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From Colonial Administration to Development Management


  • Cooke, Bill


This paper is about the field of development management (previously development administration) and its continuities with the processes of imperial rule known as colonial administration. Development administration/ management represents itself as a subset of public administration/ public sector management. However, this conceals its status as First World discourse about how the Third World should be managed. Moreover, while development management recognizes the continuity between itself and post-1945 development administration, its advocacy of participatory methodologies, the cause of the poor and the marginalized, and democratization are seen as new, and as implying a clear break with colonial/neo-colonialist administrative practice. This paper challenges this orthodoxy on the basis of three overlapping arguments. First, understandings of the benefits of participation presented by advocates of development management are naïve and fail to understand its potentialities as a control mechanism. Second the so called "governance agendas" of First World development agencies not only promote a particular, neo-liberal version of democratization, which includes the extension of the market vis-à-vis the state, and in their implementation replicate imperial power relations. Third the methods and rhetoric surrounding participation and empowerment themselves have colonial roots, and developed as a consequence of the late colonial approach to administration known as indirect rule. Thus, the paper concludes, while metaphors of colonization have been used to describe the development of management and organization theory there is also a more literal relationship between colonialism and management.

Suggested Citation

  • Cooke, Bill, 2001. "From Colonial Administration to Development Management," General Discussion Papers 30562, University of Manchester, Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:idpmgd:30562

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bill Cooke, 1998. "Participation, 'process' and management: lessons for development in the history of organization development," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(1), pages 35-54.
    2. Christopher Grey, 1999. "'We Are All Managers Now'; 'We Always Were': On the Development and Demise of Management," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(5), pages 561-585, September.
    3. Alan Thomas, 1996. "What is development management?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(1), pages 95-110.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dina Abbott & Suzanne Brown & Gordon Wilson, 2007. "Development management as reflective practice," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(2), pages 187-203.

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