Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Featured Speaker: George Clark

In a provocative lecture George Clark, professor at the University of California, Davis, presented his theories concerning the developmental history of the world. He exposed his findings in the new book “A Farewell to Alms” and shared his thoughts on conventional wisdom concerning economic growth and development.

The lecture was held at the University of California Washington Center and drew a broad audience including researchers, economists, graduate students, former diplomats, ambassadors, and various representatives from think tanks and developmental organizations.

In his talk, Clark veered from focusing on exploitation, geography, and the colonial legacy and engaged his diverse audience by challenging basic assumptions concerning development such as the belief that liberal markets spark growth. He confronted the ineptness of resource based explanations of development. He also challenged the idea that exposure to advances in technology engenders economic growth, progress, and improves living standards. These ideological foundations often guide academics and more importantly determine how policymakers frame solutions to combat the ills that accompany poverty and underdevelopment.

Clark continued to challenge these foundations by presenting a binary list of traits and factors that are generally presumed to catalyze economic growth and better living standards. While tracing historical data of England’s living standards, the professor drew a particular focus on the industrial revolution and on 16th and17th century sanitation practices, or lack there of. He juxtaposed this broad historical English context with various indigenous societies in Central America, South American, Africa, and India to support his claim that those who rested at the pinnacle of England’s social hierarchy did not necessarily bear the best standards of living based on his definition of high quality living standards.

The crowd was stimulated by Clark’s interesting presentation, which left spectators with more questions than answers. With this new approach to developmental thought, policy makers and humanitarian organizations can re-evaluate their approaches to development programs and question the primary premises that guide them. While doing so, development organizations can improve the impact they have on those abroad.

Date: Thursday January 10, 2008

Time: 10:00 am - 11:30 am

Location: 1608 Rhode Island Ave. NW- Washington, D.C. 20036

UNDP-USA Representative: Saphonia Foster

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