Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Neoliberal trade

As we wrap up our discussions of the culture-centered approach, I am drawn to the question of the role of dominant social institutions (academia, funding agencies, global agencies, NGOs) as tools for neoliberal trade.

The other day, I found myself in the midst of this meeting where the people assembled were talking about how there is a lot of funding now for doing things related to poverty and inequality. What struck me was the dishonesty of the conversation.

Poverty now has become a hot topic area that could draw a lot of funding. So the same people who were running after these other things when the wind was blowing in another direction are now running after poverty because this is fundable. What I find problematic here is not that academics/agencies etc. have now become interested in issues of poverty (in fact, this could be a great thing), but rather what is disconcerting to me is the mercenary logic underlying the renewed emphasis on poverty. And what lies this mercenary logic is the desire to use poverty as a tool for actually increasing the disparities between the haves and have-nots, not really decreasing them. The status quo stays intact, the structures stay in place, and neoliberal agendas are further propagated under the veneer of buzz words such as poverty and democracy.

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