The development of the contemporary society raises the debate in the post development literature concerning the effect of development of the contemporary society on values and socioeconomic life of people. In this regard, the post development literature stands on the ground that the current development leads the society to a dead-end because it widens the gap between the rich and the poor and encourages people to focus on the consumption that makes the sense of life of contemporary people, especially in rich countries. However, the post development literature stresses the importance of re-evaluation of priorities of the contemporary society to shift from uncontrollable consumerism toward traditional humanistic values. At the same time, poor countries follow the lead of developed once and they focus on the development, which they attempt to accelerate, but their accelerated development leads to the aggravation of their social and economic problems as wealth and consumption become the main values, whereas the overwhelming majority of the society cannot reach the wealth and their consumption remains low that provokes the growing dissatisfaction of the majority of the population and tension within the society.
In fact, the post development literature reveals the consumerism of the contemporary society and the achievements of the post development society are interpreted as the designation of a Western apparatus of power and profit. This means that the development has become the tool, with the help of which the western society promotes the idea of consumerism as the major goal of human life. The development provides people with ample opportunities to satisfy their needs but, as their needs are satisfied, they develop new, more sophisticated needs, which the further socioeconomic and technological development meets.
The post development literature depicts the society as profit-driven because the wealth and consumerism are the main values of the contemporary society. People want to be rich that they believe will make them happy. Therefore, the socioeconomic trends of the contemporary society are depicted by post development literature as trends aiming at the accumulation of capital and growing consumerism. The post development literature depicts the contemporary society’s ideology as the ideology that focuses on the accumulation of wealth as the major value of the society.
However, the post development literature stresses that such pursuit of wealth leads to nowhere because people cannot accumulate wealth and make consumption the only purpose of their life (Simon, 1997). In addition, the consumption and wealth cannot make people happy and they lead to the degradation of the society (Simon, 2003). This is why the post development literature condemns development because, regardless of seeming benefits, such as the introduction of new technologies, improvement of conditions and standards of living, the development leads to the dehumanization of the society.
In such a context, the post development literature suggests the idea that the development leads to the dehumanization of the society because the more developed the society becomes, the stronger are consumerist trends in the society (Bebbington and Bebbington, 2001). As a result, the society loses traditional humanistic values which are replaced by consumerist values. The devaluation of humanistic values leads to the degradation of the society.
In such a situation, the poor countries suffer from the growing impact of the consumerist society on their development because consumerism comes into clashes with local traditions (Sidaway, 2007). They face the problem of the widening gap between western consumerist culture, which has a huge impact on the modern world, and their cultural traditions, which normally focus on non-material values, such as the respect of the elderly, the mutual help of people, the respect of human dignity, and others, which have been shaped throughout centuries (Escobar, 2004). Traditional values of poor countries are different from consumerist values of the western culture but the growing impact of the western culture and the development lead to the growing impact of consumerist values on poor countries.
In response, poor countries attempt to accelerate their development but they have little resources to close gaps between them and rich countries (Sidaway, 2012). As a result, people living in poor countries are dissatisfied with their socioeconomic development because they cannot attain the wealth level of rich countries (Ferguson, 1990). In such a situation, the development becomes an unattainable goal for poor countries because they always attempt to catch up with developed countries but they fail to close the gap between them and rich countries completely. The acceleration of the development of poor countries leads to the exhaustion of natural resources and widening gaps between different classes of the society in poor countries.
As a result, poor countries focus on the accelerated development that leads to the enrichment of the ruling elite and widening the gap between the ruling elite and the rest of the society, especially the poor (Escobar, 1995). The ruling elite follows the lead of the western culture and views wealth and consumerism as the major value. The ruling elite stimulates the further economic and technological development, which though brings wealth to the ruling elite only but provokes pauperization of the large part of the society (Simon, 2006). Poor countries cannot compete with rich ones and, in spite of their development, they will not close the gap between them and rich countries. On the other hand, development leads to destructive effects on both developed and developing nations.
As a result, the post development literature reveals all the pitfalls of the current technological and socioeconomic development because people become profit-oriented and pursue wealth. This ideology leads to dehumanization and degradation of the society. People loose humanistic values and accept consumerist ones. However, consumerism just provokes widening gaps between the rich and the poor, because the rich get richer and the poor get nothing.
Bebbington, A. J. and Bebbington, D. H. (2001). Development alternatives: practice, dilemmas and theory, Area, 33, 7–17.
Escobar, A. (1995). Encountering development: the making and unmaking of the Third World. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ (in SOAS library)
Escobar, A. (2004). Beyond the Third World: imperial globality, global coloniality and anti- globalisation social movements Third World Quarterly, 25, 207–30.
Ferguson, J. (1990). The anti-politics machine: ‘development’, depoliticization and bureaucratic power in Lesotho. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN (in SOAS library)
Sidaway, J. D. (2007). Spaces of postdevelopment. Progress in Human Geography, 31, 3, 345-361.
Sidaway, J. D. (2012). Geographies of development: New maps, new visions? The Professional Geographer, 64, 2, 1-14 (in press).
Simon, D. (1997). Development reconsidered: New directions in development thinking, Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography, 79, 4, 183-201.
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Simon, D. (2006). Separated by common ground? Bringing (post)development and (post)colonialism together, The Geographical Journal, 172, 1, 10-21.