scale farmers and not poor farmers. The high-cost pesticides and fertilizer are often out of reach for poor farmers. Ecological effects are noted as: soil contamination, depletion, and resistant pests.

Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Food waste vs. food loss

Conclusion:  Overall, agriculture has been and can be successfully used as an engine of economic growth and development.  However, the evidence is too mixed and conflicting currently to say that a solution has been found where agriculture can successfully be used to create growth without harm to people or the land.

ExpansionMany, including women, in Africa and Latin America are being empowered to create growth-oriented, sustainable solutions in agriculture for their countries. GM products, that some countries are opposed to receiving, are hardier and offer resistance to things like pests and extreme weather and are being used by some poor farmers who are consuming them and profiting from them. Alternatives to weather-resistant GM crops could come in the form of insurance against crop failure for Kenyan farmers.

In a study by Christine Henry, Sarah Hugo, James Blackburn, showed “long-term and cumulative effects” of GM crops are harmful. Other information shows there is no significant risk.Resources:

In India, women work together to get financing to improve their situations.

Kenyan farmers and insurance protection against crop failures(See article)



1) Mittal explains that food shortage is not the cause of starvation, but rather “poverty keeps people hungry”. If 78% of the malnourished children of the world are from food exporting countries, what can be done to make crop resources available to agricultural nations with little purchasing power or processing techniques?

2) Many countries will not accept genetically engineered/modified food exports, much to the chagrin of US administration. As an issue of social morality, how education be facilitated among poor farmers against genetically modified food?

3) Watkins and Von Braun recommend five things that need to happen along with the Doha Declaration, which if carried out will help level the playing field for small farmers and developing countries.  Do you think a movement here at home to expose blackmail, distortion of safety claims, illegal crop planting abroad, and other manipulations forcing GM food exports could figure in to solving poverty worldwide?


Globalization and the Poor

globalization image 1
“It has been said that arguing against globalization is like arguing against gravity.” ~Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General

Globalization Today
Conversations about globalization talk about it as if it were a homogenous, one-dimensional system. However, modern globalization (i.e. post-Cold War) looks very different than its earlier versions.

  • Characteristics of modern globalization (Bhagwhati):

1) Rapid technological change
2) More government intervention
3) Quick movement of capital
4) Greater sense of economic insecurity due to increased competition from more countries entering the market
5) Fear that too much interdependence limits a nation’s ability to provide for its citizens

  • Globalization has also moved human activities from local to global settings and created a global society and economic system with diminishing barriers to trade (Micah Network)

Anti-Globalization Debate
The globalization and anti-globalization debate has many faces:

  • Anti-capitalism: Largely an attitude of the young, who see that capitalism has not meaningfully addressed social issues or created economic opportunity. Young anti-capitalists do not know how to alleviate suffering; so, capitalism becomes their scapegoat. They see corporations as exploitive. (Bhagwhati)
  • The Right: Focused on national identity and sovereignty; this focus tends to extend into anti-immigration attitudes. (Bhagwhati)
  • Communitarianism: Characterized by social checks and balances; everyone in a community is expected to make shared efforts towards goals. It also calls for placing limits on markets.
  • Anti-Americanism: Characterized by resentment towards the U.S.’s rise as a “hyperpower”. Being anti-globalization is seen as a way of hurling contempt on the U.S. (Bhagwhati). The image below characterizes this attitude well.Anti-American image
                                • Wage inequality and outsourcing: Even high-skill jobs are going abroad as competition increases. Though globalization has increased overall incomes, the wages of “unskilled” workers are falling; this leads to greater inequality. (Stiglitz)
                                • Mismanagement: Globalization needs to be managed better, with more concern for improving the lives of the poor everywhere and developing democratic political institutions (Stiglitz)

Our Response
How can we respond to the challenges globalization presents?
1. Ignore the problems and accept growing inequality: Leave the market alone and it will produce good jobs. (Stiglitz)
2. Resist fair globalization: Superpowers should use their combined power to manipulate the economic rules to favor and protect their position. (Stiglitz)
3. Accept and re-shape globalization with a multi-pronged approach including:

