Sustainable Development in Capitalistic and Modern Societiesby Yash Saboo February 7 2018, 4:33 pm
It’s no secret that economic growth and energy have come at the cost of environmental degradation. In answer to this challenge, sustainability experts are looking at ways in which we can slow or prevent pollution, conserve natural resources and protect remaining environments. This is where sustainable development comes into play.
Sustainability has often been defined as how biological systems endure and remain diverse and productive. But, the 21st-century definition of sustainability goes far beyond these narrow parameters. This is also affected by capitalism and modernization.
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Today, it refers to the need to develop the sustainable models necessary for both the human race and planet Earth to survive. It is a balancing act. The United Nation’s 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future noted that sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the well-being of future generations.
The concept continues to expand in scope. In 2000, the Earth Charter broadened the definition of sustainability to include the idea of a global society “founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.”
The current developments of human societies have been materialized under democracy and capitalism. Capitalism is contemplated as the best social regime due to its ability to allocating private goods efficiently and generate more innovations through competition. That isn't completely true because capitalism and democracy might not be considered best devices to ensure intergenerational sustainability. In particular, the exclusion of future generations’ needs from the economic system and the idea of maximizing individual payoffs through competition endanger intergenerational sustainability and incur a cost for the subsequent generations.
A study shows that with ongoing modernization of competitive societies or maturation of capitalism in societies, the number of competitive or pro-self people increases due to the spread of the idea of competition for survival and success.
A group of researchers in School of Economics and Management, Kochi University of Technology, Japan published an article in Sustainability Science. The study conducted a laboratory experiment to examine human decision for intergenerational sustainability. A line-up of groups plays the game, each group chooses between maximizing own group’s payoff and imposing an irreversible cost to subsequent groups or maintain intergenerational sustainability. They show that without any control mechanism people endanger intergenerational sustainability, However, with the “imaginary future generation” treatment, which assigns a person in each group as the representative for the subsequent groups, can effectively enhance intergenerational sustainability. Ongoing modernization of competitive societies, which we call “capitalism”, affects an individual decision for intergenerational sustainability.
Current study implies that with ongoing modernization of competitive societies, people lose their sociability, and the experience and memory of learning the cultures from the previous generations, which endangers some minimum requirements for the existence of human societies such as intergenerational sustainability. Therefore, some policy devices might be necessary to maintain intergenerational sustainability in highly capitalistic and modern societies.