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Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed
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Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

by James C. Scott
 

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ISBN-10: 0300078153

ISBN-13: 9780300078152

Pub. Date: 02/28/1999

Publisher: Yale University Press

Compulsory ujamaa villages in Tanzania, collectivization in Russia, Le Corbusier’s urban planning theory realized in Brasilia, the Great Leap Forward in China, agricultural "modernization" in the Tropics—the twentieth century has been racked by grand utopian schemes that have inadvertently brought death and disruption to millions. Why do

Overview

Compulsory ujamaa villages in Tanzania, collectivization in Russia, Le Corbusier’s urban planning theory realized in Brasilia, the Great Leap Forward in China, agricultural "modernization" in the Tropics—the twentieth century has been racked by grand utopian schemes that have inadvertently brought death and disruption to millions. Why do well-intentioned plans for improving the human condition go tragically awry?

In this wide-ranging and original book, James C. Scott analyzes failed cases of large-scale authoritarian plans in a variety of fields. Centrally managed social plans misfire, Scott argues, when they impose schematic visions that do violence to complex interdependencies that are not—and cannot—be fully understood. Further, the success of designs for social organization depends upon the recognition that local, practical knowledge is as important as formal, epistemic knowledge. The author builds a persuasive case against "development theory" and imperialistic state planning that disregards the values, desires, and objections of its subjects. He identifies and discusses four conditions common to all planning disasters: administrative ordering of nature and society by the state; a "high-modernist ideology" that places confidence in the ability of science to improve every aspect of human life; a willingness to use authoritarian state power to effect large- scale interventions; and a prostrate civil society that cannot effectively resist such plans.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300078152
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
02/28/1999
Series:
The Institution for Social and Policy St
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
204,890
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1(8)
Part 1. State Projects of Legibility and Simplification 9(76)
Chapter 1. Nature and Space
11(42)
Chapter 2. Cities, People, and Language
53(32)
Part 2. Transforming Visions 85(96)
Chapter 3. Authoritarian High Modernism
87(16)
Chapter 4. The High-Modernist City: An Experiment and a Critique
103(44)
Chapter 5. The Revolutionary Party: A Plan and a Diagnosis
147(34)
Part 3. The Social Engineering of Rural Settlement and Production 181(126)
Chapter 6. Soviet Collectivization, Capitalist Dreams
193(30)
Chapter 7. Compulsory Villagization in Tanzania: Aesthetics and Miniaturization
223(39)
Chapter 8. Taming Nature: An Agriculture of Legibility and Simplicity
262(45)
Part 4. The Missing Link 307(52)
Chapter 9. Thin Simplifications and Practical Knowledge: Metis
309(33)
Chapter 10. Conclusion
342(17)
Notes 359(74)
Sources for Illustrations 433(2)
Index 435

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