Favourite Excerpt; from The Origins of Political Order by Francis Fukuyama

There is a perhaps apocryphal story, retold by the Physicist Stephen Hawking, about a famous scientist who was giving a public lecture on cosmetology when he was interrupted by an old woman at the back of the room who told him he was speaking rubbish, and that the universe was actually a flat disc balanced on the back of a turtle. The scientist thought he could shut her up by asking what the turtle was standing on. She replied, “You’re very clever, young man, but it’s turtles all the way down”.

That then is the problem with any theory of development (indeed, any piece of writing that tries to build up a point): the particular turtle you pick as the starting point of your story is actually standing on the back of another turtle, or else an elephant or a tiger or a whale. Most purportedly general theories of development fail because they don’t take into account the multiple independent dimensions of development. They are, rather, reductionist in seeking to abstract a single causal factor out of a much complex historical reality. And they fail to push the story back far enough historically to the conditions that explain their own starting points and premises.

Author: ifeadedeji

I am a graduate student in African Studies at the Center for International Studies, Ohio University where I work as a research assistant and Editor of Africa@OHIO Blog. I hold a bachelors in political science, and use this space as a container of my thoughts.

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