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You Will Be Poor, Peasants!

We have that delightful vision of an anthropologist trying to talk economics. This works about as well as that oft seen accountant trying to talk economics.

Peter Sutoris is an anthropologist of development and the environment, and the author of Educating for the Anthropocene

Not that I’d want to make this a hard diagnosis but much of the vague lefty wibble that used to infest economics has moved over into anthropology. I assume because economists have had to actually accept the real world evidence of the world out there getting richer, of lives getting better. You know, all those pretensions to being a science and thus testing hypotheses.

That one’s difficult to explain by the idea that socialism makes the people rich for example.

So, the woo is relegated to anthropology, where actual facts aren’t quite so important.

Our society has come to believe that technology is the solution. Electricity from renewable sources, energy-efficient buildings, electric vehicles and hydrogen fuels are among the many innovations that we hope will play a decisive role in reducing emissions.

Well, yes. Because in those original predictions of there being a problem at all that’s what was found. That if we continued to have this capitalist, free market and globalised economy but powered it without fossil fuels then that would produce the best result. Fewer, richer people without climate change in fact. It’s possible to be Protestant about this and read the Ur Text. A1T – globalised free market capitalism with fewer fossil fuels, it works.

Our civilisation is underpinned by extractivism, a belief that the Earth is ours to exploit, and the nonsensical idea of infinite growth within a finite territory.

Ah, yes, not understanding what is economic growth at all. The limitations to the system are physical, all are agreed upon that. There are only so many copper atoms around, we cannot use more than that number. But economic growth is not the processing of raw materials, it is adding value to them. So, what is the hard limit to the value that can be added to a copper atom? Quite – so, what’s the hard limit to the value that can be created in our economy?

What does this look like in practice? Changing the collective mindset of a civilisation calls for a shift in values. It means educating our children about humility and connectedness, rather than vanity and individuality. It means changing our relationship with consumption, breaking the spell of advertising, manufactured needs and status. It means political organising, generating demand for a politics that sees beyond the nation state, and beyond the lifespan of the currently living generations – Wales has already started, with its Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

Ah, yes, there we go. You will be poor peasant and we’ll have a world government to ensure that.

Anthropologists, of course, still get to sit at the front of the ‘plane. They’s important folks, you know…..

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Spike
Spike
3 months ago

Another gadfly states a “scientific” argument for…everyone adopting his values rather than our own!

So rather than the Biblical command to “bring forth abundantly” we have the equally religious command to live without leaving a detectable trace on Earth.

No particular technology is the key solution/culprit. Invention is the solution, and as Tim often says, trial-and-error in the free market is how we learn which inventions to keep. This guy’s reeducation is deadly.

Phoenix44
Phoenix44
3 months ago

Yet again somebody tries to convince us that the reason we don’t agree with their ideas is that we have been indoctrinated. And of course that raises the question how come this clever person didn’t get indoctrinated. Because they are so clever. And how do we know they are so clever – how do they know they are so clever? Because they hold the opinions they hold.

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
3 months ago

Sand is ~£50/ton. Give it to a fab and they can (with the judicious use of large quantities of energy) transform it into a product worth considerably more than its weight in gold. I’m sure there are plenty of processes producing similar added value – RR turbine fan blades, for instance (though their raw materials are a bit more costly).

Leo Savantt
Leo Savantt
3 months ago

These idiots, and they are idiots, don’t know what poverty really is and how terrible it is. Having visited numerous countries where real poverty exists the everlasting impression is just how awful not having enough is, the physical stresses are matched by how much poverty effects the psyche; the insane look of the beggar on the street of India is truly disturbing. Poverty can break the human spirit, it can kill everything that makes living more than a desperate immediate struggle to avoid death. Only a person who is one of the richest person ever to have lived can spout… Read more »

TD
TD
3 months ago
Reply to  Leo Savantt

My observations from having been in Latin America a few times is that some western tourists find poverty to be picturesque. Perhaps not the bleakest levels of poverty, but many can look at a shack with a dirt floor and no running water or electricity and think that it’s good to see these places now before modernization ruins them.

Leo Savantt
Leo Savantt
3 months ago
Reply to  TD

Indeed, the romanticising of the poor and their lifestyle by western holiday makers is as odd as it is prevalent.

Snarkus
Snarkus
3 months ago
Reply to  Leo Savantt

Indeed. having seen field anthropologists viewing very technology undeveloped people thru extremely sentimental rose coloured marxist glasses, ie, not at all, I regard the discipline as more esoteric than speculative cosmology. Everythjing must be seen as noble savage, happy, content, connected. This despite the tribe I was working with being very happy to skip the nomad life for working in goldfields for miners. That flour , sugar and tea was there every night ! The death rates of men in skirmishes, every one from disease and the occasional starvation in the reglar droughts just does not get noticed. There are… Read more »

Leo Savantt
Leo Savantt
3 months ago
Reply to  Snarkus

Well said.

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