Welcome to a revolution in practice and theory
Over its history, cultural anthropology moved from a social science to a critical art, away from policy relevance toward radical critiques, and more recently back to political engagement. Now it’s time to take a deep breath and consider how to be both helpful and critical, humble and bold. The Cultural and Development Manifesto shows the way.
On the scientific side, the book reviews the conceptual muddles behind both "culture" and "development.." It shows what quantitative indicators of “culture” mean and don’t mean, how they’ve been used and misused, and how to do better in practice. Beyond stochastic dynamic models, or beneath them, are checklists (h/t Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto and yes, your title inspired this book’s). Soil scientists, psychologists, and physicians make use of checklists to help people make better choices; so, too, should anthropologists and economists.
The book presents crisp case studies from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. One chapter shows how deconstructing cultural narratives and “poisonous texts” can lead to better relationships, better negotiations, and better projects. Other chapters share case studies of culturally attuned and locally led successes. And another chapter unpacks the real and imagined connections between "culture" and "corruption," as always with a practical focus and real-world examples.
“Convening” is a method for combining generic international expertise with local knowledge and creativity. Through this field-tested process, problems are locally defined and internationally calibrated. Goals are rethought. Alternatives are broadened. Ways to implement are expanded. And effective new politics and policies are, sometimes but not always, the result.
In short, this remarkable book fundamentally re-envisions what development policy can be.
“In this highly engaging book, Klitgaard not only brings economics and culture into dialog with each other, he goes beyond ‘culture matters’ to demonstrate what ‘taking culture into account’ may mean in practice. This is a book that only Klitgaard, with his sharp multidisciplinary lens, wealth of on-the-ground experience, and remarkable penmanship, could have pulled off.”
—Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School
"The Culture and Development Manifesto seeks to open a path between two disciplines that often seem hermetically sealed, cultural anthropology and development economics. It will be of immense use to any practitioner working at this highly fraught boundary.”
—Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University
"This book is a brilliant plea, subtly combining scholarship, examples, and common sense, to mobilize the competencies of anthropologists for a better adaptation of development policies to local conditions. It is based on a robust premise: in the confrontation between the interventions of development agencies and the social contexts in which they are implemented (local cultures), the many failures do not stem from a refusal of development by the populations but from an incapacity of public policy experts to take local cultures into account. The final proposal—convening dialogues between experts, anthropologists, and local actors—is highly stimulating."
—Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Marseilles, and LASDEL, Niamey, Niger; author of Anthropology and Development.
“As anthropologists and management consultants know, sometimes it takes an outsider to show the value of an idea. In this provocative and thoughtful book, Klitgaard shows that it may take an outsider (an economist, no less) to show how the study of culture holds practical lessons for human development. Rather than seeing ‘culture’ as an obstacle to development and wellbeing, he shows how both creativity and collaboration emerge from bringing together on equal footing different, even competing, beliefs and ways of looking at the world. Connecting the dots between theory and policy, he offers a practical and useful ‘convening framework’ to operationalize this model. Policy makers as well as scholars and practitioners of development should read this book and work to implement its conclusions.”
—Edward F. Fischer, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies, Vanderbilt University
"Can cultural anthropology and international development team up in a way that creates mutual respect and contextually sensitive projects, programs, or social movements – ones that fit? How common is an author with kind heart, hard head, and lucid pen; one intimately familiar too with scholars, program designers, and powerful officials? That’s right; both disciplines need this book."
—Parker Shipton, Professor of Anthropology, Boston University
"A proposition universally accepted, it seems, is that culture should (must) be taken into account in international development work. However, there is zero consensus as to how best to do so. Worse, the pitfalls on the path to integrating cultural approaches make many duck and avoid the topic altogether. Bob Klitgaard has grappled with this dilemma for many years, on the ground and in the academy. In The Culture and Development Manifesto, he sets out the challenges and their historic evolution with lucid clarity (and a host of stories), and offers some sensible, if demanding, ways forward. "
—Katherine Marshall, Georgetown University and Executive Director of the World Faiths Development Dialogue; author of Development and Faith.