This is yet another highly critical piece which, in a series of similar literature, I find eye-opening and ‘jolting’ as described by Dr Olson. In this article which provides a glimpse of her larger project on ‘Expulsions’, Dr Saskia Sassen of Columbia University explains how we have effectively entered the age of advanced capitalism. What’s important is how Sassen employs the term of ‘expulsion’ differently from ‘social exclusion’. She explains how social exclusion means a phenomenon within the system, a phenomenon decided or controlled by participants and as such open to be ‘reduced, ameliorated or even eliminated’. On the contrary, she employs expulsion to show how systems have developed edges in which poorest and most vulnerable of humans are losing their essence even as consumers or workers. People are pushed to the edges and as such they are surplus. She further broadens this scope and application of this idea to suggest that such negative transformations are taking place in the economic, social as well as bio-sphere.
Dr Sassen elaborates on her idea with data on debts of the countries in the Global South. She explains how one phase of capitalism prepares the ground for the next phase and how advanced capitalism thrives on destruction of traditional capitalism with its Kynesian values. On a different level and coming from a different cultural context, I can see the very focus on humans as ‘Human Resource’ can slowly poison the discourse to focus more on ‘huamns as resource’ than ‘humans as humans’. This takes me back to a series of deep conversations I have had over the past couple of months with Professor Bauman who is seemingly frustrated by the industrial trends in which humans are perceiving nature merely as a ‘resource’. In our conversations, Prof Bauman and I have questioned the very idea of ‘growth’ vs ‘sustainability’. Removed from the technical discourse, I struggle with ontology and morality of growth. How long can we keep ‘growing’? Doesn’t growth have a limit? Why is ‘GDP growth’ the holiest terms in modern economy? If the law of preservation of mass is valid, shouldn’t growth comes at the cost of inequality? As such, is it growth-in-a-specific-economic-unit or inequality-of-the-overall-system that we celebrate?
My experience with the development sector has familiarized me with the cliché of ‘sustainable growth’. Apparently, ‘sustainability’ has been acknowledged and endorsed as a heavyweight term earning more credibility to the capitalist discourse but I wonder, like a child who lacks articulation but still has his intuition, how long can the oxymoron of ‘sustainable growth’ survive.