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Sustainable Communities: Structure and Agency

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Hanover G
  • Chair: Kirstin Munro, St. John's University

Macroeconomic Policy in an Environmentally-Constrained Economy: A Dialectical Materialist Application of the Harrod Growth Model

Hendrik Van Den Berg
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Alfredo Rosete
Warren Wilson College


The world has become acutely aware that there are natural environmental limits to economic growth, but macroeconomics still largely ignores nature. Neoclassicals focuse on humans’ ability to innovate and willingness to forego current consumption. New Keynesians and Post Keynesians focus on unemployment and commonly advocate policies to increase aggregate demand and raise the growth rate without regard for actual and potential environmental constraints. The exceptions are Harrod’s (1939) largely forgotten dynamic Keynesian model, which explicitly allows for the direct inclusion of environmental constraints, and several Marxist writers who have extended Marx’s concept of metabolic rift to the present-day conflict between capitalism and the natural environment. In this paper, we explain the continued relevance of Harrod’s model for macroeconomic policy in our environmentally-constrained global economy. Policies to increase economic growth and attain full employment often change the levels and/or the slope of all three growth paths, and we illustrate all of the potential shifts in the three paths in order to distinguish those cases in which actual sustainable economic growth is most likely to occur. Overall, sustainable rapid growth rates are not as likely under environmental constraints, which suggests that policymakers will be challenged to keep unemployment rates down in the future. To better understand these challenges, we extend our analysis beyond the conflicts between the warranted and natural growth paths distinguished by Harrod’s model by following Marx’s materialist dialectic to examine which combinations of technological change, structural change in production, social change, and environmental change are potentially more practical for policymakers to constructively deal with. We conclude with a discussion of the future economic growth under a capitalist system in an environmentally-constrained economic and social system.

Salvation or Commodification? The Role of Money and Markets in Global Ecological Preservation

Ann Davis
Marist College


There are many policy proposal which use the market mechanism to internalize externalities, such as the carbon tax and cap-and-trade. Further, there are green bonds and green stock funds to accumulate capital for green infrastructure investment and new green industries. There is some skepticism, nonetheless, that pricing an environmental pollutant, CO2, or seeking for-profit ventures, will actually improve awareness of climate change and promote rapid economic adjustment to renewable fuels. An alternative approach would eschew the market entirely, and would seek to develop biophysical metrics, and system goals, such as water quality and quantity, eutrophication, land and sea surface temperatures, status of the global ocean currents, melting of ice sheets, net primary production, biodiversity, and climate resilience. Instead of the market as the predominant governance mechanism, such an alternative approach would rely on such global governance institutions as the Paris Climate Accord, the UNIPCC, and NGOs. It would also be possible to enlist the market-oriented global institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO, in incorporating climate indicators into their decision-making mechanisms. It is also possible to adjust accounting rules to a new standard of environmental reporting. Once conceived as a global governance issue, advanced information technology could be recruited to locate key resources, threats, and preservation strategies on a global scale. That is, this paper would address the pros and cons of approaching climate change within a market framework, or whether other approaches are possible, separately or in combination.

The Communitarian Revolutionary Subject: New Forms of Social Transformation

David Barkin
Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM)-Xochimilco


The hope for a unique revolutionary actor that prevailed throughout the XX Century evaporated as a result of the weaknesses of social organizations and the ongoing crises that confront them. In this context, it is essential to identify actors whose visions and abilities might contribute to building new societies with a different balance of power among social and productive forces. The paper examines the potential of an almost forgotten group of revolutionary actors –collectively organized and deliberately involved in processes of social and productive transformation with a legitimate claim to territory– whose present-day activities involve them in concerted processes to consolidate a different constellation of societies on the margins of the global capitalist system.
Indigenous and peasant communities throughout the Americas are self-consciously assembling to restructure their organizations and governance structures, in many cases taking control of territories that that they and/or their ancestors have claimed for generations. A particularly interesting feature of this dynamic is their understanding of the centrality of “surplus”. They are consciously undertaking mechanisms to take control of the production and use of surplus, both that generated in various productive activities they operate and in the mobilization of underutilized resources and peoples’ energies for improving their ability to raise living standards and assure environmental conservation and restoration.
Another important feature of this movement is the degree of coordination and information sharing among the disparate communities. Alliances (regional, national and hemispheric) are emerging and processes for mutual support being perfected to enable them to become more effective in their political organization. They are developing mechanisms that are transforming them into a growing movement offering a model for social and political change firmly anchored in an expanding productive structure.
Kirstin Munro
St. John's University
Scott Carter
University of Tulsa
JEL Classifications
  • Q5 - Environmental Economics
  • P0 - General