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Category Archives: Unit 4 – Post-development

Post-something

This text intends to highlight the gaps and inconsistencies of ‘posts’: post-development and post-globalisation.

I decided to start my text with the video “the Zeitgeist movement”. I decided to start my text with the video “the Zeitgeist movement” (TZM). TZM is a cultural wave that aims at changing the economic model our society lives in and from, arguing that the existing one is “obsolete”.
It advocates an economic model grounded on existing natural resources: a resource based economy.

For that, it intends to map all the resources that exist on earth and progressively adjust the population to the amount of goods earth can supply instead of trying to stretch out its possibility to provide for everyone’s living. (video. Jacque Fresco, 7’05’’ to 7’36’’)

To organise a structure based on the management of all the earth’s resources (video. Peter Joseph, 7’45’’ to 7’50’’), the cultural and social movement abolishes boundaries, eliminates the State of the political scene and shifts from economic growth as a target to resources and well being (Sachs 2010). I would thus argue that this theory could be labelled as post-globalisation.

I believe TZM’s founder, Peter Joseph, would agree with Sachs (2010b) when he says that the Euro-Atlantic model is outdated, it doesn’t respond to people’s needs and “that there will be no equity without ecology in the twenty-first century”.

Sachs (2010c) defends that we have to separate the concept of “equity” from “economic growth” one and relate the former to “community and culture based notions of well being”.
I wonder, even if we step out of the box of any Euro-Atlantic, economic growth or ‘I-know-better-than-you’ model, what is there of well being in a place in a mall place where there is nothing but dry breached dirt in sight, where there is no nearby market to go to, no seeds to plant nor any water to irrigate them.

Broadly, the connotation of “well being” is optimistic and constructive and induces us to believe there is something better to long for. Regardless the positive undertone, I argue that, for the sake of clarity, the concept of “well being” has yet to be defined by post-development theorists, in order to know what living standards they are referring to.

If they are to define such a concept, a small elite would be deciding on a pattern for everyone else to bare as a goal to attain. This would be colonization of minds too (Sachs 2010d, p. xii), only on a different issue.

Would this be the moment or the place where TZM would bring up the idea of the population adjustment to mapped resources?
In abstract terms this concept seems absurd from my point of view. How many children can we raise for the proportion of petrol barrels we have left or should we impose China’s one-child policy to achieve the optimal amount of citizens?

Not only such a theory collides with basic human rights – or absolute justice (Sachs 2010e, p. ix) – it is also based on wobbling information that we cannot precise, like the exact amount of oil reserves throughout the world – to stick to the same example. This would moreover lead this discussion to other grounds such as geopolitics of the energy.

Both theories fail to explain how they want to shift from an economic growth based economy to an environment based one, aside the basic notions that we should use local goods. An idea that I totally agree with, but don’t think it is enough to have a sustainable environment and economy.

Grand theories

I argue that grand theories are a good start, as they frame a given subject or problem. Extreme poverty “means that households cannot meet basic needs for survival.” – Sachs (2005, p.20) – and as a concept, it can definitely apply to East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America or wherever in the world. How one can actually tackle extreme poverty is the point where we have to narrow down the object of analysis and turn to regional organisations as they have a complete knowledge of the area (Graig, Hulme and Turner, 2007).
The reason why some Latin American region can’t take off from poverty is probably not the same as in sub-Saharan Africa and we need to find out why. For that we should learn from the past and find out what works in a given region (Grindle 2004, p. 544).

I totally disagree with Sachs (2010f, p. X) when he argues that perspectives of development as “economic growth” and development as “more rights and resources” can’t be put together as they are a “recipe for confusion”. On the contrary, I consider both perspectives can complement each other and, most importantly, should build on each other, as together they pursue the ultimate objective of development which I understand to be as a continuous evolution and progression of living standards.

I do agree though that environment is part of the equation which results in development. The other variables are, in my opinion, people and economic growth. The pathway to the latest is already being revised and will result in a creative green economy (UNEP 2010).

Alternative visions do lead us to reflection, though, and hopefully to some constructive readjustment of strategy as well. They push development boundaries aside.
Post-development or TZM do manage to capture some attention to specific issues, both from the public and development theorists: the importance of ecology for the former or resources for the latest. I consider their positions exaggerated but if, because they insisted on the relevance of natural resources, more people noticed that they cannot go on wasting water – then, to my point of view, they were worth the attention they got. 

Alternative movements clear dogmas away and impede stagnation by setting new subjects and angles in train: like the gender debate.

References:

Graig, A., Hulme, D. and Turner, M. (2007) Challenging global inequality: development theory and practice in the 21st century, London: Palgrave Macmillan

Grindle, M. (2004), Good enough governance: Poverty reduction and reform in developing countries. Governance, vol.17, p. 544

Sachs, J.D., (2005), The end of poverty: Economic possibilities for our time, New York: The Penguin Press

Sachs, W., (2010) The development dictionary, London & New York: Zed Books

The Zeitgeist Movement. Video. Cinematographer / Editor: Mark Waters, Florida and New York

United Nations Environment Programme (2011) Towards a Green economy: Pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication [online], http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/GreenEconomyReport/tabid/29846/Default.aspx [accessed November 5th 2011]

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Posted by on 03/11/2011 in Unit 4 - Post-development