Saturday, July 14, 2007

Development as Opulence

The historical specificity of development is important to keep in mind. The social context of development is still important because it belies much that is taken for granted when discussing issues of development. Development is a misnomer because it depends on the assumption that countries move forward on a trajectory that would eventually lead to a society that is similar to those currently deemed developed. This idea is untenable because the “developed” world is unsustainable and it would require massive change in order for even a portion of the world to reach that level of decadence.

Instead the development paradigm that is put forward by many dominant institutions is not sufficient to allow for actual change. This is particularly reflected in groups such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that place both responsibility and blame on the countries themselves for not "developing." This blame is not appropriate because these countries exist within a world trade system that is horribly unfair and does not serve their interests.

The contradiction of "development" can be seen clearly in China. As China begins to turn into a consumer society the ecological footprint of many of its citizens is increasing exponentially. This situation will continue to exacerbate the already dangerous trajectory we are on for consumption of resources. By exporting neo-liberal consumerism as the mode and end of development we are selling short a chance at a more just and equitable world.

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