All Power Deceives

Volume 54 Number 1A
Published: March 29, 2023

Explanations of errors in past development theory and practice include changes in development conditions in professional norms and in modes of learning. How a fourth dimension, power, contributes to error is illustrated by three case studies – Freud and child sex abuse; the animal‐drawn, multi‐purpose, wheeled toolcarrier; and woodfuel gap analysis. Human society can be seen as patterned like a magnetic field, North–South, with powerful uppers and weak lowers. Uppers construct reality and project and transfer it to lowers. Their dominance, distance, and the professional ego generate and sustain misperception, as they generate, accept and interpret information to fit their needs and flatter their self‐esteem, and defend themselves against dissonance. Lower may mirror the reality of uppers, and generate, select, and distort information to fit what they believe uppers want, approve, and will reward. The resulting self-sustaining systems of power and misinformation are stable and hinder development. Solutions can be sought in reversals of power relations, changing behaviour and roles, redefining professional values, and enabling the poor, weak, and vulnerable better to conduct their own analyses and express their own realities.

From Issue: Vol. 54 No. 1A (2023) | Power, Poverty, and Knowledge – Reflecting on 50 Years of Learning with Robert Chambers