The development paradigm that has dominated thinking and policy on the political and economic trajectory of ‘Third World’ countries since the end of the Second World War is drawing to a close.
Even key players such as the World Bank and IMF now recognise the weaknesses in the ‘one-size-fits all’ structural adjustment programmes that have been enforced throughout the global South (and more recently also in Greece). For large swathes of the human population, the last quarter century has seen economic stagnation, with a growing gulf in wealth between the rich and the poor.
However, the critique of this kind of ‘development’ goes far beyond its failure in purely economic terms. A deeper critique points to the conceptual and cultural impoverishment entailed in defining wealth in purely monetary terms, and the resulting steamrollering of regionally distinctive cultural, economic and political forms of organisation. All of these, together with much of the planet’s ecological wealth, have been sacrificed at the altar of an economic growth model that has served primarily the 1%.
We are, however, living through a period of profound innovation and transition. In the words of environmentalist and author Paul Hawkins, the explosion of ecologically informed, community-centred activism that we are witnessing worldwide represents the ‘earth’s immune system kicking in’!
From Gross National Happiness in Bhutan, to buen vivir in the Andean region of South America, from Ubuntu in southern Africa toSwaraj in India, and beyond, we are seeing multiple experiments in redefining and reorienting the process by which peoples define and realise wealth. These movements are not limited to the global South. Also – perhaps especially! – in the global North, there is a growing recognition (manifested in such movements as degrowth, commons, Transition Towns, steady-state economics and permaculture) of the need to transition to a post-materialist, post-developmental paradigm.
All of these various approaches, North and South, are rooted in a validation of cultural and ecological integrity, making of these the very foundations on which planning and policy, values and norms are built. In place of the economic and cultural monoculture that has prevailed this last half-century, what we are seeing emerging is, in the words of the Zapatistas, ‘A world in which many worlds can fit’.
And yet, the transition is still in its infancy and remains fragile. How do economies whose role in the global economy is predicated upon the export of raw materials make the transition beyond ‘extractivism’? How can the legitimate desire for indigenous people to have their ancestral lands protected from exploitation be reconciled with the requirement by governments to raise funds for schools, hospitals and rural electrification? How to catalyse the revolution in consciousness and values required to enable us to transition away from consumerism? And what are the complementarities and perhaps also potential conflicts between the various movements, North and South. How can we optimise the synergies between these different players and accelerate the transition to a richer and more diverse global ecological civilisation?
In this three-week programme we will explore both conceptually and experientially, with support from a large and diverse team of teachers and mentors:
- Evolution of different theories of development
- Critiques of development theory and practice
- The emergence of post-development and more pluriversal models and concepts
- The contribution of indigenous wisdom traditions to the mix; sumak kawsai/buen vivir
- The challenges of operationalising buen vivir; the political economy of transitioning beyond extractivism
- Cross-overs/complementarities between buen vivir and other movements/concepts future pathways to alternatives to development
We will be drawing not just from economic theory and practice but also from the fields of anthropology and ecology. These disciplines are a great place to start in the search for a language fit for the purposes of the 21st century. Both reveal a mosaic of diverse, elegant and creative adaptations to the specificity of place; a global heterodoxy of beautiful solutions to the challenge of living well on a diverse and finite planet.
The concepts that lie at the heart of these disciplines – such as resilience, adaptability, symbiosis, the power of networks and so on – open up whole new ways of understanding and generating reciprocal wealth and wellbeing within the biophysical boundaries of the planet.
The course will seek to educate the whole person, and will draw on multiple ways of learning including small group design work and techniques drawn from Agosto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, as well as more conventional, conceptual approaches to the subject.
This course is an elective on our postgraduate programme. It is open to external participants who would like to deeply explore this subject material and can join us for the whole three-week programme.