DSA2018: Global inequalities
New patters of globalisation with emerging ecological pressures, dependence on interconnected social-ecological systems, changing patterns of mobility and migration, and structures and relations of politics and power require reimagining development alternatives from theory to practice.
The world is increasingly inter-connected and inter-dependent, yet more divided. Familiar framings of North-South, global and local no longer hold. Global commitments to transformative change that is socially and ecologically just, raise the need to consider alternatives to mainstream development trajectories. This session addresses conceptual, methodological and implementation challenges focusing on:
Ecological dimensions: the global ecological crisis is framed variously around concepts of the Anthropocene and planetary boundaries, with growing concern around roles and responsibilities, the distribution of risks and vulnerabilities, and calls for 'safe and just operating space'.
Social-ecological-technological systems: The scale and intensity of globalisation has depended on and created SETS of water, food, energy, waste, transport and information, bringing people and locations into relations of production, trade and consumption never previously witnessed. As far reaching as such systems are, they are also characterised by an inherent fragility and propensity to fail, with the impacts of a shock in one location, cascading across the globe.
Mobility and migration: greater movement of people and the spread of livelihood portfolios across locations and economies is increasingly a response to stress and crisis, creating a whole new set of relations and dependencies.
Politics and power: globalisation has created new structures and relations of politics and power that have long-threatened the influence of states or the citizens whom they represent, while also creating new opportunities for activism, and mobilisation across locations and countries. At the same time, we see contradictory trends of authoritarianism, and constrained spaces for deliberative, informed public debate.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
The social justice agenda in development studies: which approach?
The idea of social justice appears to be moving into the mainstream of development discourse. How can a critical and rigorously-theorised conception of social justice/injustice avoid the pitfall of critical neutering or co-option, and provide a fresh, normatively grounded perspective on development?
Recently the idea of social justice has followed the well-worn path from the critical margins to the mainstream of development discourse. This mirrors its emergence into general prominence with attention-grabbing global movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, and ever-more astonishing media accounts of wealth inequalities. Social justice is a powerful rhetorical resource, but also a concept subject to a wide array of competing theorisations. Different conceptions would support radically divergent policy choices and modes of practical action. As such, if social justice is to avoid the habitual fate of previously-critical development 'buzzwords', there is a need for conceptual clarity and rigour. This paper outlines the relevance of social justice thinking to development, maps the implications of different approaches, and briefly makes the case for a 'relational' approach as being particularly successful in capturing the range of considerations relevant to thinking about social injustice within a development context.
Towards a post-neoliberal development agenda? The East African Community and the second-hand clothing trade
This paper sets out to assess claims that we are entering a post-neoliberal development phase in Africa. It does so through a focus on the East African Community's decision, in March 2016, to phase-out and eventually ban outright the importation of second-hand clothing.
In this paper, we set out to assess claims that we are witnessing a turn in Africa to a new post-neoliberal development phase characterised by state-activism and strategic trade and industrial policy. We focus on the specific case of the East African Community (EAC) and its decision, in March 2016, to phase-out and eventually ban outright the importation of second-hand clothing (SHC). While the EAC partner-states have recently come to partially scale back the SHC ban, we argue that intentions behind this policy are significant. Notably, the SHC ban is reminiscent of African trade policies of the early postwar period rather than the more recent neoliberal practices with which the continent has become synonymous. In the paper, we ask what factors led the EAC partner-states to instigate a ban on second-hand clothing and what is its wider political significance. Specifically, we argue that SHC ban has been driven by a sense of vulnerability, as other parts of the global south have shown inclinations towards industrialisation and structural transformation, and a sense of grievance that the region has become a dumping ground for textiles and clothing produced elsewhere. However, while suggesting that the broader reappraisal of industrial policy is not unwelcome, we highlight the challenges of developing a regional apparel industry, through import-substitution, in the context of an internationalised textiles and clothing trade. Furthermore, using the SHC ban as a case study, we also highlight the tensions within the EAC between the endeavour for regional market-integration and more recent efforts of promoting structural transformation.
Can there be a moral vision for international development in a time of populism?
Twenty-five years ago David Lumsdaine argued that the foreign aid regime could only be fully explained by the moral vision that emerged as part of the post-WWII order. This paper asks whether that moral vision has any relevance in this time of renewed nationalism and new narratives of development.
Twenty-five years ago David Lumsdaine used the case of the foreign aid regime to argue for the role of ideas in international relations. According to Lumsdaine, great power politics alone could not explain the gradual expansion of the aid regime, nor of the breadth of issues it covered. Instead, he argued that the regime could be better explained by the moral vision that emerged as part of the post-WWII order: a set of principles dating back to the Atlantic Charter, and which he termed "humane internationalism".
Twenty-five years later, the global development landscape has changed drastically. Foreign aid is an increasingly irrelevant part of development, matched and in some areas surpassed by South-South cooperation, philanthropy, environmentalism, global finance, or technological advances. At the same time, while OECD aid continues to expand - albeit very slowly - the mood has shifted in donor countries, ushering an era of populism and nationalism that considers foreign aid at best epiphenomenal to the broader ill of internationalism, and at worst a corrupt endeavour to be condemned to the dustbin of history.
This paper investigates whether the moral vision that nurtured and sustained the aid regime for half a century has any relevance today, particularly in light of new practices, relationships, and narratives of development, such as sustainability, rising powers, or nationalistic economic policy. It asks whether the aid regime - and, by extension, some key actors in international development - can survive solely by the inertia of what once was.
Decline and Levelling off of Earnings Inequality: Boon or Bane for a Growing Economy?
There are circumstances where declining/levelling earnings gaps is more indicative of a bane than a boon for long term economic growth. Using the case of Indonesia, we study the implications of structural characteristics and direct labour market interventions on the dynamics of earnings inequality.
Increasing job polarization and accompanying rise in earnings inequality on account of technological change and globalization over the past few decades have increased concern about the attainability of governments' perennial objective of inclusive growth. Yet, there are circumstances where either declining or levelling earnings gaps may be more indicative of a bane than a boon for a country's long term economic health. Using the particularly interesting case of Indonesia, which reduced and subsequently levelled off its earnings inequality in the midst of impressive growth, we study the implications of structural characteristics and direct labour market interventions on the dynamics of earnings inequality. We find evidence of a stronger role of structural characteristics in a direction that appears to be more indicative of a bane than a boon for long term efficiency and prosperity. We discuss generalisations and policy implications beyond the Indonesian context.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.