Brandon Wu's Reviews > Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

Seeing like a State by James C. Scott
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's review
Jan 21, 2012

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bookshelves: development, social-sciences
Read in August, 2012

A three-star rating of an acknowledged classic needs some justification. This is a lengthy book in which Scott makes a fairly simple argument: exercises in large-scale state planning have failed because they haven't sufficiently taken into account local specificities and local knowledge. There are some hugely useful concepts here, like the idea of legibility, but unless you're really interested in this argument, reading the introduction and perhaps the third chapter is sufficient. I just didn't find myself enjoying the read as much as I expected, but that doesn't take away from the quality of Scott's insights, and the well-researched historical evidence for those insights.

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