- The Professional Middle Class in Afghanistan
- From Pivot of Development to Political Marginality
- Volume | Issue number
- 8 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Regional, Transnational and European Studies (ARTES)
From the 1950s, the Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union shifted increasingly to what is broadly termed the "Third World." As part of this competition, both sides pursued what today might be termed a "development agenda"- large scale economic aid in the forms of loans, technology, and expertise to help countries escape poverty. Although the purpose of this aid was to showcase the superiority of each side’s respective system, the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies shared a great deal in terms of how they conceptualized economic growth, the sort of projects they implemented, and even their understanding of the role of the state. In keeping with the themes of this special issue, particularly its focus on the implementation and appropriation of developmental ideologies, metrics and hierarchies, this article explores the various efforts to create an Afghan middle class through three periods: first under the Musahiban dynasty (until 1973) and republic (1973-1978), second during the communist period and Soviet intervention (1978-1992), and lastly since the US-led invasion in 2001. Drawing on archival research (for the Cold War period) and oral histories (especially for the post-2001 period), we seek to place the development programs of each era into broader context, while pointing to the similarities and differences between first and second world approaches. We also compare the Cold War period, when state-led modernization was in vogue, and the current era, when the role of the state is minimized and NGOs are a dominant part of the development landscape.
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