The politics of self-help: The Rockefeller Foundation, philanthropy andthe 'long' Green Revolution
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© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. While scholars of contemporary philanthropy have observed a concerted interest in the promotion of 'self-help,' little has been said about the political history of this investment and its significance in determining both domestic and international development priorities. We locate this modern conceptualisation of self-help in early twentieth-century philanthropic practice that sought to 'gift' to individuals and communities the precious habit of self-reliance and social autonomy. The Rockefeller Foundation promoted rural development projects that deliberately sought to 'emancipate' the tradition-bound peasant, transforming him or her into a productive, enterprising subject. We begin by documenting their early agricultural extension work, which attempted to spark agrarian change in the US South through the inculcation of modern habits and aspirations among farmers and their families. These agrarian schemes illustrate the newfound faith that 'rural up-lift' could only be sustained if farming communities were trained to 'help themselves' by investing physically and psychologically in the process of modernisation. We then locate subsequent attempts to incentivise and accelerate international agricultural development within the broader geopolitical imperatives of the Green Revolution and the Cold War. While US technical assistance undoubtedly sought to prevent political upheaval in the Third World, we argue that Rockefeller-led modernisation projects, based on insights gleaned from behavioural economics, championed a model of human capital - and the idea of 'revolution within' - in order to contain the threat of 'revolution without'. Approaching agricultural development through this problematisation of the farmer reveals the 'long history' of the Green Revolution - unfolding from the domestic to the international and from the late nineteenth century to the present - as well as the continuing role of philanthropy in forging a new global order.