ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Palimpsest for Development

Thinking Small : The United States and the Lure of Community Development by Daniel Immerwahr, Harvard University Press, 2015; pp 272, $35.

The end of the World War II in 1945 had two important global consequences. The wave of decolonisation heralded by India’s independence and the rapid rise of the United States (US) as a technological and military power were both signifiers of the decline of European influence. However, the “American Century” was not an uncontested one, and the Soviet challenge resulted in a long-drawn Cold War in Europe and beyond. Following Mao’s revolution of 1949, the battle for hearts and minds in Asia became an urgent matter. To win this ideological war, the US added a novel weapon to its arsenal: the idea of “development.”

While activists, sociologists and anthropologists have interrogated and challenged the American notion of development and its consequences for a long while now, in recent years there has been increasing interest amongst American historians in understanding its deployment. Thus, while the basic contours of American policy towards India was sketched out two decades ago, for instance, in the works of Robert McMahon and Dennis Merrill, in recent years we have seen a wider range of writings encompassing food diplomacy and agricultural production, technology transfer, and the role of private foundations, including the topical Ford Foundation. To this growing body of literature we may now add Daniel Immerwahr’s lucidly written,Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development.

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