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The discursive tactics of neoliberal development in small Third World countries

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0016-7185(97)00008-0
  • Neoliberalism
  • Investment Promotion
  • Development Discourse
  • Regulation Approach
  • Third World
  • Communication
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Linguistics


Abstract This paper draws from the regulation approach and from discourse analysis to contextualize and evaluate current trends in the industrial development policies of small Third World countries. The investment promotion guidebooks of eight economically-weak states of the Caribbean Basin and littoral Africa provide evidence for the construction of Third World mediascapes. Through promises of a pro-investor climate, images of scientific production, and avoidance of the reality of social discontent, the guidebooks signal that the country is a signatory to the neoliberal world order and is ripe for investment in export-oriented manufacturing. The guidebooks demonstrate considerable homogeneity regarding discursive tactics, messages, and promises to capital. The typical advertising package combines three themes: neoliberal and contextual depiction (pledges of subsidies, an open economy, and cheap and unorganized labour; tropical paradise and friendly natives), science fiction (dreams of high technology, telecommunications, and informatics), and strategic omission (exclusion of strife, resistance, hardship, and societal degradation). The homogeneity of incentives causes the generous incentive packages across the Third World to cancel each other out, thereby raising the stakes necessary to lure fastidious investors. Homogenization through mediascapes is not total, however. The invitations to international capital are trapped by local context. Investors discover either through the guidebooks or on site that local history and struggle preclude an unproblematic absorption and implementation of the neoliberal hegemonic project.

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