Monday, February 23, 2009

Customs in Common

Michael Goldman is upset with the exploitative development and modernization Northern commons experts execute on “the social and ecological life worlds of the commoners” of the global South. He is (generally) unconvinced of any altruistic motives and moves the ‘tragedy of the commons’ onto the (falsely) helpful groups, which he names the Human Ecologists, the Development Experts, and the Global Resource Managers. In other words, these dominating global North groups are pushing capitalism on global South people, even people who fight against such development.

The Human Ecologists focus on local problems and condemn big government and elites. The provided explanation reminded me of The Simpsons, when Lisa and Marge cleaned a large patch of beach from an oil spill, then the tide came in and everything was ruined again. Human ecologists clean the beach, while a bigger mess is taking place in “the fundamental pillars of society.” They should focus more on the dialogue and power relations between local and nonlocal.

The Development Experts of the World Bank have taken it upon themselves to ‘fix’ Third World problems in the names of productivity and efficiency. They want to keep things local, but educate the locals on how to use their land\resources to maximum capacity. Bank projects have failed supposedly because of a lack of complete factual local data; problems faced by both Bank staff and local governments. However, the acquisition of that knowledge “begs for an explicit, and reflexive, declaration as to what this knowledge is, what it is for, and whom it will serve.” Using the tangled web example between the World Bank and rural Africa, the knowledge is for exploitation and serves capitalism of the global North. The example is on page 12.

The Global Resource Managers sound like they have everyone’s interests in mind: ozone, seas, climate, toxic-contaminated communities, deforestation, wildlife, etc.. Their purpose is to come up with solutions that will make the planet a nice place to live for now and in the future. New technologies are their answer. However, they are still capitalistically based. This means 1) still more pollutants (even if cars are mostly green), 2) more stuff and pollution due to demands in the North-South industry complex, and 3) more raw materials used in greening projects (while blame goes to the locals). GRM’s have implanted their skewed views (like not differentiating between luxury and survival emissions, and unjustly blaming Third World people for surviving at the expense of resources and such) and authorial stances, and do not work at local levels.

The commoners-and-commons-in-crisis have been “organizing antidevelopment and anti-state movements” where locals want to “reclaim power over land and resources.” They (at least the ones fighting) don’t want to submit to elite modernization\development ideas, or to deal with “capitalist overproduction” (being wasteful) or “underproduction” (not replenishing what was wasted). As we’ve talked about “viewing ecological limits as social limits,” the problems become more apparent. Capitalist normativity does not hold the commons or the commoners (as this article calls large groups of exploited people) interests above productivity (and then more productivity).

Successor Sciences that would be more helpful to more people (i.e. not capitalism) would put the commons in real situations where struggles of power and imperialism are constant, rather than think of them (commons) as artifacts (for production). How these successor sciences could gain the trust of people who have been exploited by capitalism, I’m not sure. I’m not even sure if I trust them (especially because I don’t know what they are). They probably would have someone’s self interest embeded within. Thanks a lot capitalism, you jerk.

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