Volume 46 Number 181,
April-June 2015

Trilogy,* How to Sow the Seeds of Development in Latin America, Problemas del Desarrollo Collection of Books, Alicia Girón (coord.), Institute of Economic Research, UNAM, Mexico, 2014.

One of the merits of the first book, Between the Profound Recession and the Great Crisis: New Theoretical Interpretations and Alternatives, is that it staunchly challenges the path that the economic sciences have followed, leading readers to reflect deeply on the world we are building and what future generations of economists are being trained to do, referencing the so-called “idiot savants,” people skilled in econometric techniques but ignorant of real economic facts and detached from human reality.

Current economic theory is characterized by the miserable state of its technical proposals and a true dearth of ideas, mainly limited to recycling theories completely removed from society and human beings. Instead, current economic theory is focused on measuring, formalizing and quantifying efficiency and technical progress, not to mention recommending cold and sterile economic policies divorced from social welfare but whose underlying mathematical principles are robust.

This book forces us to set our sights once again on Latin America and the need to establish endogenous, inclusive, equitable, sustainable, democratic, ecological, solidary and distributive development to the benefit of the majority. It helps us see that we are in a “Great Crisis,” not because it is so deep but rather because it is so multidisciplinary, leaving no realm – economy, food, energy, politics, social affairs, culture and the environment – unscathed.

This book encourages readers to reflect on the search for a holistic approach to social, natural and cultural capital. The quest for a sustainable civilization that enables human beings to flourish, centered on people and not consumers, where economic growth would be the means, rather than the end, and greater attention would be paid to distributive and social processes in favor of growth. It is time to question fiscal policies and their power to distribute wealth to the benefit of the minority and those who already hold the economic, political and media power to mold economic conditions to their own interests.

Now is also when we must recover the space for sustainability, acknowledge that developing countries are undergoing deindustrialization and recognize that social and political conflicts are worsening due to a single phenomenon, the accumulation and dispossession of resources and inattention to domestic markets.

We have forgotten that economic policy is by definition social policy and should therefore be imbued with philosophy, sociology, ethics, values and morality.

This book also encourages us to reflect on how to reform the economics and politics of human rights and social guarantees, restructuring values and attitudes. It also suggests “reconceptualizing the State,” which would mean rethinking the role of the State by what it does for society and not merely in terms of efficiency, productivity and the quantitative side of economics.

The second book, Democracy, Financialization and Neo-Extractionism: Facing the Challenges of Industrialization and the Labor Market, analyzes democracy in its current state, manipulated by capital and the media, concentrated in the hands of the few at the expense of the majority. We must promote citizen participation so that governments consider the interests of the majority of citizens in their administrations.

We must also challenge the fact that public spending has become collateral for financial income, a guarantee of monetary stability. Earnings are privatized and losses are socialized. We must recognize the growing concentration of income and surpluses in small groups of companies and families with major media and lobbying power to influence economic policymakers to their own benefit and to the detriment of the majority.

It should be acknowledged that financial deregulation and financial engineering to diversify risks only serves to transfer these risks to society and the State, when the financial bubbles burst. Speculation in the futures market is a determinant of raw materials prices, and futures prices are determinants of cash or spot prices.

Financial deregulation interacts in a feedback loop with high-risk financial practices, speculation, financial bubbles and market integration. This leads to recurring and severe crises with widespread global impacts. We are currently in the midst of a process of accumulation through coercive expropriation, where financial capital is the winner in a new system of income redistribution.

That is why it is necessary to turn once again to industrial policies that permit a solid foundation for autonomous and sustainable development based on the domestic market, job creation and the consequent strengthening of the domestic market. We cannot continue relying on cheap labor to be competitive. Nor should we join the international market by breaking productive chains and ushering in a wave of deindustrialization that primarily affects micro and small enterprises while disproportionately benefitting large multi and trans-national companies.

A manufacturing policy would allow us to recover job positions and redefine development, as well as reverse the process of deindustrialization.

The book From “Living Well” to “Good Living” with the Feminist Economy, Philanthropy and Migration: Prospects in the Search for Alternatives proposes an idea to shift from development theory with capital reproduction at its center to a theory with life reproduction (in the broader sense) at the core, as a way to understand the overall reproduction process, in which production and labor are understood as spaces of freedom and enjoyment and where relationships are established with other living subjects: people, animals, nature as a whole. Ensuring quality of living, social protection against vulnerabilities and the universal and multidimensional right to care, with the right to work, and using this as an approach to public policies, will therefore guarantee better and greater income distribution and enhance economic and social inclusion.

Human beings, populations and society should be the subject and purpose of economic policy, while the third sector, characterized by solidarity, social inclusion, empowerment and social welfare, must occupy a central role in the discourse on development and world, regional and national peace. This third sector functions as an important foundation in the formation of citizens and in building social capital to develop people and “good living.” The State should be all-encompassing and comprehensive and develop an operational, legal and financial framework that would allow civil society to play an active part in development, with concrete programs agreed upon jointly between public agencies and various civil society organizations, correcting power imbalances, universalizing human rights and limiting the private appropriation of large economic surpluses in the hands of the few.

We need a social and solidarity economy that expands the progressive redistribution of natural, financial, cultural, social and political goods, in recognition of social and solidarity economy networks and organizations and their representation in defining public policies and policy coordination. This will imply prioritizing communities over individuals, solidarity partnerships over competition and protecting the various initiatives of the solidarity economy when they are put at risk by the market or an individualist culture.

Nora Ampudia
Universidad Panamericana, Guadalajara Campus

* In the framework of the Great Recession, Problemas del Desarrollo: Latin American Economic Journal has published three books. The first was entitled Between the Profound Recession and the Great Crisis: New Theoretical Interpretations and Alternatives, the second, Democracy, Financialization and Neo-Extractionism: Facing the Challenges of Industrialization and the Labor Market, and the third, From “Living Well” to “Good Living” with the Feminist Economy, Philanthropy and Migration: Prospects in the Search for Alternatives.

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Published in Mexico, 2012-2018 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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