Participatory Development: Where Culture Creeps In

Jean-Philippe Platteau, Anita Abraham

Research output: Contribution in Book/Catalog/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


First, we unfold the logic of traditional village societies by looking at various interdependent aspects of their functioning, starting from the simple fact that relationships among community members are highly personalized. The critical role of other-regarding and redistributive norms, as well as the presence of a strong authority pattern in tribal societies are emphasized. Attention is then is devoted to examining the problems that unavoidably arise when external values and objectives, the fulfilment of which is a condition of success of the new participatory approach, come into conflict with the local culture and socio-economic structure. A distinction is made between rather traditional tribal communities and those that have gone through significant processes of socio-economic differentiation. The experience of participatory development in Asia and Latin America becomes highly relevant for Africa when it comes to address the case of the latter rural societies. Lastly, we draw attention to two important dilemma of participatory development. The first dilemma arises from a conflict between the need for sustained institutional support to communities, on the one hand, and the particular stakes of donor agencies, on the other hand. The second dilemma can be stated thus: for a participatory development to be successful, the active intervention of an effective state is required whereas the need for participatory development is greater when or where the state is actually weaker.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCulture and Public Action
EditorsV Rao, M Walton
Place of PublicationStanford-California
PublisherStanford University Press
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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