Structural crisis in the world-system: where do we go from here?

The world-system has been in a structural crisis since the 1970s. The primary characteristic of a structural crisis is chaos. This is not a situation of totally random happenings. It is a situation of rapid and constant fluctuations in all the parameters of the historical system. This includes not only the world-economy, the interstate system, and cultural-ideological currents, but also the availability of life resources, climatic conditions, and pandemics. The one encouraging feature about a systemic crisis is the degree to which it increases the viability of agency, of what we call “free will.” When the system is far from equilibrium, every little input has great effect.

In field and for food, the return of structural adjustment

Africa is being measured for its land profitability potential. So are other regions in the political South. This process is part of the new structural agri-food adjustment programmes that are already in place in the developing South. It includes agri-investor friendly new industrial policies, the disinvestment by and withdrawal of government equity in profitable public sector enterprises, financial sector ‘reform’ that ushers in private banking and asset management.

The “steady state” economy does not imply zero economic growth

Rob Dietz’s article, “Economics for the Story of Stuff” (May 10, 2010) contains unwarranted attacks on the economics profession. This is caused by a fundamental misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the desirability of economic growth. Economic growth does not imply “more stuff” but rather “more valuable output.” … We will NEVER run out of non-renewable resources simply because the price will rise to make extraction cost-prohibitive. At that point, we will have to switch to renewables simply because of the cost.

Living better in ‘the finite world’

Economist Paul Krugman almost addressed the Limits to Growth in his recent article “The Finite World”, but pulled back before reaching the brink of suggesting there may be physical limits to economic growth. A Nobel Prize may await whomever finds a workable model to prosper human welfare under conditions of depleting resources. Will economists solve this problem, or ordinary people who are learning to live better in The Finite World?

Deep in Ecuador’s rainforest, a plan to forego an oil bonanza

Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and is home to remote Indian tribes. It also sits atop a billion barrels of oil. Now, Ecuador and the United Nations are forging an ambitious plan to walk away from drilling in the park in exchange for payments from the international community.

A Pearl River tale, power and pride in China

For a few days last week, global news agencies pursued the peculiar story of the world’s worst traffic jam, which was reported to have lasted for around nine days and stretched across about 100 kilometres of a major highway leading to Beijing. China’s latest instance of leading the world, now in the scale and size of traffic jams, is a direct consequence of the modern uses and abuses of energy.

The dilemma of poverty in the South: equity or transformation

The Transition Movement in the ‘West’ (and therefore North) has for the most part been unable to conceptualise a response to the human development and social justice needs of the South. Much of this lack has to do with the very formidable inertness which western societies inherited from the transformations wrought by the Industrial Revolution, and the apparently incontrovertible ideas of ‘progress’ and ‘growth.’