politics quotes

Colonising the future

Sociological and political attention to what is actually happening on the ground has invariably located the causes of hunger not in an absolute scarcity but in socially-generated scarcity arising from imbalances of power that deny people access to food and water…However such is the power of “scarcity” to colonise the future that even those who, quite properly, locate today’s scarcities in political conflict, frequently crumble when confronted with projections of future population growth, setting aside the insights of political economy in favour of Malthusian metaphors that emphasise numbers over power relations as the explanation for future shortages. In doing so, they grant Malthusianism an explanatory power that they would actively deny it when applied to the present and the past. Instead of the past being a guide to
future action, the future (implausibly) becomes a guide to the present…Yet future crises are likely to be rooted in the same dynamics in which they are rooted today…If society wants to prepare for future resource crises, it would therefore be more prudent to look to the present rather than to some theoretical Malthusian model of the future. The future will grow out of the present, not out of society suddenly turning Malthusian. The better way of dealing with “future crisis” is not imagining a future Malthusian world which bears no relationship to what exists now or ever has existed, and then imagining how to stave off that hypothetical Malthusian world, but rather dealing with current scarcities now on the realistic assumption that what causes scarcity today is going to go on causing scarcity in the future

From “Scarcity” as Political Strategy Reflections on Three Hanging Children by Nicholas Hildyard, paper presented at “Scarcity and the Politics of Allocation” conference, Institute of Development Studies, University of Brighton, UK, 6-7 June 2005 (thanks Josie!)

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