Development and Social Change. 5th Edition. 2012



Development and Social Change. 5thEdition. written by Phillip Mc Michael

SAGE Publishing, Thousand Oaks, USA, 2011

383 Pages

Price: $ 88.00

ISBN 9781412992077

Book reviewed by Maximiliano E. Korstanje (University of Leeds)



The rise of demand for the consuming of slum-tourism, which means the attractions for gazing spaces of poverty, misery and pauperization, seems to be conducive to “the logic of social Darwinism” (Korstanje, 2015). However, less attention was given to the fact that over last decades, these practices were stimulated by the proliferation of slum and slum-dwellers worldwide. From colonialism to the liberal discourse of mobility, Zygmunt Bauman (2000) adds, the question of poverty was replicated in order for status quo keeps its hegemony. At time the financial global elite visit the exotic archeological ruins, thousands of migrants are disciplined in their arrival to Europe. The term disciplined here is employed to denote how over-seas migrant work-force arrived to US in the end of XIXth century was subject to strict patterns of re-education and control. Some cultural values such as self-determination, development and freedom were the conceptual platforms for the expansion of modern capitalism.

In this book, Phillip McMichael describes the ebbs and flows of development from the outset up to date. This global and all-encompassing view allows readers not only to understand the North-South dependency, but also the role played by “development” in such a process. The text is formed by ten brilliant chapters where McMichael shows his erudition and familiarity with this issue. A much deeper discussion on the evolution of development may be found on introductory (first and second) chapters. Rather, third and fourth ones are reserved to the formation of a much broader “international framework” which paves the ways for the advent of “globalization”. Instead of focusing on the protection of state, as it has been formulated by development theories, globalization emphasizes on “free-market” as the ideological conduits of politics. The protection of interests of global powers consists not only in securing the food production (in south) to be exported to North, but also in the set of loans to keep “the market integration”. The key factor of neo-liberalism is “governance”, which means the coordination of NGOs by accessing information and material resources to fulfill the gaps left by “failed-states”. Today, corporate outsourcing is the crucial point Market used to determine the contours of states. Fifth, Sixth and seventh sections (Part II) explore three major themes to be kept in mind at time of studying the problems of global development, the manipulation of debts (debts crisis), the use of outsourcing to relegate the authority of state, and the problems of poverty and sustainability. The last Part (III), doted by chapters eighth, ninth and tenth, reconsiders what specialists dubbed “the crisis of mass-consumerism and global capital” as well as posing new lessons to reduce the increasing levels of poverty world-wide.

The main thesis of this project is that Europe, by the introduction of “colonialism”, established an ideological background for legitimizing their submissions to its overseas colonies. The exploitation of the non-European “Others” had a pervasive nature. Sooner, aborigines realized the double moral standards of colonial order. Cruelty, submission and violence were applied in the colonies, while in the core democracy prevailed as a valid system of government. This opens the doorstep to the process of “decolonization”, where thousand of peripheral voices claimed to access the same rights “the democracy of their white lords” declared. Mc-Michael explains that imperial powers alluded to the theory of “development” to maintain the dependency between centre and its periphery. The WWII end conjoined to Truman’s administration led the United States to implement a wide range credit system to save the world from Communism. This program mushroomed to become in the development theory. As a mega-project, theory of development was coined in 1940 and lasted to 1970. It not only created a food dependency but also accelerated the slum-dwellers and poverty in the peripheral countries. In order for remaking the old division of labor, Imperial Powers induced “Third Word” to accept international loans, which were used to industrialize their economies. At the time, under-developing nations adopted capital-intense methods in agriculture ruining the condition of small-farmers, who migrated to urban areas, the US and Europe exported industrialized products. It was unfortunate the effects development left in Africa. The old boundaries of ethnicities the first colonial powers found were never honored once WWII finalized. Many human groups were forced to live together within fabricated limits of new nation-states. This resulted in a lot of ethnic cleansing, conflicts and warfare that obscured the original ends of financial aid programs issued by IMF or World Bank. Undoubtedly, the inconsistencies of World Bank in administering the development-related programs not only were admitted but also it woke up some nationalist reactions in the non-aligned countries. To restore the order, a new supermarket revolution surfaced: globalization.  

As previous argument given, McMichael argues convincingly that globalization was success in expanding thanks to the lack of protective barriers of Third world where the capital investors were welcomed. This, in consequence, provoked two alarming situations. An increase in the unemployment and the decline of unionization in the North was accompanied with the arrival of international business corporations seduced by the low-cost of workers in South. The doctrine of “free enterprise” was presented as a superior ladder in the evolutionary process. Each state should adopt a specialized role in a much wider “world factory” where some provide with the raw-materials and others with elaborated products. This trends which characterizes the 90s decade created a new asymmetry between skilled (located in first world) and under-skilled human resources (situated in the periphery). The recession produced by oil-embargo pressed First World to borrow a massive influx of money to Third world, but now it will be carefully selected by two organisms, GATT and WTO. Both curtailed the protective measure of local economies by consolidating of a new model which combined the reduced public capacity with the needs of governance. If Nationalism showed the importance of nation-state to protect the citizen from Market’s arbitraries, now neo-liberalism focused on the inefficiency public administration to regulate economy.

In short, the making of a free trade regime reconstructed food security as a market relation, privileging and protecting corporate agriculture and placing small farmers at a comparative disadvantage. Food security would now be governed through the market by corporate, rather than social criteria” (p. 136).

In this token, World Trade Organization was relentless by charging or applying sanctions over those countries who affected the new system of import-exports. Less interesting in freeing trade than in consolidating their hegemony, main powers prompted the discourse that Third World had not the right towards “self-sufficiency” any more.  Once again, globalization accelerated the accumulation of profits (beyond the boundaries and control of nation-states) but enlarging the levels of poverty as never before. Per some calculations, UN declared that only 20% of world population is situated within the 20% of richest people, whereas the rest is facing serious economic problems. It is important not to lose the sight that almost 1 billons of peoples are living in slums.  

Far from being solved, the problem of poverty as well as the ever-increasing protests against professional politics evinces not only his diagnosis is right, but the reasons why McMichael`s book gives a coherent explanation on the impossibility of globalization as project. By its clarity and profundity, Development and Social Change should be esteemed as a valid source of consultation for anthropologists, sociologists and policy-makers interested in development-related issues.


Recensión realizada por Maximiliano E Korstanje
Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies
University of Leeds, UK





Bauman, Z. (2000). Globalization: The human consequences. New York, Columbia University Press.

Korstanje, M (2015) “The Anthropology of Dark Tourism: exploring the contradiction of Capitalism”. Working Paper no. 22. Repository for CERS. Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Study, University of Leeds. Available at


ISSN: 2254-2035