Understanding Progress: A Heterodox Approach
This paper examines the possibility of understanding and measuring well-being as a result of “progress” on the basis of today’s dominant epistemological framework. Market criteria distort social values by allowing purchasing power to define priorities, likening luxury goods to basic needs; in the process they reinforce patterns of discrimination against disadvantaged social groups and women, introducing fatal distortions into the analysis. Similarly, because there are no appropriate mechanisms to price natural resources adequately, the market overlooks the consequences of the abuse of natural resources, degrading the quality of life, individually and collectively, or—in the framework of Latin American indigenous groups—foreclosing the possibility of “living well”. We critique the common vision of the official development discourse that places its faith on technological innovations to resolve these problems. The analysis points to the need for new models of social and environmental governance to promote progress, approaches like those suggested in the paper that are inconsistent with public policies currently in place. At present, the social groups forging institutions to assure their own well-being and ecological balance are involved in local processes, often in opposition to the proposals of the political leaders in their countries.
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