  • Upskilling labor
  • Strengthening safety nets
  • Investing in research and promoting access to knowledge
  • Developing fairer trade policies
  • Focusing on environmental preservation
  • Committing money to fight poverty
  • Reforming global financial systems and instituting legal reforms (Stiglitz)

4. Out of a Christian vision, advocate for the poor by:globalization image 2

  • Strengthening democracy through transnational  grassroots movements
  • Changing patterns of consumption
  • Utilizing technology to make information accessible to the poor, responsive to needs and fit within varying cultural contexts
  • Providing pro-bono lawyers and economists to poor nations to get fairer trade terms
  • Focusing on debt servicing and eliminating corruption/tax evasion

(Micah Network)

The Micah Network holds a Christian worldview on globalization. One key tenant is that globalization acts as a catalyst through which injustice can spread, rather than it being the actual cause of injustice. To achieve justice, one must cut at the root of injustice, the heart.

  • Daniel G. Groody argues that the main cause of human depravity stems from our broken relationship with God- our sinful nature. His main point: Globalization is now an integral part of humanity, and its issues stem from our deprived hearts. Globalization itself is responsible for channeling the good and evil throughout the world, but is not the root of the issues that stem from it.
  • Some, like Thomas Friedman, note the technological advancements and economic fruit that have come from globalization. Friedman is a stark believer that proper integration into the globalization system is the answer to poverty and injustice. It is not solving a heart issue, but committing to free-market capitalism and information sharing that will bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, eventually leading to equality.
  • Another critic, economics professor Robert Wade, concludes that World Bank statistics on world equality through globalization are skewed based on improper methods of research, and that falling inequality is not a characteristic of the global economy even by the most favorable measures. Globalization has done more harm than anything.

To reiterate, the Micah Network focuses on globalization’s negative effects, primarily, the tendency for the more powerful cultural icons and practices to dominate the less powerful given the huge inequalities of economic power between cultures and the control of global media by a handful of giant corporations.globalization image

1. Economist Ian Goldin discusses the potentials and pitfalls of globalization, detailing what he calls the “Achilles heel of globalization”. This is a good comparison between the arguments for and against the current complex global system.
2. In this week’s reading Stiglitz discusses outsourcing and the justification officials use to sell outsourcing to Americans; they say that with job loss comes job gain and “Americans didn’t want those low-wage, low-skilled jobs”. The Centre for Research on Globalization expands on the negative impact of outsourcing and the need for corporations to cease their short-term mentality.
3. Many in favor of the current global economy cite the improvement of living standards globally as evidence to support the positive influence of globalization. This Center for American Progress article expands on the positive influences that the global economy has had on a few nations.
4. This article from The Economist briefly summarizes important studies both for and against globalization.

1. We have read many definitions of globalization- sociological, economic, political, and biblical. What are some of the overlapping characteristics of these definitions? What were your opinions on globalization before starting the ICD program and how have they changed or been strengthened?
2. In The Queretaro Declaration, there is mention of the “one human family in mutual dependency”. How has globalization helped and hurt the global family we exist in?
3. In her VERY moving TED Talk, Lisa Kristine uses photography to expose modern day slavery. How does globalization play any part in supporting such slavery? Can our consumption of goods be said to support slavery?

Can the Market Work for the Poor?

“Credit alone is not a panacea” (Jonathan Morduch, as cited in Bruck, p.5)


Ways to alleviate poverty
There are many different ways to alleviate poverty pretty much sums up the whole reading for this week. According to Rajiv Shah, “you need a range of different business models. Some are going to be very commercial” when talking about microcredit (nonprofit) VS. microfinance (commercialized). There will also be distinct ways of alleviating poverty in different countries.

Successful ways of combating poverty

I. Redistribution: (Sider, p.230-231) approach of combating poverty parallels with Gates’ foundation’s attitude towards microcredit and microfinance; that there is no one way of combating poverty (as cited on Bruck, p.5).

