The limits of sustainable development regarding the rationality of global capitalism

The limits of sustainable development regarding the rationality of global capitalism

By Walter Chamochumbi *

In the current situation, analyzing the logic and architecture of the global economic model, it will not solve the environmental crisis per se, nor will it facilitate the internalization-instrumentalization of the variable in development policies, models, plans and processes from a post-extractivist perspective. In fact, the possibility of envisioning an alternative model of relative growth, redistributive, socially equitable and compatible with the environment, will be very difficult if not unlikely as long as the utilitarian logic that the neoliberal economic model has of nature is not de-structured, in addition to its nature. Solipcist bias in the sense that any alternative to it is utopian. Global capitalism and free markets: some paradoxes about development and the environment

In recent centuries, global capitalism has evolved as an economic system, as a mode of production, distribution and consumption, as a social relationship and a mechanism for organizing relations between societies and social classes, configuring different scenarios based on their cycles. growth, decrease and crisis, and to that extent of the priority that the governments of the countries and multilateral organizations have been designing and applying in terms of policies related to the market, state and society. However, the so-called free market does not behave as such and neither does it behave in the same way for the countries of the north and the south. In effect, the treatment is differentiated, especially in the context of crisis, which is why today the inability of the market to regulate itself is questionable, except in exceptional conditions, with government intervention being mostly necessary to correct its failures and distortions.

The globalization associated with capitalism is by nature polarizing, maintains the economist Samir Amin, because it produces a growing inequality among those who participate in the system: “The logic of capitalist globalization is that of the deployment of the economic dimension on a world scale and the submission of the political and ideological instances to their demands. "

This is explained based on the law of value, typical of capitalism, which implies the integration of markets on a world scale but only in two of its key dimensions: product and capital markets, while labor markets remain segmented. . Hence the worsening of inequalities in the context of the current world economy.

The process of gestation and development of capitalist social formations is very complex and disparate, but above all paradoxical, because the integration of the different national economies in a supposed single global capitalist market presents multiple variants and imperfections in its structuring and functioning logic. systemic that is closely related to the global and (dis) regulatory institutional framework created for this purpose, and based on the political role of hegemony and subordination of the states to the north and south. And that is also related to multiple events that have occurred throughout the history of humanity and that influenced the complexity of the global scene: the cyclical crises of capitalism, the world wars, the end of the cold war and bipolarity, the wars of the Middle East, the energy crisis due to oil depletion, industrialization, increased GHG emissions and environmental pollution, the food crisis and malnutrition, etc. These are events where economic and geopolitical interests have prevailed over social, environmental, cultural variables and those related to sovereignty, democracy, freedom and human rights. This partly explains the levels of development and underdevelopment of the countries, their environmental implications, as well as the configuration of the relations of hegemony and current dependence.

In recent decades, the world debate between political parties and governments of the left and right has been taking place between ideologies, programs and fields of action, sometimes not so well defined, but rather diffuse and in many cases pragmatic. This is the case of China, which, being a communist regime, seems to base the operation of its internal economic operations and those of its world trade on the principles of the market. So there is some controversy from the left and the world political right about whether China should continue to be seen as a leading anti-imperialist power or as an imperialist power, or whether due to its remarkable economic growth it is still part of the south or has already become part from the north (2) The truth is that both China and the United States, which assume two opposing economic models, today are the main responsible for the emission of GHG and the serious problem of global warming and the climate crisis.

The cycles of expansion and contraction of the global economy have been occurring at the cost of the finite biosphere, so that among the generating causes in the acceleration of environmental imbalances, there has been more evidence of the relationship: warming-climate change and increase in GHG emissions caused by the global economic-commercial development model and the hegemony-dependence relationships of the societies of industrialized and developing countries.

In view of the economic crisis and its causal relationship with the deepening of the environmental crisis, the greatest emergence of social forces questioning the hegemonic economic model has been evidenced in recent decades, although they are not homogeneous groups; in many cases they are localist or spontaneous movements that go through cycles of social ascent and descent without necessarily representing a single alternative progressive ideological collective. In fact, they are movements and organizations of various kinds: indigenous, environmentalists, trade unionists, nationalists and other expressions of participatory democracy that may coincide in their general questioning of the neoliberal model, but not necessarily in their alternative approaches to it. Their proposals involve a mosaic of ideological and political positions, in addition to various struggles among those who consider they should lead the process. Hence, the most critical activists propose to overcome localities, articulate and take the leap in the internationalization of peoples' struggles, building a democratic-popular convergence in diversity on a world scale. Protestant social movements and organizations, which do not always converge in a common socialist alter-globalization current, emerge not only in political contexts of governments of the right, but also in those of the left, such as China, Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador, to cite some examples, whose governments, by the way, may have different behaviors in the face of the market logic and the neoliberal model, although not necessarily so in environmental matters where, rather, an extractivist pattern of natural resources predominates.

