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Page history last edited by Professor Wayne Hayes 14 years, 2 months ago


Brundtland Commission Report


The basic idea of development was placed on the world stage soon after World War II by U.S. President Harry Truman. In his inauguration speech on January 20, 1949, the newly elected President, the successor to the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt who died in office in 1945, attempted to lay the architecture for a comprehensive new international order that confronted Communism, rebuilt Europe, founded North Atlantic mutual defense (NATO would be established on April 4, 1949), and developed the underdeveloped countries. Truman provided a rationale for development based on industrialism and materialism:


"All countries, including our own, will greatly benefit from a constructive program for the better use of the world's human and natural resources. Experience shows that our commerce with other countries expands as they progress industrially and economically."


Truman articulated a doctrine that implied that progress for the multitude of the world's peoples and cultures was to be found through emulating the material progress of the USA and its partners in what was then called the Free World. Wolfgang Sachs excavates the archeology of Truman's doctrine of development:


"Truman's imperative to develop meant that societies of the Third World were no longer seen as diverse and incomparable possibilities of human living arrangements but were rather placed on a single 'progressive track,' judged more or less advanced according to the criteria of the Western industrial nations. Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace. And the key to greater production is a wider and more vigorous application of modern scientific and technical knowledge" (Sachs, 4).


Truman clearly articulated a world order in which the USA had emerged as the political, military, and economic hegemon, the Great Power. No longer would crude nineteenth and mid-twentieth century Imperialism, such as English colonial domination of India, do. Rather, the ties of geopolitics would be forged by economic interdependence and military entanglements.


Note another but more benign way to frame the underlying issue from the Inaugural speech by President Barack Obama, articualated sixty years later:


"To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it."


Presdent Obama's language is more concrete, without what Wolfgang Sachs calls amoeboid words, or empty and elusive, language.


Another idea of development belongs to the Aristotelian tradition: development means that latent potential is realized. That is, as later explained by the founder of ecological economics, Herman Daly, development implies progress but economic growth refers to the material expansion of an economy:


"Much confusion is generated by using the term 'sustainable growth' as a synonym for sustainable development. Respect for the dictionary would lead us to reserve the word 'growth' for quantitative increase in physical size by assimilation or accretion of materials. 'Development" refers to qualitative change, realization of potentialities, transition to a fuller or better state. . . . sustainable development is development without growth in the scale of the economy beyond some point that is within biospheric carrying capacity" (Daly, 86).


The distinction between the meanings of growth and development and the confusion between development and industrial progress are fundamental and will be made clear as our story unfolds.


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