The nature of development lies in social integration

Inclusive Economy06 Oct 2011Henk Molenaar

According to Henk Molenaar, we are in need of a single, powerful concept to rival growth as development paradigm.

This debate by The Broker on the promotion of human wellbeing and the transformation towards an inclusive economy is very welcome. In these times of frantic attempts to meet the debt crisis by kick-starting renewed growth, I applaud the pleas to free ourselves from growth fetishism and to develop different tools for measuring development than the gross domestic product. But to overcome growth as a central development paradigm, it is necessary to dwell on the characteristics of growth and the reasons why it has such a strong appeal.

Growth is a powerful concept that has a strong hold on our minds. In order to overcome growth as the main development paradigm, we need to demystify growth and understand its lure. Growth has undoubtedly created unprecedented wealth. But it comes with a price. Growth is a built-in necessity of capitalism that forces itself upon us as growth compulsion. Its lure is based on a distortion of our perception. We feel that growth allows us to satisfy our needs, and we fail to see that growth compulsion leads to the continuous multiplication of needs, the general spreading of scarcity, and the increase of inequality.

Unfortunately, alternative approaches of development lack the simplicity and intuitive clarity of growth and the GDP as its measure. Composite indices of various components of development merely display that we find it difficult to conceive of what development is, if not growth. We are in need of a single, powerful concept to rival growth as development paradigm. We may hope to find such a concept by looking at a dimension of life that is not based on the logic of accumulation and competition. By focusing on the social nature of human beings we can begin to conceptualize development as a process that is itself a social phenomenon, nested in relations rather than in individuals. This nature of development lies in social integration. Trust could be the marker of social cohesion, of which we need to capture its sociality and emotive power.

Read Henk Molenaar’s worthwhile article on this topic, titled “Overcoming growth by focusing on social integration“.