Thursday, January 7, 2010

Book Notes 1

For about one year – mid-1991 through early 1992 – I was books editor of terra nova, a quarterly journal published by the International Freedom Foundation. (I later became editor-in-chief, succeeding Mark Franz.) One of the recurring features in the books section of terra nova was “Book Notes,” short blurbs about (then) current books. I contributed several of these over the short period that terra nova was published.

These “notes” appeared in Volume 1, Number 1 of terra nova (Summer [North] Winter [South] 1991).

Book Notes
Richard E. Sincere, Jr.

Development in Practice: Paved with Good Intentions by Doug Porter, Bryant Allen, and Gaye Thompson. (New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, April 1991). 247 pages, $75.00 cloth, $25.00 paper.
Three Australian researchers looked at a major aid project in Kenya funded by the Australian government over a period of thirteen years. The authors note that “the failure of a great many development projects to achieve even their most fundamental objectives is due to a reluctance on the part of development practitioners to appreciate the significance of history. Projects are frequently designed as if time began with the project implementation schedule. Past lessons are seldom examined and still fewer professionals bother to inquire into the historical circumstances of the people their interventions seek to assist.” To fully explain the failure of this project—the Magarini Settlement Project in Kenya’s Coast Province— the authors look at the 70 years of social, political, and economic history among the Giriama people that preceded the launch of the initiative. They examine the project’s implementation, its review and accountability back home (in Australia), and the effects of the project’s failure on Australian development aid policy.

Foreign Aid in Practice by Stephen Browne. (New York: Columbia University Press, July 1990). 283 pages, $60.00 cloth.
Attempting both to explain and justify current foreign aid programs and practices, Foreign Aid in Practice is in many ways a primer for readers unfamiliar with the wider literature on development. As such, it is a trap for the uninitiated, for it accepts as a given that development aid actually works, contrary to the findings of economists and other experts. To the extent that the volume explains the inner workings of the World Bank, IMF, and various countries’ development agencies, it is useful, but its overly rosy view of the purposes and potential of foreign aid renders it a dubious source of critical insights.

The Political Economy of Senegal Under Structural Adjustment, edited by Christopher L. Delgado and Sidi Jammeh. (Westport. Conn.: Praeger Publishers, March 1991), 232 pages, $45.00 cloth.
Twelve essays by African, American, and European experts on the political economy of West Africa comprise this volume, an examination of one of Africa’s few multiparty democracies. The essays look at external economic forces affecting Senegal’s economic performance, internal political events and trends that influence economic decisionmaking, and the role of international development agencies. The editors note in the introduction that “if it is correct to characterize Senegalese nation-building from colonial days to the end of the 1970s as using economic strategies to address complex political issues, it would be equally correct to characterize the period since then as using political strategies to address nearly insoluble economic dilemmas.” This book uses that conceptualization to examine a transitional phase in the development of Senegal’s political economy.

Effective Sanctions on South Africa: The Cutting Edge of Economic Intervention, edited by George W. Shepherd, Jr. (Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, March 1991). 160 pages, $39.95 cloth, $14.95 paper.
The editor of this volume contends that, unlike sanctions strategies in the past, which have had a consistent record of failure, economic sanctions against South Africa have been effective in promoting change in that country. While he notes that there has been a continuing debate about the effectiveness of sanctions and whether they will actually hurt the cause they are meant to help, he brushes aside the objections and states baldly that even in the wake of substantial reform and the opening up of the South African political process since February 1990, “the case for ongoing, effective sanctions seems clear.” The contributors contend that “the movement for racial equality in the world is not spent,” which leads them to offer the South African sanctions as a model for policy elsewhere in the world, a prospect that should make wary anyone who supports unfettered commercial intercourse and non-coercive political relations between sovereign states.

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