Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

  • Levine A
  • Scott J
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Abstract

James Scott's Seeing Like a State provides a thorough critique of leftist variants of what he terms "high modernist" ideologies and the massive, state-directed social engineering projects they have inspired in recent centuries, particularly the twentieth. Scott pits local knowledge and pre-industrial agrarian systems against the highly centralized, monocultural, and hi tech variants favored by modernizers. Though based on an impressive and multi-disciplinary array of secondary and primary evidence, the generalized causal arguments regarding the sources of high modernism that Scott insightfully distills from his main Soviet case example often work less well for colonial or post-colonial occurrences of these projects in other areas of the globe. His cogent, at times brilliant, unpacking of the rhetoric and hubris of high modernist architects from Stalin and Julius Nyerere to Le Corbusier and Robert Moses is unfortunately not matched by an equally detailed and convincing discussion of viable alternatives to their dehumanizing, environmentally pernicious, and unsustainable visions of the future. CR - Copyright © 2000 Oxford University Press

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Authors

  • Andrew Levine

  • James C. Scott

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