Post-development looks like this. And it’s a huge creative deviance

Why Bolivia stood alone in opposing the Cancún climate agreement.

Bolivia is poor, sure. A long time ago, an economist told me that its GDP was smaller than the annual profit of Coca-Cola Inc., which just sounds fairly credible. In fact, many multinationals have revenues that are far larger than national GDPs. Many will say Bolivia needs more material means for its poorest urban population. Yet this problem was made much worse with land dispossession justified in terms of economic growth and development. One thing I learnt visiting rural areas is that scarcity is, indeed, a construction involving policies of property ownership (only commodities are scarce) and cultural values. In these settings, specific moral economies within and among households produce exchange that complements the product obtained from direct labour. Poverty is much harsher in urban areas, where there are no means of producing life without monetary exchange, a moral economy on its own.

With its plurinationalism, which translates into a multinaturalism (encompassing different views on the nature/culture divide into public policies) Bolivia is teaching the world how post-development might look like. It will not be considered a huge success by economic or social standards set by international organizations. And indeed these translate some notions of well-being that are probably shared by the majority of Bolivians. The expectations of increasing consumption of goods, shared by many Bolivians, will certainly clash with these views. But there are alternative ways of producing  well-being and in settings where the poor have little, setting different goals right might well be a first step. Good intentions and ideas will not do to take Bolivia out of poverty. They must translate into empowerment and repossession of the poorest. Fostering their knowledge (conception of nature/culture) and their networks of experimentation, innovation and exchange in the field might do us much good. And in any case, the blind quest for material means, flowing more often than not to the top tier of society, might kills us all before our grandchildren can spell well-being.


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