Philosophy in Latin America is a special series of philosophical books that pertain to all areas of value inquiry in the region. Its goal is to introduce the core content of Latin American philosophy to English-speaking readers.
Gunner Myrdal’s Asian Drama was the first serious and somewhat pessimistic study on the postcolonial development prospects of newly independent Asian countries. Since the world is in the grips of covid-19 pandemic and facing disrupted global supply chains, it is worth reflecting on the Asian Drama and rediscovering some of its insights. The rapid growth of Southeast Asian countries at the beginning of the twenty-first century may have proved Myrdal’s pessimistic outlook wrong, but his concern over the balance between state and market is still valid as it informs countries in the region that they should be more cautious in pursuing their current industrial policies. This is more so when Keynesian foresight is married to Myrdal’s forecast of development and economic growth, the precariousness of Southeast Asia’s development prospects post-pandemic is more pronounced.
This paper traces the historical origins of the state’s exploitative agricultural market system in Malawi with a case of Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (admarc), a post-colonial agriculture marketing board established in 1971. The study analyses how its initial intention of facilitating the transformation of agriculture got thwarted by political interest and structural adjustment and recently globalization processes. The study goes further to explain the changes that had taken place from early colonial era agricultural marketing institutions to the present days of admarc, covering a period from 1926 to 2000. This period has been chosen as present day admarc directly traces its origin to the Native Tobacco Board that was established in 1926. The paper explores how these marketing boards, which were initially created in the colonial era to facilitate the participation of the peasant farmers in organized markets, turned to be instruments of exploitation and vehicles of marginalization of the peasantry. Furthermore, as this paper notes, after the country gained independence, admarc continued to be a post-colonial era instrument for peasant farmers’ systematic oppression through intrinsic taxation that further compromised the development of the peasant farmers. The institution was further used to strengthen agricultural sector dualism in Malawi as the surplus extracted from the peasant smallholder farmers was used to develop the capitalist estates sector.
As a theoretical framework in the Science and Technology Studies (sts) scholarship, the sociotechnical imaginaries approach (sta) has provided a conceptual framework and methodology that not only overcome the deterministic understanding of technological development but also theorized the relationship between society on the one hand, and science and technology on the other. However, as will be pointed out, a limitation of the sta renders it incapable of problematizing what I will call as the technopolitics of specialization, defined as the organization of unequal positions based on the capitalist centers’ control over techno-epistemic networks set against the backdrop of a neocolonial relation. Such an incapacity glosses over the persistence of neocolonialism and dependency especially in the Global South.
This paper aims to reimagine the theoretical framework of the sociotechnical imaginaries by developing a critical review of its approach. The paper will place in dialogue the most recent and relevant conceptual developments of the sta and the dependency theory of Samir Amin. The paper will present how the most relevant literature concerning the sta work on the assumption that every polity has control over existing techno-epistemic networks from which imaginaries are independently defined. The paper will argue that given the notion of international specialization developed by Samir Amin and presupposed today in the sta, the technopolitics of specialization monopolizes control of the techno-epistemic networks thereby constraining the imaginaries of peripheral countries.