Dismantling the anti-politics machine in aid: political mētis and its limits

Brendan Whitty*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a recent article in NPE, Rajesh Venugopal (2022. Can the anti-politics machine be dismantled? New Political Economy, 1–15) concluded that the anti-politics machine was still in operation. He argued that development planners held a cognitive divide between the realm of political dynamics – an unknowable terra incognita – and the realm of operational technical knowledge. This article revisits and expands that argument. It takes a particular kind of adaptive project as an analytical entry point, arguing that their focus on political practice reimagines the ontology of politics as a kind of expert mētis which is situated, relational and emergent. Such projects hold out hope that the anti-politics machine can be dismantled by displacing the cognitive frames of the development planner from the centre stage and emphasising political practice during implementation. However, shifting attention to implementation reveals other elements of the anti-politics machine’s operation. Drawing on interviews with policy advocates, the article shows that the anti-politics machine does not simply work through the cognition of the planner: it also acts through bureaucratic resistance to political practice during project implementation, produced through operational, accountability and financing processes that shackle practice, particularly in spaces with heterogeneous interests and values.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalNew Political Economy
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date7 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 May 2024


  • Development
  • Technocracy
  • Mētis
  • Politics
  • Implemenatation


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