Rethinking Sustainability

Power, Knowledge, and Institutions
Jonathan Harris, Editor
Provides important guideposts toward a more complete theory of sustainable human and economic development


Bringing together the thoughts of economists, political scientists, anthropologists, philosophers, and agricultural policy professionals, this volume focuses on the issues of sustainability in development. Examining such topics as international trade, political power, gender roles, legal institutions, and agricultural research, the contributors focus on the missing links in theory and practice that have been barriers to the achievement of truly sustainable development.

Any theory of sustainable development must take into account economic, social, and environmental dimensions. Until recently, the question "What is development?" was often answered predominantly from the economist's perspective, with high priority being assigned to expansion of economic output. Social, political, institutional, and ethical aspects have often been neglected. But now that sustainable development has become a broadly accepted concept, it is impossible to maintain a narrowly economistic view of development. For this reason, the varied perspectives offered by the contributors to this volume are crucial to understanding the process of development as it relates to environmental sustainability and human well-being.

The selection of articles is meant to be stimulating and provocative rather than comp-rehensive. They are roughly divided between those dealing with broad theoretical issues concerning the economic, political, and social aspects of development (Part I) and those presenting more applied analysis (Part II). The common thread is a concern for examining which factors contribute to making development socially just and environmentally sound.

Rethinking Sustainability will be of interest to economists and social scientists, development professionals, and instructors seeking to offer their students a broad perspective on development issues.

Jonathan Harris is Senior Research Associate, Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, as well as Adjunct Associate Professor of International Economics at Tufts University Fletcher School of Law.

Praise / Awards

  • "Rethinking Sustainability is an impressive book, which I recommend very highly. It offers a broad approach to sustainability issues, and challenges many of the presuppositions of mainstream economics. A range of alternative approaches is explored by the contributors, with stimulating analyses of the contribution to sustainability studies of such issues as poverty, political power, the cultural construction of the environment and landscape change, as well as the more usual issues of trade and development. This book will appeal to all who are interested in sustainability, and will be especially welcome to those seeking alternative perspectives."
    —John Proops, Keele University
  • "Rethinking Sustainability moves the debate from efficiency toward the distribution of power, from free markets toward sharing commons assets, from global generalities toward local specifics, and from expert knowledge toward shared learning. This rebalancing is sorely needed."
    —Richard B. Norgaard, University of California at Berkeley
  • ". . . sustainability is discussed in terms of local, regional, and national economies and societies. Sustainability is understood here to encompass people and their communities—as well as the natural assets that provide them a chance to survive. On this alone economists ought to pay attention to this book. . . . This is a very nice and compelling collection of information and ideas. There is much that is not yet understood about the full reach of the challenges to sustainability, and this volume makes an important contribution to that lacuna."
    —Daniel W. Bromley, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Volume 85, No. 1

Product Details

  • 304 pages.
  • 5 line drawings, 9 tables, and 9 text boxes.
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  • 2009
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  • 978-0-472-02373-8

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