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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:High on modernity? Explaining the failings of Tanzanian villagisation
Author:Schneider, LeanderISNI
Periodical:African Studies
Geographic term:Tanzania
Development and Technology
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/00020180701275931
Abstract:'High modernism', the core idea of James Scott's 'Seeing like a State' (1998), serves as an ordering concept for explaining why certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed, namely because of their excessive reliance on generalizing, propositional, 'scientific' knowledge and/or a Cartesian aesthetics of orderliness. At the same time, the notion also denotes a general ethos, a hubristic sense among planners and promoters of large-scale interventions that their project is infallible. This provides a motivational basis for explaining why a scheme may be undertaken. In his book, Scott portrays Tanzanian villagization as a 'high modernist scheme'. The present author argues that the first reading of high modernism is of little relevance in the context of villagization in Tanzania. The second reading is more applicable. However, the State elites' hubristic ethos did not emerge out a specific connection to 'science' or high-modernist aesthetics, but rather from a much more general sense of their historical mission in the new nation. In this respect villagization is a case not of high modernist failure, but of modernizationist failure. Authoritarianism was an important immediate reason for villagization's failure and should be endogenized into the explanation. By treating it largely an an exogenous factor, Scott misses out on how the State's modernizationist ethos and its authoritarianism were intimately linked. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]