Choosing a strategy of development is one of the key challenges the nation-states are facing. On the one side, such strategy should account for internal factors of development, such as preserving and strengthening national and cultural identity, fostering social cohesion, and providing all social groups with high quality of life and a pipeline for self-fulfillment. On the other hand, it has to offer answers to the questions posed by external factors – foremost, by numerous global challenges, from climate change to international terrorism. The majority of the world community, under the auspices of UN agencies, has accepted the sustainable development concept (SDC) as the basis for responding to these challenges. Similarly, the SDC has been at the forefront of scientific discourse on development in the recent years. However, like any theory, SDC has a number of limitations and inner contradictions, which are worth studying. As some researchers point out, the SDC is, in its essence, a technocratic theory: therefore, the higher analyst is climbing on its theoretical steps, the more contradictions he meets.
The article dwells on the social and humanitarian aspects of this problem through the prism of critical approaches to SDC. After a brief dive into the origins of the concept, the authors outline the focal points of its critique that include, but are not limited to the following contradictions. Firstly, the goal of achieving self-consistent and stable development contradicts the fact that the developing systems are, on the one hand, intrinsically unstable and non-linear and, on the other hand, prone to shocks produced by technological and social changes, economic and political shifts.
Secondly, achieving equilibrium between the ecological and the economic components of development is highly difficult due to the essence of the established approach to development (economic growth through extensive technological modernization and/or industrialization). Attempts to solve this contradiction in the SDC framework often lead to various excesses: for instance, the radical interpretation of SDC, inspired by the idea of strict limitation of both economic and demographic growth, stimulates the processes of de-industrialization and depopulation. The authors point out the importance of avoiding such excesses; in this particular instance, it could be achieved by incorporating elements of anthropocentric approach into the model. This is closely related to the third key issue: finding a balance between various components of development requires paying much more attention to its ethical and moral aspects. These aspects are one of the key weak point of SDC, which does not address some of them at all.
The authors also consider a number of other relevant concepts of development through the prism of their social and humanitarian potential. Among these concepts there are resilient development, which goal is to strengthen already existing social relationship; eco-centric development aimed at reducing over consumption and maintaining ecological sustainability; as well as sustainable degrowth transformation. Special attention is paid to the concept of responsible development, which, in authors’ opinion, could serve as an innovative basis for a more thoughtful development policy. The concept was coined by the IMEMO scientific school; it puts emphasis on the moral and ethical aspects of development; among its foundations are the culture of dialogue, feedback and civic engagement.
The authors emphasize the role of academic community in finding effective ways to influence the decision-makers to put the development concepts into practice, as well as in establishing and maintaining a constant dialogue and stimulating responsible behavior of all actors.
Bardin A., Sigachev M. Discourses of Development: Social and Humanitarian Aspects. Analysis & Forecasting. Journal of IMEMO, 2019, no 4, pp. 24-41. https://doi.org/10.20542/afij-2019-4-24-41