Crises in progress: An Inquiry into the Role of Responsibility, Justice and Happiness in a World of Limits and Uncertainty

Crises in progress: An Inquiry into the Role of Responsibility, Justice and Happiness in a World of Limits and Uncertainty

This is an inquiry into the role of responsibility, justice and happiness as defining elements of a new conceptualization of progress. In a world of environmental change, limits and uncertainty, the mainstream economy conception of progress is being questioned. The project engages with recent debates on growth, progress and the economics of prosperity, developed in response to the financial and economic crisis started in 2007, in order to identify the worldviews, assumptions and contradictions embedded within the analyses, arguments and solutions being proposed.

The research will take an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on a range of concepts and theories, including: vulnerable, risk societies; conceptions of progress (including critique of GDP measures); ecological economics (Georgescu-Roegen); technology and efficiency responses; virtue ethics (responsibility, happiness); environmental sociology - New Ecological Paradigm (NEP); and distributive justice, globalisation and global identity.

Estatuto: 
Entidade proponente
Financiado: 
Não
Keywords: 

Progresso; Responsabilidade; Felicidade; Justiça

This is an inquiry into the role of responsibility, justice and happiness as defining elements of a new conceptualization of progress. In a world of environmental change, limits and uncertainty, the mainstream economy conception of progress is being questioned. The project engages with recent debates on growth, progress and the economics of prosperity, developed in response to the financial and economic crisis started in 2007, in order to identify the worldviews, assumptions and contradictions embedded within the analyses, arguments and solutions being proposed.

The research will take an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on a range of concepts and theories, including: vulnerable, risk societies; conceptions of progress (including critique of GDP measures); ecological economics (Georgescu-Roegen); technology and efficiency responses; virtue ethics (responsibility, happiness); environmental sociology - New Ecological Paradigm (NEP); and distributive justice, globalisation and global identity.

Objectivos: 
(3) Efficiency's limits: To explore the links between conceptions of progress and energy. Energy is the single most important resource, at once enabling modern progress - including the dramatic growth rates that characterised the OECD's 20th century and BRIC's 21st century - and causing environmental change. Core question: Can ideas of efficiency and low-carbon facilitate a transition to a more responsible use of energy and provide the basis for a redefinition of progress that is at once capable of delivering justice and happiness? This line of inquiry will critically reviewing the strength and weakness of efficiency-led conceptions of growth and progress through literature review, discourse analysis and case studies/scenario building. <p> </p>
State of the art: 
Are we living &lsquo;in interesting times'? From the rising momentum behind climate change&nbsp; debates, to the crises unravelling in the realm of food, energy, security and finance, one&nbsp; would be justified in thinking that the Chinese curse: &lsquo;may you live in interesting times' is&nbsp; suddenly being aimed at all people and nations. At the root of such &lsquo;interesting times' is the&nbsp; increasingly problematic relation between society and nature (Dunlap 1980; 2006; Schmidt&nbsp; 1999).&nbsp; The concept of social metabolism, of material and energy flows, has helped to understand&nbsp; the interactions between social and natural systems and to characterise human history in&nbsp; terms of socio-ecological regimes: hunter-gatherer, agrarian and industrial (Fischer-Kowalski&nbsp; and Krausmann 2007). The 1970s witnessed a rising concern over the impact of changing&nbsp; socio-ecological regimes on natural systems, marked by the controversial MIT report to the&nbsp; Club of Rome, entitled Limits to Growth (1972). As rich nations moved steadily from the first&nbsp; phase of industrialisation to what became known as vulnerable, risk societies (Beck 1992&nbsp; [1986]; Giddens 1990), developing nations struggled with the transition from agrarian to&nbsp; industrial regimes. In the transition, the imperative of growth and consumption established&nbsp; themselves firmly at the heart of progress and modernity concepts in the rich world, leading&nbsp; to a dramatic rise in the flow of material and energy (WWF et al. 2004). Benefits accrued&nbsp; mainly to the industrialised world, but thanks to the interconnected nature of today's world,&nbsp; natural, social and manufactured risks affected rich and developing countries alike, despite&nbsp; belonging to different socio-ecological regimes. This, at least, was the picture until the quest&nbsp; for growth extended to developing nations, notably China and India, raising important&nbsp; questions about limited resources in nature and distributive justice (Paavola 2005).&nbsp;&nbsp; Forecasts by United Nations agencies, the World Bank, and the International Energy Agency&nbsp; (for example: IEA 2007) suggest that the next decades will witness a significant rise in&nbsp; population growth, material and energy intensity, population impact, and a widening gap&nbsp; between poor and rich. Meanwhile, a proliferation of findings reveals the deteriorating&nbsp; support for human life on the planet (e.g.: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment), pointing to&nbsp; persistently unsustainable pressures (e.g.: EEA 2007). All this suggests an exacerbation of&nbsp; factors often decisive in societal collapse (Diamond 2005; Homer-Dixon 2006; Tainter 1988).&nbsp; A new concept of progress is needed to facilitate the transition to sustainable societies. I&nbsp; propose to contribute to the definition of such a concept by focusing on two elements that&nbsp; can promote more harmonious interactions between social and natural systems:&nbsp; responsibility and happiness. I will refer to China as an illustration of the problem, and the&nbsp; need for a more equitable distribution of resources across the world (building on my current&nbsp; research: Bina 2007; 2008). In China population density, material intensity, limited&nbsp; resources, growing interdependence with trade partners, affect the interactions between&nbsp; ecology and society in ways that echo modern and pre-modern risk environments (Liu&nbsp; Jianguo and Diamond 2005). China's leadership is making increasingly forceful claims to its&nbsp; right to develop and attain developed-world standards of living (e.g. in climate change&nbsp; negotiations), and only denial would suggest that such (justified) objectives could be attained&nbsp; in the current state of the world (UNEP 2007). It is at this juncture that the debates&nbsp; surrounding the validity of material growth and consumerism, and the potential of arguments in favour of revisiting growth measured through GDP with analyses of happiness&nbsp; (eudaimonia, flourishing, well-being) may provide interesting answers for rich and&nbsp; developing countries alike.&nbsp; <p>The project combines a broad theoretical analysis and a detailed case study. The theoretical framework draws from concepts and theories in the realm of environmental sociology, geography, ethics and ecological economics - consistently with the quintessentially&nbsp; interdisciplinary challenge of sustainability. It reflects the candidate's own strengths and the potential of combining these with ICS's unique range of expertise during a five-year period of research.</p>
Parceria: 
Não Integrado
Coordenador 
Data Inicio: 
15/11/2009
Data Fim: 
15/11/2013
Duração: 
48 meses
Concluído