Menu Expand
Planet Dialectics

Planet Dialectics

Wolfgang Sachs | Susan George


Additional Information

Book Details


All effects of human action will inevitably be played out within our planet’s limits; any hope of infinity is an illusion. And yet, as Wolfgang Sachs warned almost twenty years ago, environmental concerns have been assimilated into the rhetoric, dynamics and power structures of development.

This classic collection of trenchant and elegant explorations addresses the crisis of the Western world’s relations with nature and social justice. Examining the notions of efficiency, speed, globalization and development, Sachs shows that sustainability, truly conceived, is incompatible with the worldwide rule of economism.

Planet Dialectics reveals that the Western development model is fundamentally at odds with both the quest for justice among the world’s people and the aspiration to reconcile humanity and nature.

Wolfgang Sachs is a researcher, writer and university teacher in the field of environment, development and globalization. His best-known works include the immensely influential Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power (Zed Books, 2010), which has been translated into numerous languages; Global Ecology: A New Arena of Political Conflict (Zed Books, 1993); Greening the North: A Post-Industrial Blueprint for Ecology and Equity (co-authored with Reinhard Loske and Manfred Linz, Zed Books, 1998); and Fair Future: Resource Conflicts, Security, and Global Justice (co-edited with Tilman Santarius, Zed Books, 2007).

‘If you are not only concerned with the future of our planet but also with social justice, you have to read this book.’
Gilbert Rist, author of The History of Development and The Delusions of Economics

‘Wise words, crafted with loving care for people and the planet, even more relevant than when they were written a quarter century ago, unfortunately.’
Professor Richard Norgaard, University of California, Berkeley

‘Remains an essential read for anyone involved in the field of development. This book has never been more vital than today.’
Jonathan Ensor, Stockholm Environment Institute

‘Sachs elegantly reminds us that in the search for justice to people and planet we need to begin "civilization change" by changing the rich, not the poor.’
Professor Julian Agyeman, Tufts University.

‘Still remarkably fresh and insightful, Planet Dialectics gives us a much needed critique of economics gone wrong.’
Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development

‘Amazingly innovative in its perspective, unflinching in its analysis, and radical in its solutions, this book is a historic hallmark.’
Tilman Santarius, Germanwatch

‘Brings together insights from anthropology, history, economics, cultural studies and environmental science to show that the rapidly expanding global market economy is designed to benefit only the few... and will inevitably cause disastrous environmental overshoot... Planet Dialectics is an impressive book.’
David Mittler in Resurgence

‘A remarkable book... well written, full of food for thought... It should attract a wide readership among students dealing with development, environment, globalization and planning issues.’
Progress in Development Studies

‘Sachs’ ideas are dynamite.’
New Internationalist

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Front Cover Front cover
critique influence change i
More critical praise for Planet Dialectics iii
About the author iv
Title page v
Copyright vi
Contents\r vii
Foreword to the critique influence change edition\r ix
Preface to the first edition\r xv
Bibliographical Note xxi
Part I The Archaeology of the Development Idea 1
1 The Archaeology of the Development Idea \r 3
A Guide to the Ruins\r 3
The Discovery of Poverty 8
Technology as a Trojan Horse 12
The Economist’s Blind Eye 16
From ‘Development’ to ‘Security’ 20
Part II The Shaky Ground of Sustainability \r 25
2 Global Ecology and the Shadow of ‘Development’\r 27
Truman and What Followed 28
Ambiguous Claims for Justice 30
Earth’s Finiteness as a Management Problem 33
Bargaining for the Rest of Nature 37
Efficiency and Sufficiency 39
The Hegemony of Globalism 42
Notes 46
3 The Gospel of Global Efficiency 47
More out of Less 47
Resources Everywhere 49
Never Enough 51
Always Rational 53
4 Environment and Development: The Story of a Dangerous Liaison\r 56
Setting the Stage for the Brundtland Report 57
A Successful Ambivalence 61
Survival as a New Raison d’État 64
Towards a Global Ecocracy? 67
Further reading 68
5 Sustainable Development: On the Political Anatomy of an Oxymoron\r 71
At the Dawn of the Security Age 71
The Horns of the Dilemma 75
The Contest Perspective 78
The Astronaut’s Perspective 83
The Home Perspective 86
Part III In the Image of the Planet \r 91
6 One World – Many Worlds? \r 93
One Humankind 94
One Market 97
One Planet 99
Space Against Place 102
Cosmopolitan Localism 105
Further Reading 108
7 The Blue Planet: On the Ambiguity of a Modern Icon 110
The Construction of the Earth through an Image 111
The Invention of the Biosphere 117
The Image and Sentimental Ecology 121
The Image and Technocratic Ecology 124
8 Globalization and Sustainability 129
The Rise of the Transnational Economy 131
How Economic Globalization Reduces the Use of Resources\r 134
How Economic Globalization Expands and Accelerates the Use of Resources\r 136
How Economic Globalization Fosters a New Colonization of Nature\r 147
How Economic Globalization Changes the Geography of Environmental Stress\r 149
Which and Whose Globalization? 152
Part IV Ecology and Equity in a Post-development Era\r 157
9 Ecology, Justice and the End of Development 159
Point of Departure 161
Landslide 162
Impasse 164
The New Colour of Justice 170
10 The Two Meanings of Resource Productivity \r 175
Productivity as Abundance 177
Productivity as Efficiency 178
Can Limits be Productive? 179
The Full Sense of Resource Productivity 180
The Blind Spot of Efficiency 182
Efficiency and Sufficiency 185
11 Speed Limits 187
Body and Machine 187
Colliding Timescales 189
Double Power 191
In Remembrance of Time Gained 193
Counter-productive Effects 194
Selective Slowness 194
12 The Power of Limits: An Inquiry into New Models of Wealth 197
Eco-intelligent Goods and Services 198
Lower Speeds and the Plurality of Timescales 201
Shorter Distances and the Plurality of Spaces 205
Wealth in Time Rather than Wealth in Goods 207
Well-being instead of Well-having 209
Bibliography 213
Index 220
Back Cover Back cover