Coping with Facts: A Skeptic's Guide to the Problem of Development

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A key assumption in development literature, Adam Fforde argues, is that development is a predictable process with knowable solutions. As a result, the literature is characterized by a combination of great certainty and great differences of opinion.

It is no surprise then, that students and practitioners confronting the mass of competing assertions about development “truths” become confused and frustrated. Coping with Facts offers guidance for the perplexed through a penetrating critique of development studies literature. Rather than presenting a general examination of modern development practice, Fforde develops coping strategies that help readers evaluate the contending solutions to problems of development.

Fforde cements his analysis with detailed case studies of development projects in Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam where he spent over 10 years. Those eager to chart a constructive career in development theory and practice as well as students looking for an introduction to this vast field will want this book as a navigational aid for their journey.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Adam Fforde’s vibrant argumentation and unorthodoxy in thinking have to be very positively appraised. He certainly has an important agenda and a deeply rooted distrust in the power of policy, the belief in which he labels 'policy fetishism' on several occasions. In this way, Adam Fforde’s book is a very personal synthesis. It is a provocative publication, which surely enriches the debate in the field of development studies."

"[Fforde's] radical critique of development economics and policy suggests a number of ways to cope with the ensuing noise, and as such should significantly contribute to the creation of a better and more honest mainstream."

"Overall Fforde’s book is a refreshing read, tearing down the traditional assumptions of developmental theory, providing a novel approach to an age old problem. This book stands in stark contrast to other books in the development field due to its conceiving of development not as a standard problem with a knowable solution. For anyone disenchanted with current development thinking, or for students studying developmental theory, this interesting book breaks away from the orthodox conceptions of development that we so often hear. Overall Fforde should be applauded for his writing of a book that so goes against the grain; he draws out crucial implications for development thinking, that all too often are ignored or rejected as nonacademic."

"You think that outward-oriented policies produce better results than import-substiution policies, or that beneficiaries' participation in project design makes for better project performance? Think again. Adam Fforde's book unpacks these and other familiar development prescriptions to reveal the implicit assumptions about agency, intentionality, and causality behind the whole development "industry". Drawing on sources from World Bank research reports, to Japanese and Vietnamese economists, to Marx and Cardinal Newman, and on to philosophers of science, the book provides a highly original rethinking of what is being said and done in the name of "development".

"Coping with Facts by Adam Fforde is a book of interest beyond its field of development studies, to a wide range of students of Viet Nam... The philosophy, about what helpful role rationality can play when intentions do not predict outcomes, is of great interest..."

"A refreshing read, tearing down the traditional assumptions of developmental theory, providing a novel approach to an age old problem. Fforde should be applauded for his writing of a book that so goes against the grain; he draws out crucial implications for development thinking, that all too often are ignored or rejected as nonacademic."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565492684
  • Publisher: Kumarian Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 246
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Fforde is currently Chairman, Adam Fforde and Associates p/l and Principal Fellow, the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. He has spent about 2/3 of his career in development consultancy and the rest as an academic. He studied Engineering and Economics at Oxford and then worked as an economic consultant in London before taking Masters and Doctoral Degrees in Economics at Birkbeck College London and Cambridge respectively. His PhD (1982) was about agricultural cooperatives in north Vietnam and he was a student at Hanoi University in 1978-79. From 1983-87 he was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow and since then he has combined academic and consulting work related to Vietnam and to development issues more generally. He worked for the Swedish-Vietnamese cooperation in 1987-92, and was a Senior Fellow at the SEA Studies Program, NUS, in 2000-2001. In Melbourne he has taught at Monash and the University of Melbourne. His most recent book on Vietnam is Vietnamese State Industry and the Political Economy of Commercial Renaissance: Dragon's tooth or curate's egg? Oxford: Chandos 2007.

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Table of Contents

1) Overview, puzzles and contextualization; Part I: The problem of development; 2) Choosing Case Studies; 3) A challenge to classic policy studies; 4) Development as an idea – history; 5) Development as an idea – contemporary issues; 6) Disciplines and viewpoints – notions of policy; 7) Empirics - measurement and "facts"; Part II: Exotic doctrine – its local fates; 8) Comparing development policies; 9) Vietnam – "Success without Intention, and a theatre of agency"; 10) Thailand – "Success without Intention and the search for cause"; 11) The Philippines - "Intention without Success, and the search for agency"; Part III: Conclusions; 12) Exotic Doctrine and its Local Fates – Failures, Facts and Creative Learning; 13) What now? Bibliography; Index; About the Author.

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