For those who have not read Barbara Weinstein’s presidential address, “Developing Inequality” in the most recent (February 2008) AHR, it is quite thought provoking. She argues that the poststructural tendency to deconstruct the narratives of development elides the question of economic inequality: why are some societies or regions poorer than others? This is a question not answerable by deconstruction, so it tends to be ignored, which has the effect of reinforcing inequality.
Weinstein’s argument could be read with Thomas Haskell’s 2005 essay in MIH, “Modernization on Trial” (link requires subscription), in which he argues that developmental schemes are unavoidable in historical understanding and in self-understanding. Assigning anything a causal structure, which we all reflexively do in order to live in a world that is predictable and makes sense, presumes a developmental structure. Given that reality, a new set of questions needs to be brought to bear in order to understand development and modernization. Simple deconstructive critique or simple embrace of the notions of modernization and development will not do. -DS