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Max Spoor

Max Spoor is Full Professor of Development Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague and Senior Research Fellow at the Barcelona Institute of International Studies (IBEI). His research is on transition economies such as Vietnam, China, and Central and Eastern Europe, in particular regarding rural and environmental issues, poverty, and inequality, and has also worked on these issues in some countries of Latin America (such as Nicaragua). Recently he started a research project in Cuba on agrarian transition. 

14 July 2017

What stands in the way of sustainable development?

One would like to answer: “political will”, but in fact it is the capitalist system that is causing our development to be unsustainable, as full commoditization leads to (profit-oriented) exploitation of our scarce resources, to the detriment of future generations. Political will is therefore by far not enough.

 

Should there be a distinction between growth and development, in order to achieve sustainability?

Growth and development are obviously not the same. In the way we define growth now there can be (and sometimes is) less development, while growth can be even “anti-poor”. To achieve sustainability we need to look at the quality of growth, to become broad-based, job-rich, and with a production focused on needs, rather than on profit only. This means that also we should strive to de-growth and development.

 

Does sustainable development have any bearing on socioeconomic inequalities?

Socioeconomic inequalities are a key factor in not obtaining sustainable development. Reaching sustainable development (whatever definition one would use) will therefore have a positive bearing on these inequalities, in particular when this means more equitable and sustainable resources access and use.

 

What should every policy maker have at the front of their mind when working on sustainable development? 

Very few policy makers are really working on sustainable development. In fact, most of them are part of a state that facilitates the capitalist system to function, which means that they can (and will) only take marginal measures towards sustainable development.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, they can change the system, then they should first and foremost try and change the unsustainable logic of production, which is based on making a product (which we often do not need), market it, possess it (and maybe use it), and finally discard it. Policy makers should stimulate the kind of production that is responding to current needs (not artificially created demand), produced with renewable energy, and looking at future recycling.

 

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