Latin America and the Caribbean continue to be one of the most unequal regions in the world, where the uneven distribution of economic income in the countries affects the link between the level of per capita income and environmental quality, thus being the main negative factor on the Environmental care. In this regard, establishing regional and national policies in economic, social and environmental matters will imply for the different countries to transcend the neoliberal bureaucratic and technocratic inertia, and their limited analysis on the evolution of the global economy and the primary exporting model of natural resources (dependent on the market), having to go beyond short-term populist measures and political calculations, because neither the uncertainty due to the crisis nor the environmental conflict nor social dissatisfaction will disappear by themselves. It must end with the expectations of easy profit in the exploitation of natural resources in those business, public and political sectors that follow a compulsive behavior after perverse objectives of the global economy (which for its extreme economic rationality is known as "wild capitalism ")(3)

Ongoing development alternatives: a prospective approach The construction of an alternative development model to the one that prevails as an expression of the unique thought of global capitalism, will involve transformative actions from society itself. Hence the relevance of questioning the system as such, from a conceptual, principled and activist position, but, above all, emphasizing the human dimension and the legitimate right of peoples to aspire to a better world.

An alternative development model supposes, following the postulates of Samir Amin, defining new lines of action for what he calls “disconnection or disengagement from the system”. Concept that does not necessarily mean autarky, but basically the subordination of external relations to internal needs. In other words, change the logic of extraversion to that of self-centeredness. The proposal does not disassociate or deny the globalization process -as such- nor does it settle on extreme nationalism, but, on the contrary, it proposes progress, a substantive leap in the perspective of forging an alternative globalization to the current one that, without lose sight of the local, "be supportive, redistribute wealth, and especially, restore the value of nature and humanity."

An alternative development proposal also involves "a two-legged structural change" that must be mutually supportive for the process to move forward. The first leg refers to an “external structural change”, that is, to the challenge of a new international order whose aim is to break the Center-Periphery dichotomy: the Center “expensive mini-producer and wasteful super-consumer” and the Periphery “cheap super-producer and mini-consumer” marginal". And the second leg refers to an “internal structural change”, that is, a development project with a “popular democratic” content that prioritizes the sovereignty and culture of the peoples, as well as their internal development needs and aspirations to which they must subordinate external relations.

It is therefore a question not only of questioning the economicistic approaches to development promoted from the western perspective of the northern countries, but also that we must orient ourselves in the construction of new models that enhance the perspective of the south, integrating in the same multidimensional plane the economic, social and environmental variables with the new elements of the cultural, ethnic, ethical and human dimension. In this sense, Amartya Sen's contributions are important when he states that "the notion of freedom constitutes a fundamental and instrumental element of development processes." We must also consider the fundamental role that human rights play in the processes of development and care of the environment. Hence, incorporating a human rights approach to the serious problem of climate change is crucial, because polluting carbon emissions from the industrialized countries of the north have increased and violate the rights of millions of people, especially in the poorest countries.

Reversing the structural conditions of poverty and global social inequality requires much more than solidarity aid or cooperation for development. It is about assuming true will and political commitment to change things. That is why global initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals, the redefinition of development priorities for the post-2105 agenda with inclusion, vulnerability and sustainability are important but insufficient points if there is no political and social commitment of the countries to reverse huge development disparities and the environmental crisis. In other words, those conditions to which, paradoxically, the progress of global capitalism, at the cost of its rationality, expansion and accumulation process, has led us.


(*) Consultant in Environmental Management and Development. 1 “Global capitalism and sustainable development: analogy of a new oxymoron”, article by Walter Chamochumbi (2009).

2 “The global crisis in times of uncertainty: an unfinished debate”, article by Walter Chamochumbi (2009).

3 “Natural resources and global economic rationality: the Peruvian syndrome”, article by Walter Chamochumbi (2008).

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