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Famine and ideology: The precipitating factors and educational implications in the case of Somalia

Yasin I Magan, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Interpretations of the causes of famine vary according to the political philosophy or to be more implicit the political ideology of the observer. This study explored the various interpretations and perceptions of famine along the spectrum of ideologies. These include classical economists and neo-classical economists such as Adam Smith, demographic theorists such as Malthus, the famous proponent of the population explosion theory, and the Marxist perspective of the theory of labor value and the capitalist appropriation of the ownership and distribution of wealth. Also, Amartya Sen's concept of entitlement and the postmodern approach to famine will be examined. In a stark contrast to the western intellectual aberration and the observer approach is the victim/sufferer's approach to famine. Despite the fatalistic attitude embedded in both secular and religious societies that is prevalent in the daily lives of the rural populace, there is a strong cyclical and erratic concepts engrained in the indigenous culture. The first chapter dealt with the indigenous coping mechanisms of famine, the quick fixes approaches of the western concepts of crisis management rendered during the famines of 1970's and 80's, in Africa were criticized and the danger of that approach in further eroding the capacity of societies in coping with famine was discussed. Also, indigenous survival strategies will be discussed at length. The final chapter of this document will focus on the economic constraints envisaging the African continent and the factors augumenting to these underdeveloping trends. Obviously, emphasis will be made on redirecting development discourse and the deconstruction of famine. This will highlight the erroneous western and donor agencies' approach to the international development discourse and the imperative acknowledgement of the indigenous knowledge and the peasant centered development. In the case of recent famine in Somalia, war preceded famine, and in many cases according to tradition in all ages famine was mostly caused by wars in the past histories. Surrender or starve is the slogan for most of the recent famines to siege or blockade the enemy as a tactic developed by the warring factions in either governments at war or in civil wars like Somalia. The siege of Paris in 1871 and the siege of Leningrad in 1942 are all examples of the role of war to starve the enemy. The phenomenon of “scorched earth” as in the case of Somalia is another important factor to lay waste to many communities and starve them to death. Similarly in the case of civil wars, its mere presence exacerbated the nature of starvation and turned it to famine. War interrupts the activities of peasants to sow and harvest and worst of all, communities loose manpower to civil wars imposed on them either voluntarily or involuntarily. War disrupts the communication and transportation systems and even relief operations at times.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Magan, Yasin I, "Famine and ideology: The precipitating factors and educational implications in the case of Somalia" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3136756.