The internationalisation of the market economy has led to an expansion of the South in a double sense. First, in the sense of further widening the gulf between the North and the South. Second, in the sense of creating new --and expanding old-- "Southern" areas within the North. Today, it is not only the model of the growth economy in the North which is disputed, but also its bad copy in the South, i.e. the dominant "development" model. The present issue will discuss some of the problems involved in trying to relate development to democracy and quality of life.
Andre Gunder Frank attacks the new ideology of "democracy" that has taken the place of the old ideology of "development", which was proven irrelevant to the process of social and economic change going on in the Third World. In a very comprehensive way, he shows that representative democracy has little, if any, meaning in today's internationalised economy, which is controlled by forces outside the electoral process, not just in the South, but even in the core countries of the North. However, the "participatory civil democracy" that he proposes, as "the peoples' answer and their alternative instrument of struggle", raises further questions. The first question that arises is whether any effective citizens' participation in the political and economic process is still possible today within the existing institutional framework of parliamentary democracy and the market economy. if the answer to this question is negative, then the next question that arises is why disillusionment with the statist tradition (i.e. the tradition aiming at the conquest of state power to effect radical social change) should lead the radical Left into adopting a stand that takes the existing institutional framework for granted, rather than struggling to abolish the concentration of political and economic power, through the creation of new democratic, political and economic, structures from below
Ted Trainer, in a devastating critique of conventional development economic theory, challenges its implicit assumptions, as well as the very concept of development it uses and describes an alternative "appropriate development" approach. However, the fact that the author does not place power relations at the centre of the analysis leads to the impression that, despite the fact that he talks about a "Third way" beyond capitalism and socialism, in effect, he sees no fundamental contradiction between appropriate development and the market economy. This impression is confirmed by his proposal to regulate the market with the aim to reverse the present concentration of economic power. But, any serious attempt to regulate the market in order to decentralise economic power seems today both a-historical and utopian. It seems a-historical, because it does not see that the present de-regulation "mania" is, in fact, part and parcel of the current phase of the "marketization" process, i.e. of the internationalised phase of the market economy, and it seems utopian, because it ignores the grow-or-die dynamic of the market economy.
In my article (Takis Fotopoulos), I attempt to show that the conventional approaches to development (neoclassical/ marxist/ dependency/ regulation) share a fundamental characteristic: they all take for granted the desirability of the growth economy. This implies that the famous debates between orthodox and radical theories on development were, in fact, about the means of achieving this objective, rather than the objective itself. Following a re-definition of the North and the South to take into account the global character of today's market economy, the thesis is put forward that the problem today is not a problem of "development" but one of democracy. In other words, it is a problem of how to establish democratic, political and economic, structures that would secure the fulfilment of the collectively defined social, economic and cultural needs.
E.G. Vallianatos, starting from the assumption that both the market economy and state socialism are ecologically illiterate and unsustainable, attempts to develop a "geocentric sustainable development" theory. However, the deep ecology approach to development that he adopts means that, for the author, sustainable development is basically a cultural matter. Specifically, it becomes a matter of changing our ideas and values and adopting the indigenous knowledge and values of Third World peoples. Such an approach seems problematical at both the empirical and the theoretical levels. At the empirical level, because it is at least doubtful whether in today's internationalised economy such knowledge and values are still adhered too by significant numbers of people. At the theoretical level, because it ignores the question whether it is the institutional framework which conditions the values and ideas that are dominant in each instance, or the other way round. In other words, in today's heteronomous societies, where the existing institutions form our values and ideas as from the first day of our life and where citizens do not have any effective way of participating in economic and political decisions that affect their lives, it seems utterly utopian to believe that a radically different type of development, from the one imposed today by the market economy and its grow-or-die dynamic, is still possible within the same institutional framework, provided that we change our ideas and force our leaders to change their policies!
Dan Chodorkoff examines, from the perspective of social ecology, the fundamental elements that a new definition of development should contain and powerfully criticises the implicit assumptions in the dominant development model. His conclusion is that perhaps the most radical departure of a social ecology approach to development is its rejection of the market economy, as standing in direct opposition to the goals of true development.
Finally, Catherine Pal examines the debate between Dave Foreman and Murray Bookchin on human population growth adding to it the ecofeminist dimension, as expressed by Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva. Still, although the ecofeminist position provides important insights on the role of the patriarchal relations with respect to the present population rates in the South, as well as the ecological crisis in general, it leaves unanswered the question of whether a solution to both problems is possible within the present institutional framework of the market economy and its by-product, the "growth economy". In other words, the question still remains whether a "new ecology of reproduction" is compatible within the present institutional framework or whether, instead, any attempt "to give people rights and aceess to reources which can generate sustainable livelihoods" crucially depends on the creation of a new institutional framework of economic democracy which rules out the concentration of economic power, i.e. the fundamental cause of both the ecological crisis and the myth of "overpopulation".