The Ontological Politics of (In-)Equality: An Anarchistic Post-Developmental Approach to Re-Imagine Development and Education


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date17 Jul 2019


In this thesis I argue that ‘Development’ must be understood in a conflictual sense against the competing ontologies of social movements, communities and other actors with often fundamentally different understandings of ‘equality.’ This position challenges ‘common sense’ notions of Development based upon a win-win relationship between civil society, the state and the private sector. I detail Development as ‘One-World world Development’ (OWW Development), a form of ontological politics grounded in what Rancière calls the presupposition of inequality. This politics is based upon a liberal worldview that exhibits progressive qualities while actually perpetuating a uniform hierarchical order designed to eliminate all competing ideas of meaningful life. Countering OWW Development, I draw upon post-anarchist and post-development philosophy to devise an emancipatory politics that places power into the hands of people typically at the receiving end of mainstream Development. Education – conceived as a socialising instrument to create ‘good consumer-citizens’ – is a strategic focus of OWW Development, serving to perpetually re-legitimise its hierarchical and unequal order. As such it constitutes an important, yet often underappreciated element in constraining imaginations beyond the liberal horizon. In turn, alternative approaches to education can support truly emancipatory possibilities well beyond the straightjacket of OWW Development. Across four case studies of ‘unschooling’ in India, I demonstrate how such alternative approaches fundamentally challenge dominant ideas of education, equality, development, and what it means to lead meaningful lives.