This introductory chapter provides an overview of how development became a Cold War global project from the late 1940s until the late 1980s. Narrating the political, intellectual, and economic history of the twentieth century through the lens of development means dealing with ideas as much as with material transformation, recounting the ways ideas and projects affected local realities, transnational interactions, and, eventually, notions of development. In describing this trajectory, the book makes three main points. First, it argues that the Cold War was fundamental in shaping the global aspirations and ideologies of development and modeling the institutional structures that still rule foreign aid today. Second, it contends that the role of the state was crucial, and that though development projects were articulated in global terms, as narratives to frame problems and provide solutions, they actually served national purposes. Third, it argues that development institutions tried to create a universal and homogeneous concept of development but ultimately failed.
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