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98 CHAPTER THREE Development Assistance as an Industry (the “Dev Biz”) Among the ladies who were most distinguished for this rapacious benevolence (if I may use the expression), was a Mrs. Pardiggle, who seemed, as I judged from the number of her letters to Mr. Jarndyce, to be almost as powerful a correspondent as Mrs. Jellyby herself. We observed that the wind always changed, when Mrs. Pardiggle became the subject of conversation; and that it invariably interrupted Mr. Jarndyce, and prevented his going any farther, when he had remarked that there were two classes of charitable people: one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise, the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all. —Charles Dickens, Bleak House At a September 1984 conference on NGOs held at the United Nations in New York, one of the speakers used the term “dev biz.” He meant to distinguish between a relatively innocent past when development work was more of a calling, and an image-conscious present, when the same work has become more of an industry, like “showbiz.” Many since have come to use the term “industry” quite routinely to refer to the development establishment . Most use it without irony. Industry used to mean simply a branch of manufacture or trade: “steel industry,” “automobile industry.” These terms roll off our tongues, no more loaded than the words “dog” or “cat.” And without too much trouble we quickly get used to neologisms such as the “hospitality industry.” But implicit today in the term “industry” is the concept of a community of interested parties, the interest they share being the good of the industry itself. Thus today industries create their own research or trade associations, whose work, including lobbying the government for favorable treatment, is meant to benefit all the companies in an industry. And industries periodically hold meetings or conferences to exchange information, share and solve problems, and praise accomplishments. The organizational realm has become so well wrought in the last half century that we are no longer surprised to see that virtually every industry has a magazine of some sort (e.g., Hotel and Motel News, Do-It-Yourself Retailing, or the magazine of the electric motor industry, Motion Systems Distribution ). An anthropologist, observing them as if from Mars, might notice that industries also have distinguishing cultural and linguistic characteristics. There is usually a shared jargon, shared values, and shared delusions, such as the notion that the hotel industry is in the business of “hospitality.” Sometime in the last few decades the American public became used to other industries beyond the once strict limits of manufacturing and trade. We do not blink now if a pundit speaks of sports as an industry or of punditry itself as one, for that matter. But is there a subtle line that gets crossed here, at least conceptually if not morally? Well, so far, no. If at the core of the concept of industry is the notion of interested parties, the “interest” being the good of the industry and the “good” being (in the end) money and profit, then there is a seamless logic to putting professional sports under the same lexical umbrella as steel or hamburgers. We accept that all share the same ultimate goal—making money. But development assistance as an industry? If so, what “business” is it in? Development is not really about products or services. It is also not about the self-interest of the organizations that came into existence to promote development . Moreover, given its own hopes to bring development to underdeveloped countries, to cast itself as a self-perpetuating industry should at the least be an embarrassment. Capitalism, however, is different. It is legitimate, indeed “natural” that industries which exist to make money must find new markets, create new wants, and invent new products. Sports, leisure, recreation, and entertainment are grist for that mill. And as capitalism’s underlying imperatives continue to break through the surface of our lives and reveal their full selves, we see how easily some lines become blurred and other fields become “industries ” too. Healthcare has become an industry in the full sense of the term. So has information, and now education too is becoming an industry. It would not be surprising if even such nonprofit entities as museums soon became industries . This would suggest that a common denominator broader than money is evolving—that is, self-perpetuation. Like the flip...


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