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Selbsthilfe oder unterlassene Hilfeleistung? Die Flucht des Entwicklungsstaats aus der Fürsorgepflicht

Erhard Berner, Benedict Phillips

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It is nowadays rarely denied that the poor are active agents in the development process. Participation, once radical and controversial, is now mainstream management theory; harnessing self-help potentials is the order of the day. Properly ‘empowered’ or at least ‘enabled’, the poor are assumed to be able to overcome deficits of infrastructure and services and exhaust their tremendous entrepreneurial potential. Without altogether denying the validity of the self-help approach, the paper scrutinizes both its practical assumptions and ideological underpinnings. Does it work for all urban poor communities, and critically, for all people in such communities? And is it its efficiency, or rather the implicit justification of cutting subsidies and transfers, which make it so popular with governments and international financial institutions? We conclude that self-help approaches can and should be supported by the state, but should considered as complements, not as alternatives, to resource transfers and accessible public services. The idea that poor communities can develop under their own steam is not only unrealistic but politically harmful. It obscures gross injustice in the distribution of wealth and power in society, but also within the poor communities.