  • “In a largely agricultural society, land reform is essential” (Sider, p.230).
  • “In an information society, equality of educational opportunity is the most basic way to empower the poor” (Sider, p.231).
  • “Wise schemes to enable the poor to acquire the money needed to buy a house, start a small business, or prepare for retirement are also important.”

Eg: MED (micro-enterprise development), Grameen Bank (Sider, p.231)

                       Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 5.47.59 PM

II. Policy & government: “…[A]ppropriate policies will always enable us to profit from growth and to moderate, even prevent, unpleasant outcomes for the poor.” (Bhagwati, p.4)

      • According to Sider, land reform is essential in a largely agricultural society. Hernando de Soto would agree with this because in Africa (largely agricultural society), property owners who do not have access to legalize their land ownership are not able to do microloans and invest. Thus, they need rights and rule of law to protect themselves and their property (Bahgwati, p.58).
      • Policies that forced banks to open in rural India, and provide lower collateral requirements resulted in bad debts. However, microcredit programs providing small loans to very poor clients, utilizing collective accountability for repayments helped ensure success in providing opportunity for the very poor (Bhagwati, p.59)
      • Sider uses the example of South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore where governments intervened in the global economy to promote trade relations while putting on protective measures

III. Trade

      • Diversify exported production in order to insulate the domestic market from failure (Eg: Market saturation of Jute production in Bangladesh showed a drop of world price thus causing immiseration, which could have been avoided had they diversify production) (Bhagwati, p.55). Note: Tariff policy at this point needs to support diversification. (Sider, p.241)


  • Collier’s idea ties into Sider’s example of the actions of the government of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan calling for the strengthening of the governance to grow and sustain the economy of the bottom billion.
  • Trade liberalization in all contexts does not always promote growth that is beneficial to the poor. According to Bhagwati, there are certain policies and trade that works while others don’t. Greg Ip, US economics editor of The Economists shows the narratives that have been going on about trade liberalization. Could this be a possible narrative to deviate from the term “capitalism” yet still hold the goals of capitalism? In Wallterstein’s lecture, he mentioned that there will come ways of holding the goals of capitalism using different terms that is not shunned by people yet.
  • There is a great need in wealthy nations for a shift in priorities and patterns of consumption centered on Biblical principles. Sider called it “Redefining the Good Life” (p. 238). In fact, Bhagwati claimed that even as the poor realize greater incomes, they are also know to purchase things based on status, variety, and other qualities that do not promote healthy living (p. 59).
  • In Bruck’s article, Yunus and Omidyar has opposing views. Yunus backs the non-profit paradigm in his advocacy for the “social business model” while Omidyar strongly believes in a profitable business model that is sustainable. Yunus believes that one shouldn’t be making profit out of the poor, and for-profit microcredit businesses question the purity of motives. On the other hand, Omidyar believes that with a for-profit model, it will be provide sustainability.


  1. Given the debate regarding redistribution as a means to combat poverty how can we define what progress looks like using these methods?
  2. What are some important factors that will ensure women are integrated in the effort for progress when using methods to give opportunities to those in poverty? How can we as community developers that we are factoring in those who have been historically marginalized?  What do you mean by progress?
  3. According to Bhagwati, some policies work to combat poverty, what type of policy would work for underdeveloped nations?
  4. Having read Bruck’s article about microcredit being for-profit and non-profit, do you think Yunus’ debate about purity of motives (p.5) a valid point? If yes, how does a for-profit microcredit keep their purity of motives?


  • Sider showed the downfall of using GDP and suggested a more effective way of measuring growth through GPI. This article shows the pros and cons of GPI
  • Sider refers to good governance as a key element to ensure that the success  of a countries economic well being, this link gives some examples of what good governance might look like  What is good governance?
  • Bruck showed several examples of the effectiveness of micro-lending.  Jamii Bora shows that not only is it possible to reach the very poor (contrary to CGAP’s beliefs-in NYT article) with microlending, but that coupled with trust and involvement, it can be used to enable the very poor to benefit from the market economy in growing their income and building infrastructure within their community.
  • Microconsignment (featured in NYT article) is an alternative to microcredit without the high risk of not being able to pay back.

