The Harsh Realities About South Africa That the World Bank Dare Not Speak
Sometimes silences speak volumes.
In his seminal book The Anti-Politics Machine Stanford University anthropologist James Ferguson criticised the World Bank’s 1980s understanding of Lesotho as a “traditional subsistence peasant society.” Apartheid’s migrant labour system was explicitly ignored by the bank, yet remittances from Basotho workers toiling in mines, factories and farms across the Caledon River accounted for 60% of rural people’s income:
Acknowledging the extent of Lesotho’s long-standing involvement in the modern capitalist economy of South Africa would not provide a convincing justification for the “development” agencies to “introduce” roads, markets and credit.
Using Michel Foucault’s discourse theory, Ferguson showed why some things cannot be named. To do so would violate the bank’s foundational dogma, that the central problems of poverty can be solved by applying market logic. Yet the most important of Lesotho’s market relationships – exploited labour – was what caused so much misery.
Three decades on, not much has changed. Today, the bank’s main South Africa research team reveals a similar ‘Voldemort’ problem.
This article was published here