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Against Teleology

June 29, 2010
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So I was recently arguing with someone on Facebook about the modern/backwards teleological distinction we see when people start to try to contrast the “first world” with the “third world.” I suggested that it’s basically a paternalistic othering technique that serves the interests of those who think of themselves as “modern,” and that it doesn’t have any rigor to it at bottom.

I also said—and this is where I’m in trouble—that most scholars have stopped using the idea because it is so problematic, and that I could make book or essay recommendations where this is clearly explained.

But I don’t know off the top of my head where I could actually direct them—apart from suggesting Derrida’s reading of Hegel.

Do any of you know a good, straightforward text that says why scholars have abandoned the teleological development schema?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. תמרה permalink
    June 29, 2010 4:17 pm

    I don’t know about the philosophical aspects , but http://www.gapminder.org has a lot of very instructive, simple and obvious yet fascinating videos about why this is simply no longer (if it ever was) a correct dichotomy in totally objective geographic/economic terms.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    June 29, 2010 8:33 pm

    Thanks for the suggestion; I’ll check it out!

  3. fuzzytheory permalink
    June 30, 2010 12:29 am

    When I turn my dissertation into a book, I’ll send you the citation. heh. More seriously though, Aijaz Ahmad does a pretty decent take-down of the notion of ‘third world’ and Frederic Jameson’s use of it. I think it’s in his In Theory.

  4. Beelzebub permalink
    July 1, 2010 3:49 pm

    So is there a word to use to describe what differences may exist between what is often called “first world” and what is often called “third world”? I mean, wouldn’t people normally consider America to be “first world” and, say, Haiti to be “third world”? And isn’t the main difference between the two simply wealth?

  5. Rhiannon permalink
    July 2, 2010 11:14 am

    I mostly hear/read ‘developed’ and ‘developing’, but I think that has the same teleological flaws.

  6. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    July 4, 2010 11:39 am

    Beelzebub: I think wealth is a big part of it, but type and extent of infrastructure has got to be a big part too.

    Rhiannon: good point! I hadn’t thought about checking on the critiques of “development studies.” That’ might be a good place.

  7. July 15, 2010 9:25 pm

    check out the first couple of chapters of robert wright’s ‘NonZero’…great summarization there of how these ideas shifted thru modern scholarship

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