Marxism and Neo-Marxism


Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
(Marx, from the “Introduction to the critique of Hegel’s philosophy of right,” 1843)


Marxism analyzed the development of societies based on economy, industry, and capitalism with emphasis on class conflict.  It stated that capitalism enforced exploitation of workers (paid below the value of their labor) by the bourgeoisie who pocketed the economic surplus.

The common thread in Neo-Marxist theories is that imperialism and colonialism (past and present) are viewed as the most significant development-impeding factors in the Global South. The theoretical roots point to internal class conflict and external domination of industrialized countries. (Martinussen, 1997)

Paul Baran: emphasized nationally controlled industrialization rather than dual economies.  Developing countries tended to have small industry and large agricultural divisions of economy.  The inequality of class and distribution of power and economic surplus prevented the kind of development that could compete globally. He believed the solution was government control and ownership of heavy industry as well as enforced internal conditions of equally distributed power.

Andre Gunder Frank: believed that Third World countries (satellites) should focus on internal trade rather than feeding their resources to capitalistic merchants (metropoles).  He blamed colonialism around Third World countries for perpetuating poverty in the satellites; therefore it would be critical for them to de-link from the metropoles.
– Delinking, Decoloniality & Dewesternization

Samir Amin: contrasting to Frank’s external exchange theories, concerned with more internal focus, specifically the production processes.  Autocentric reproduction: self-reliant in process and goods produced.  Peripheral economy: dependent on the world market. Overdevelopment of exportation lead him to focus on internal cooperation, similar to Baran’s perspective.

Arghiri Emmanuel’s Theory of Unequal Exchange: The unequal rate of labor costs in international markets yields exploitation of workers in peripheral countries through lower pay. This results in significant transfer of value/capital from poor to rich (periphery to centre) and perpetuates underdevelopment. His theory is a challenge to the neoclassical assumption that trade is advantageous for all parties involved.

F. H. Cardoso, D. Senghass and U. Menzel moved away from the notion that countries could be generalized as one type of economy.  Their economies should be seen as differentiated by internal systems. This negated the idea that there was one central, one-size-fits-all strategy for development.  Internal studies held the direction for change.

I. Wallerstein: held a wide-angle, historical view of underdevelopment and capitalism.  His theory was not born from classical dependency theories, but does incorporate some of its ideas. He emphasized global conditions and where each country falls in the systems of economy and politics: the center, semi-periphery and periphery.


Warren: theory held to the Marxist views of unequal and exploitative systems, but paradoxically believed that capitalism would end dependency.  He believed capitalism to be an inherent stage in the process toward socialism.

Africa’s next boom: Internal/Independent development in Africa
“…democracy is encouraging governments to invest in education. Education is helping growth and investment, and that’s giving budget revenues, which is giving governments more money, which is helping growth through education.  It’s a positive, virtuous circle.”

Jesus and Marx Compared (Parker Palmer article): While originating in different assumptions about reality, Marx reminds us of dimensions of Christianity that Christians have a habit of forgetting:

  • Marx believed that the intellectual and institutional forms of religion were the opiate of the people, thereby “drugging” the masses into accepting an unjust status quo. Similarly, Jesus and many Biblical prophets tried to give voice to the living experience of God against the dead forms of their times.
  • Marx critiqued the wealthy’s complacency towards the poor and oppressed; Jesus placed an emphasis on economic justice for the poor (e.g., Luke 6:20; Matthew 19:24).
  • Marx advocated for the ideal of a classless society. The church in Acts 2:44, to borrow a phrase from the socialist movement, gave according to ability and took according to need. If the church is a harbinger (and a hope) of things to come, then the eradication of economic injustice is an essential sign of God’s kingdom.
  • Marx decried our enslavement to “false consciousness”, i.e., our bondage to free market capitalism, and proclaimed revolutionary class struggle as the road to liberation. Jesus decried our bondage to sin — not least its economic form — and proclaimed that liberation would come as we submitted to God’s justice, mercy, and love.

