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The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  154 ratings  ·  8 reviews
The Will to Improve is a remarkable account of development in action. Focusing on attempts to improve landscapes and livelihoods in Indonesia, Tania Murray Li carefully exposes the practices that enable experts to diagnose problems and devise interventions, and the agency of people whose conduct is targeted for reform. Deftly integrating theory, ethnography, and history, she illu ...more
Paperback, 392 pages
Published May 16th 2007 by Duke University Press Books (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  154 ratings  ·  8 reviews


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Daniel Clausen
Most postdevelopment literature focuses on the limitations of development and conservation projects. These works often set out to: demonstrate the failure of technical projects to enable political action; focus on the ways technical projects artificially enclose problems; and the way current solutions often lead to unintended consequences.

Not all post-development literature is patently negative and defeatist, but quite a bit is.

For me, Tania Murray Li's book is different -- perhaps in some way
...more
Faris Rahmadian
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sebuah Upaya Dekonstruksi Yang Menyenangkan.

Tulisan ini membawa kita pada sebuah pemahaman tahap lanjut terhadap kapitalisme di Indonesia. Karena kita tidak diajak memahami aktor sebatas biner dalam kerangka saling oposisi; swasta vis a vis masyarakat, ataupun ekologi vis a vis ekonomi. Li banyak berbicara relasi kuasa yang tak tampak, barisan diskursus yang dikreasikan oleh kuasa-kuasa semu dalam relung intersubjektif. Terlebih ketika ia berbicara banyak hal terkait birokrasi dan kehendak 'memperba
...more
Ana
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Geez, this book is an excellent ethnography of development, too bad it's way too dense for the average undergraduate to wade through. I assigned it for a class on the anthropology of development and my students are really struggling with it. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are good case studies of development in action and of the operation of governmentality. Chapter 6 dissects the practice and planning of a project by The Nature Conservancy and Chapter 7 traces the neoliberal premises of a World Bank proj ...more
Khusnul Hanifati
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seringkali niat baik pembangunan atas nama masyarakat tidak berjalan sesuai dengan yang diharapkan. Banyak pihak-pihak yang merasa bertanggung jawab untuk memperbaiki kehidupan masyarakat menjadi lebih baik. Namun dari sekian banyak proyek yang di jabarkan Li, mereka yang merasa bertanggung jawab sudah memiliki bekal gambaran masing-maing bagaimana seharusnya masyarakat hidup sehingga proyek ini tidak bebas nilai dan tidak bebas kepentingan. Dengan fokus program di Sulawesi, Li menguraikan bagai ...more
Malpal
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the most nuanced analyses of NGOs and “improvement” programs i’ve read. So nuanced you leave with more questions than answers, and need to review every bit of social justice you’ve ever committed to. It’s a long and dense read but a crucial exercise in understanding ethnographic frameworks and practice. I read this for a cultural anthropology course, not sure it fit the bill for an intro class but I still thoroughly enjoyed peeling back each layer of a chapter Tania Li has to offer. I jus ...more
Jerome
Feb 20, 2008 marked it as to-read
Her essay on compromised power is hugely sensitive, I expect a lot from this post-Gramscian-Foucault read on development in Indonesia.
Sara Salem
Apr 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent book that details the many problems with the development industry. She could have gone further in her critique of international agencies, however, as well as local Western NGO workers.
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Professor at St. George Campus and Canada Research Chair in the Political-Economy and Culture of Asia-Pacific