James C. Scott's research for this book began with an examination of the tensions between state authorities and various "unstable" individuals throughout history, from hunter-gatherer tribes to Gypsies to the homeless. He soon became fascinated, however, by the recurring patterns of failure and authoritarianism in certain social engineering programs aimed at bringing such people fully into the state's fold. Soviet collectivization, the Maoist Great Leap Forward, the precisely planned city of Brasilia--these and other projects around the world, while deeply ambitious, extracted immeasurable tolls on the people they were designed to help.
One of the most important common factors that Scott found in these schemes is what he refers to as a high modernist ideology. In simplest terms, it is an extremely firm belief that progress can and will make the world a better place. But "scientific" theories about the betterment of life often fail to take into account "the indispensable role of practical knowledge, informal processes, and improvisation in the face of unpredictability" that Scott views as essential to an effective society. What high modernism lacks is metis, a Greek word which Scott translates as "the knowledge that can only come from practical experience." Although metis is closely related to the concept of "mutuality" found in the anarchist writings of, among others, Kropotkin and Bakunin, Scott is careful to emphasize that he is not advocating the abolition of the state or championing a complete reliance on natural "truth." He merely recognizes that some types of states can initiate programs which jeopardize the well-being of all their subjects.
Although the collapse of most socialist governments might lead one to believe that Seeing Like a State is old news, Scott's analysis should prove extremely useful to those considering the effects of global capitalism on local communities. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
...a tremendous achievement, easily one of the most impressive and important books of recent years. -- Reason, Jesse Walker
This book tries to explain large-scale bureaucratic error. The concept “seeing like a state” refers to the desire by large-scale institutions (usually government) to make a... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Michael Lewyn
This book suggests implications I do not think the author intended. Looked at from the left, and explaining things in the vocabulary of Marxist socialist theory, the book laments... Read morePublished 2 months ago by M. Heiss
Back in my freshmen days at Johns Hopkins, I rebelled at the focus of "Political Science". It was basically all about how the system worked and was rather obviously... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Male Aesthetic Conservative
Textual research is too limited. Scott's study shows how participation and observation can disprove false though elegant theories. Read morePublished 5 months ago by sun mengxi
Really interesting to see how ideas and actions meant to help society, were actually just there to help the government. Money talks at the end of the day.Published 8 months ago by Iiiiiinny
I am long out of the habit of reading highly researched non-fiction, but this book deeply impressed me with its insights, its erudition, and the quality of its views. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Patrick Lydon
Some books are inspirational, others are fun, yet others provide valuable information. Few books have the capacity to impact our very perception of reality. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Pedro Sandín-Fremaint
This is an engaging book that peels back some of the layers of bureaucracy to show you how states understand their citizens and why government is often so inept. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Nicholas Acord
Well written, it argues in favour of local knowledge and by consequence for people's participation in state induced programmes and projects.Published 11 months ago by Ton van Naerssen