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Ethical criteria which hold the sustainability of life at their core

from Fernando García-Quero and Fernando López Castellano

Overconfidence in the magical thinking of technification, economic growth, the free market, and neoliberal globalization has led many to forget that the state is the main policy architect and actor when facing a crisis. Successful responses to Covid-19 have shown, once again, the central role of states in organizing political measures that foster and maintain the welfare of their populations, through actions to guarantee quarantine, social distancing, mobility restrictions, as well as extraordinary support to manage losses related to the economic downturn.

The role adopted by the states and politics in countries’ performances when tackling COVID-19 is very different from the perspectives that dominate the current agenda of development. SDGs and RCTs, while containing some valid points, abound in efficiency criteria and reduce the fight against poverty and climate change to mere products of the rational or irrational choice of individuals. These discourses divert attention from thoroughly addressing these challenges, and obscure the fact that the key to avoiding poverty is transforming productive structures and achieving an endogenous technological capacity to improve real wages. Nor do they allude to the impossibility of combining current rates of economic growth with care for the environment and biodiversity (Otero et al., 2020).

The current challenge for the agenda and the theory of Development is to accept and incorporate these lessons, and to try to make two ‘journeys to the seed’ compatible to reduce the injustices in the rules governing the world.

To recapitulate, the journeys are the following: 1). Towards a developmental vision focused on promoting industry and structural change; 2). Towards the epistemological and ontological foundations of Development Studies, the redefinition of its aim and its indicators, an expansion of its borders and a drive for methodological openness. Both journeys are only compatible from a systemic view that focuses on making visible the inherent exploitations of the capitalist world-economy in terms of gender, ethnicity or nature.

Solving pressing problems of contemporary society during and after COVID-19 is ultimately a matter of political and ethical discussion that implies prioritising some interests and freedoms versus others the fight against COVID-19, for example, public health has been given priority over the freedom to travel abroad. Why, in today’s world, does the right to accumulate wealth, property, or to pollute the environment take precedence over the right to life of millions of people? The answer has much to do with one’s power to achieve what one desires, whether referring to the European Union, USA, Donald Trump or Bill Gates. However, this is not mentioned in the official development agenda either. Just as governments have implemented stage-based plans (or similar measures) to de-escalate from the COVID-19 lockdown whilst prioritizing citizen freedom, the new development agendas have to reveal an ambitious exit strategy to gradually transition from global emergencies towards local interventions developed and spread with attention to community and the environment. Such strategies must commit, unwaveringly, to ethical criteria which hold the sustainability of life at their core.

Notes for a renewed agenda in development studies

  1. Econoclast
    May 23, 2022 at 5:09 am

    Better writing, please?
    I have no idea what the authors are talking about.

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