Capitalism and Sustainability: Is it Possible?


“If our economies are to flourish, if global poverty is to be banished, and if the well being of the world’s people enhanced – not just in this generation, but in succeeding   generations we must make sure we take care of the natural environment and resource on which our economic activity depends”  says: Gordon Brown – Chancellor of the Exchequer (March, 2005).

The quest for our survival and that of our natural world for future generation is growing day by day. From Europe to Africa, Asia to America and to Oceania, nations and multinationals companies are working hand in hand to promote the three pillars of sustainability identified in 2005 World Summit of Social Development. Whilst it is true that sustainability looks to protect our natural environment, human and ecological health driving innovation and not compromising our ways of life. But I find this not compatible with the political ideology that drives the society we live in, the system in which few people at the expense of the others as ”capitalism” particularly in the developing and ever emerging economy like Nigeria and other African countries, Capitalism is a political ideology where minority hold most of and reward themselves with socio and political power. I agree in theory that capitalism is a sustainable economic system as long as there are consumers in a free market economy. But in practice in my opinion it leads to out sourcing for cheap labour, people being laid off and the natural environment, the ”commons” being exploited at the expense of generations to come. What I don’t know is how possible to run a capitalism economy while keeping its impact within a safe economy and ecological boundaries. According to Marx” capitalism transgressed the  boundaries of sustainability.” Marx stated further that a society geared toward sustainability will never be compatible with capitalism system,

In Nigeria 90% of her economy depends largely on oil thus achieving sustainable economy Now this is my argument with capitalist economy and social development and safe ecological boundaries without compromising quality of life is a mirage. For instance oil exploration by multinationals in Nigeria breached the three core ideas of sustainable development  in World Summit on social development in 2005. In pursuit of profit at all cost, the multinationals have breached several socio economic and ecological boundaries in relation to employment, human right, access basic resources, climate change, biodiversity loss and nutrient enrichment. Now his is my argument with a capitalist economic system that has enriched few in the society, create division and inequality and in turn create social and ethnic tension. It is possible for Nigeria and other developing nations in Sub- Sahara Africa  to continue to run a capitalist economy system that enrich few, that threatens their ecosystem and future generations, Marx  viewed capitalism as the most revolutionary economic system in history. But argued that the system is radically unstable; sudden ruin can happen at any time. A century and half later his prophesy was right, we found ourselves in the world he anticipated where minority has accumulated vast wealth and no one can predict what will happen or the value of anything now or in the future. Now there is a change in the way we live our life and people are struggling to cope. For the past three years we are in the state of perpetual unrest, global financial crisis that  threatens the  global economy. Marx writes in Communist Manifesto that “Everything that is solid melts in to air” to depict the end of capitalism and the introduction of communism system. I disagree slightly with Marx on this, I understand the principle  of capital being productive, and that it ceases as such only where the development of these productive forces themselves encounter its barrier in capital itself (Marx, The Grundrisse, 1845). But for more than a century, capitalism never faced off our systems despite hide and seek games played by all actors all over the world.

The question is how do we avoid capitalism structures and still achieve sustainable economy development, social development and ecological protection in our world especially Sub-Sahara Africa. The current issue of transnational partnership in global development can only work if the capitalistic motive is not allowed to play its role.

Jo Freeman in ‘Tyranny of Structurelessness’ writes that rejecting governance structure or leadership roles leads to lack of accountability and deep conflict. According to Freeman, ‘there is no such thing as structure-less group’. Then, what is the way out of capitalism (for the sole purpose of profits) structure that is not working properly? Sustainability can only begin when we cultivate the culture to value the future of people and environment over the excessive pursuit of wealth by multinational in order to have a sustainable society. Maybe , it can only be effective, if morally strong governments that are ready to challenge multinationals and back up regulations with actions are put in place.




















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