As Thomas Merton puts it, Marxism and Christianity alike want to shatter our illusions, reveal our true condition, and empower us to act in ways that will win our liberation.



There is a common presumption that Marx held a disdain for ethics.  This assumption leads to the exclusion of Marxist theory in the global justice debate, which arguably results in an incomplete dialogue.  Professor Lawrence Wilde wrote a paper on the ethical underpinnings of Marx’ social theory, arguing that there is an ethical gravity to Marx’ conception of the ‘self-realized social being.’    He answers some interesting questions to his ideas in this video:

Within his ideas, Wilde proposes that in Marxist theory there exists a strand of eudaemonistic ethics – “a system of ethics that evaluates actions in terms of their capacity to produce happiness.”  Wilde suggests that Marx’ animosity towards moral discourse was a strategic decision related to the societal conditions of his time – that an emphasis on morality in 19th century political discourse would have taken away from the crucial business of exposing the pitfalls of capitalism, and marred the effectiveness of resulting political strategies.

Waking Up

Class consciousness is the awareness a social class possesses of itself.  Perhaps the problem with the world now is that we don’t have class consciousness in the proletariat.  Before action can occur, a “class” needs to be aware of where it stands or what its ranking is.  Without this consciousness, people are not aware that they are being exploited or trampled upon by another.

It seems to be ingrained in the American mentality that a capitalist society is the only way to successfully develop.  This mindset, however, supports the refusal to acknowledge that there is a class system and such an acknowledgement would be breaking the very idea of there being capitalism in action in the USA.  Perhaps there is a fear of the feeling of powerlessness that comes along with recognizing you are a part of the lower or working class, but an acceptance of this reality would allow the “have-nots” to harness the knowledge of their position and use it to do something that implements social change as Marx advocated for.

Let’s Go Global

In the past, country borders have restricted the dialectic cycle described by Marx.  In today’s global market, the dialectic cycle exists in the economic system and the borderless concept of globalization would logically infer that the cycle, too, is borderless.  With this in mind, the idea of class can be enlarged to a global scale – core, semi-periphery, and periphery/upper, middle, and lower.  It could therefore be possible for the “have-nots” to implement some sort of revolution because they have been pushed to the very limits of what they can provide.  The gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” has been widening and once we hit an economic crisis (in an all-encompassing global sense), such a revolution may become inevitable.  There is now so much more availability for the “have-nots” to become involved with social change that a revolution may look different from before – whereas the previous idea of a revolution was violent, nowadays it could be the Third Way with passive resistance.


  1. The idea of Marxism revolves around class struggle between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”  Do you think there is a global class system, and is there a way for them to rise up in a dialectic?  How does a “class” become self-conscious?
  2. Now we’re all part of the same global economic system, do you think it would be possible for there to be a global revolution (like the Russian revolution but on a world-wide scale)?
  3. In today’s global dialogue, there is a demand that people’s needs need to come first.  How do we justify these demands from within a capitalist system?
  4. We have been depleting resources continuously and many people are saying we are at a pinnacle of social change.  If we take the Marxist view that social change happens due to the tensions between classes in the same society that are at odds with each other, do you think we will be seeing increased social change because of this struggle?  Have we already seen some of this beginning to happen?  Are WE a part of that social change, by choosing to take a program such as ICD?



Harish Manwani, the COO of Unilever, talks about the need to add a fourth element to Capitalism – “Responsibility.”

Essay critique on “Dependency” Concepts

Delinking or Globalisation?

