There is a large body of works which are critical of post-development theory and its proponents. It has been noted that post-development theory sees all development as imposed upon the developing world by the West. This dualist perspective of development may be unrealistic, and Marc Edelman notes that a large proportion of development has risen from, rather than been imposed upon, the developing world.
Citing Jonathan Crush’s point that “Development, for all its power to speak and to control the terms of speaking, has never been impervious to challenge and resistance, nor, in response, to reformulation and change”Ray Kiely argues that “The post-development idea is thus part of a long history within the development discourse.” In short, Kiely argues that post-development theory is merely the latest version of a set of criticisms that have long been evident within writing and thought in the field of development. Development has always been about choices, Kiely explains. Choices with resulting losers and winners, dilemmas and destruction, as well as creative possibility.
There are a number of more fundamental objections to the postdevelopment school. The first is that it overstates its case. A rejection of all development is a rejection of the possibility for material advancement and transformation. It ignores the tangible transformations in life opportunities and health and material well-being that has been evident in parts of the developing world.
Moreover, development itself is so varied and carries so many meanings that critiques need to be specific about their intention when they claim to be “post- development”. By damning development all together, post-development theorists fail to notice the heterogeneity within development discourse. They categorize all development under the umbrella of Western hegemony, contradictively applying the same sort of essentialist generalization post-development theorists reject.
Critics also argue that post-development perpetuates cultural relativism: the idea that cultural beliefs and practices can be judged only by those who practice them. By accepting all cultural behaviors and beliefs as valid and rejecting a universal standard for living and understanding life, critics of post-development argue, post-development represents the opposite extreme of universalism, extreme relativism. Such a relativist extreme, rather than besting extreme universalism, has equally dangerous implications. John Rapley points out that “rejection of essentialism rests itself on an essentialist claim – namely, that all truth is constructed and arbitrary[…]”
Kiely also argues that by rejecting a top-down, centralized approach to development and promoting development through local means, post-development thought perpetuates neo-liberal ideals. Kiely remarks that “The argument – upheld by dependency and post-development theory – that the First World needs the Third World, and vice versa, rehearses neo-liberal assumptions that the world is an equal playing field in which all nation states have the capacity to compete equally[…]” In other words, making locals responsible for their own predicament, post-development unintentionally agrees with neo-liberalist ideology that favors decentralized projects and ignores the possibility of assisting impoverished demographics, instead making the fallacious assumption that such demographics must succeed on their own initiative alone. Kiely notes that not all grassroots movements are progressive. Post-development is seen to empower anti-modern fundamentalists and traditionalists, who may hold non-progressive and oppressive values