Degrowth: Closing the Global Wealth Divide

Source: Roar Magazine

Contradicting the dominant paradigm that economic growth equals development, degrowth theorists argue that serious cutbacks are crucial to protect life on our planet.

Today, some 4.3 billion people — more than 60 percent of the world’s population — live in debilitating poverty, struggling to survive on less than the equivalent of $5 per day (which is the mean average of all the national poverty lines in the Global South). Half do not have access to enough food. And these numbers have been growing steadily over the past few decades.

With these data, Jason Hickel, an anthropology professor and global development expert, starts his controversial book, The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and Its Solutions, in which he meticulously and convincingly debunks the narrative told by the UN and the likes of Bill Gates and Steven Pinker. In fact, while the good-news story leads us to believe that poverty has been decreasing around the world, in reality the only places this holds true are in China and East Asia. And these are some of the only places in the world where free-market capitalism was not forcibly imposed by the World Bank and the IMF, allowing these governments to pursue state-led development policies and gradually liberalize their economies on their own terms.

Development agencies, NGOs and the world’s most powerful governments explain that the plight of poor countries is a technical problem — one that can be solved by adopting the right institutions and the right economic policies, by working hard and accepting a bit of help. It is a familiar story, and a comforting one. It is one that we have all, at one time or another, believed and supported. It maintains an industry worth billions of dollars and an army of NGOs, charities and foundations seeking to end poverty through aid and charity. But it’s against this narrative that Hickel takes aim.

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