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Toward Democratic Eco-socialism
as the Next World System

13. Achieving a Steady-State or Net Zero Growth Economy

Book cover: Environmentalism: A Global History by Ramachandra Guha

A growing number of neo-Marxian scholars, as well as non-Marxian scholars, have been questioning the economic growth paradigm. For too long many socialists have, like mainstream economists and business people, bought into the growth paradigm. As a result, many socialists remained out of touch with serious ecological considerations. A serious redistribution of the world's resources would ensure an adequate living standard for everyone on the face of the planet. But this would require a serious discussion about how much is enough and, with the elimination of poverty, the recognition that global population would begin to dwindle, thus placing less strain on the eco-system.

Obviously, there are large sectors of developed societies and smaller sectors of developing societies that need to undergo de-growth, except for the abjectly poor of developing societies and developed countries. Those, such as homeless people or indigenous peoples living on reservations in North America and Australia, need to undergo some sort of development in terms of access to nutritious food, decent housing and sanitation, health care, and education. Ultimately issues of growth, de-growth, development, and underdevelopment are intricately interwoven with the redistribution of resources.

Book cover: Global Capitalism and Climate Change: The Need for an Alternative World System by Hans A. Baer

Following in part the thinking of Herman Daly and John B. Cobb, Jr. [1989] in For the Common Good, I make a distinction between growth and development. Growth entails utilizing more and more resources as part and parcel of the capitalist treadmill of production and consumption. Development entails providing all people with adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, and recreation. Under such a scenario, in order to improve the socioeconomic status of the poor, more often affluent people, including what is referred to in developed societies as the 'middle class', would have to reduce their current material standard of living.

Beyond a certain point, more food, clothing, and shelter are superfluous and certainly environmentally unsustainable. How much health care is necessary would depend upon each individual's physical and mental state, both of which are not only interwoven but highly variable. Health can be defined as access to and control over the basic material and nonmaterial resources that sustain and promote life at a high level of individual and group satisfaction. In a socialist society or a society seeking to construct socialism, there would be greater emphasis placed upon preventive health care than curative health care.

Copyright © 2016

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