Replacing Development: An Afro-communal Approach to Global Justice

Philosophical Papers 46 (1):111-137 (2017)
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In this article, I consider whether there are values intrinsic to development theory and practice that are dubious in light of a characteristically African ethic. In particular, I focus on what a certain philosophical interpretation of the sub-Saharan value of communion entails for appraising development, drawing two major conclusions. One is that a majority of the criticisms that have been made of development by those sympathetic to African values are weak; I argue that, given the value of communion, development should not be rejected because it is essentially, say, overly materialistic and scientistic, or insufficiently spiritual and local. The second conclusion, however, is that three criticisms of development are strong from the perspective of Afro-communalism and are particularly powerful when set in that context. I argue that development theory and practice are characteristically anthropocentric, individualist and technocratic, and that a reading of the sub-Saharan value of communion provides a unitary foundation for rejecting these features and for grounding an alternative, more relational approach to social progress and to what justice demands from the West in relation to Africa.

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Thaddeus Metz
Cornell University (PhD)


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