Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 July 2009
A close relationship holds between the goals of development planning and the notions that planners have of what already exists. Hand in hand with certain goals go appropriate notions of the status quo. Aiming to “modernise” for the sake of increased productivity, conservation of natural resources, and a fairer distribution of wealth, planners presuppose the existence of the “traditional” as the negative condition that has to be changed. It might be thought that an understanding of the status quo or the traditional condition comes first, before the choice of goals. But that is not always so. Information is often fundamentally incomplete or ignored when decisions about policy have to be made by planners. Hence they rely on their goals to guide their thinking about what already exists. In such circumstances, modernising planners reinvent the traditional as a negative stereotype; they derive it from their goals, rather than the other way round. The difficulty is, however, that their plans, when implemented, encounter the cultural realities of the continuing social arrangements. Unintended consequences result, or worse still, radically unacceptable ones. The overall pattern is familiar in nationally planned development: the reform designed by planners at the centre gets subverted by people at the periphery, and a gross disjunction arises between the policy as it is officially formulated and the policy as it can effectively be applied.