Material, social and theoretical aspects of Sustainable Development

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Please cite the paper as:
George Liodakis, (2012), Material, social and theoretical aspects of Sustainable Development, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 2 2012, Sustainability – Missing Points in the Development Dialogue, 24th September to 21st October, 2012



This paper explores some of the material, social and theoretical aspects of sustainable development. It starts from a critical scrutiny of some methodological and conceptual weaknesses or flaws of mainstream approaches. It also discusses the limitations of ecological reforms and of the efforts to create sustainability conditions under capitalism. Based on a Marxist perspective, it proceeds to identify and briefly analyze some crucial aspects or preconditions for a truly sustainable development, including externalities, the scale of production and growth limits, and the growing rift in the nature – society dialectical metabolism. Particular emphasis is placed on the material and social conditions as well as the historical perspectives, extending beyond capitalism, for creating the preconditions of sustainable development.

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2 responses

  • Nandan Nawn says:

    Thanks for the paper that has brought the usually neglected issues in the sustainability debate, and in particular the irreconcilable differences between methodological individualism and the collective/coordinated actions. The section that I have liked most is the sixth one, on metabolic rift; for the details. I understand that a few other sections are concise introduction for different chapters in your forthcoming book, and thus appearing somewhat disjoint at times.
    I would like to see your work on the possibilities of sustainability in a communist regime. The agro-ecological alternative path that Cuba had to take has been one option, but for specific contexts and situations. At the same time, even emulating such a route elsewhere will cover a lot of road to sustainability.

    • George Liodakis says:

      Dear Nandan Nawn,
      Thank you for your comments on my paper.

      As for the possibilities of sustainability within a communist perspective, I hope to have the time in the near future to more adequately deal with this issue. But, of course, it is not a personal question, and I hope that a sufficiently powerful social movement of some sort will, sooner or later, put together relevant research and social experimentation to tackle this problem.

      For the Cuban agro-ecological alternative, I agree with you that it has evolved under specific conditions and with some relevant limitations. I would think though that historical contingency has always played some role in socioeconomic and institutional change. Nonetheless, I would again agree with your hint. We do need to explore and more adequately elaborate on the (socialist/communist) organizational principles that would allow an ecologically compatible transformation more generally and as a conscious policy and free choice.