Kerala’s Democratic Communism: Kerala (India) was the first state in the world to democratically elect a communist government in 1957. Many of its social indicators are on par with the developed world and it has the highest human development index in India. It also has the highest literacy rate (more than 90%) and life expectancy in India, lowest infant mortality, and lowest school drop-out rate.  Amartya Sen holds up Kerala as an example of Human Development and its history is communism (and Christianity). But many today are questioning how sustainable it is.

The Kerala Model

The Market & Market Forces

1 2

What is a market economy?
An economic system in which prices are based on competition among private businesses and not controlled by a government. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

What is a market force?
The pressures from buyers and sellers in a market that causes prices to rise and to fall, rather than those coming from a government planner or regulation. (The Economist)

Competing schools of economic thought (Martinussen)

  • Structuralist approach (prescribes state intervention in the economy): Rooted in Marxist analysis and focus on how the dominant economic structures of society affect (i.e., exploit) class interests and relations
  • Neoclassical approach (prescribes privatization and less government): Limit the role of the state in the economy in order to let market forces decide political and social outcomes

See links for elaboration on these approaches

–       Satya J. Gabriel (Mount Holyoke) on Neoclassical economic theory
–       The end of neoclassical hegemony? Guardian article

Karl Polyani: Polyani argues for a cultural understanding of markets. He contends that markets must be subject to us, i.e., “embedded” in the traditions and values of society. What we see today, he would argue, is quite the opposite: Free-market capitalism that subordinates (enslaves) our society to the market, which is great for producing efficiencies but does little to promote distributional equity.
–       Recent comparison between Pope Francis and Polyani’s theory

Neoclassical versus Socialist theory:
Ferguson’s 6 killer apps depict a neoclassical theory where there is competition, scientific revolution, property rights, modern medicine, consumer society and work ethics. This is basically the closest to a self-regulating economy. However, according to Polanyi, a self-regulated world does not work because much of the human suffering witnessed in the last century is the result of humans ordering their lives to fit into the economy. This is wrong – the right approach is to view the market as existing to help humans live better lives.

Christian view of economics (Fikkert):
Fikkert does not prescribe which economic system is most in line with Christian faith. Rather, he argues for the general principle that Christians should support economic systems that empower the poor to sustain themselves and their families through their work (p.21). He also voiced out that economists are value-free but as a Christian economist, he presented pointers on how to view economics using biblical ethics. He also stated that the Christian right has had the most influential narrative on the Christian understanding of economy; however, their argument isn’t valid, as they have taken God’s discussion of economy out of context.


Real and Fictitious Commodities:
Polanyi believed that in a self-regulating economy the consumer will begin to blur the distinctions between real (products produced to be sold) and fictitious (land, labour, money) commodities. This can be seen in Michael Sandel’s video. He discussed how the market economy is becoming a market society, where people are transformed into a commodity. Thus, according to Sandel, two main issues may arise. First is the increase of inequality, which connects Polanyi’s belief. Second is the change in value system, where the value of people is degraded into purchasable items.

Embeddedness Vs. Creation Design:
Polanyi and Fikkert agree that the economy can’t be self-regulated, and needs to be a central power making decisions. The difference is, Polanyi believes that role needs to be filled by the state while Fikkert, by God. Embeddedness speaks of Polanyi’s argument that a regulated market is subordinated to humans, which will provide sustainability. Fikkert believes that trade was God’s creation design and after the Fall happened, “no economic system can restore this harmony” (Fikkert, p.18).


  1. After learning about development and poverty from the previous two weeks, which type of economy would be essential to promote stability and sustainable growth in poor countries? Or is that even the right question to ask? If not, what should we ask prior to that?
  2. Having read about the ‘pareto optimality’ in Fikkert’s text, do you agree with Fikkert? What are your ethical beliefs? As potential development practitioners, what ethical beliefs should you possess?
  3. In a self-regulating market, Polanyi believes that treating fictitious commodity as real commodity produces fatal consequences and is morally wrong, what can you as potential development practitioners do to reduce the consequences in our existing economy?


  • General differences between Capitalism and Socialism:
  • Perfect depiction of a self-regulating market: