Some Suggestions of the Workshop Organizers on the Asked Questions

Some Suggestions of the Workshop Organizers on the Asked Questions

a. Neoclassical economics and the debt issue

Neoclassical economics don’t know debt as societal relation between the debtor and the creditor. Neoclassical economics also don’t know the debt issue as a question of sustainable reproduction of an agent in the society and of the society.

In the best case debt is regarded as money, a commodity, a resource or a service which the debtor has to give the creditor for giving a value in advance. So the interest of economists is less or more orientated on the interest rate.

But the current questions are very easy: Who is why in an economically and socially stronger or weaker position in relation to the other. Who is why able to dictate the other? What does it mean for the development of the society?

It means, we are interested in the societal power relations, hierarchies, interests of actors, production and consumption pattern, production and consumption modes and their influence on the production and reproduction of living conditions – social, societal, ecological – of individual human beings and of the society as a whole.

b. The issue of ecological debt

“Ecological debt is a term used since 1992 by some environmental organizations from the Global south. The first one to use this term was the Instituto de Ecologia Politica from Chile (M.L.Robleto and W. Marcelo, Deuda Ecologica, IEP, Santiago de Chile, 1992). J.M. Borrero, from Colombia, a lawyer, wrote a book on the ecological debt in 1994 (J.M. Borrero, La Deuda Ecologica, FIPMA, Cali 1994). This referred to the environmental liabilities of Northern countries for the excessive per capita production of greenhouse gases, historically and at present. Campaigns on the Ecological Debt were launched since 1997 by Accion Ecologica of Ecuador and Friends of the Earth as documented in[1]

We are interested in the functions and consequences of the existing societal power relations, hierarchies and actors’ interests, of the production and consumption pattern, production and consumption modes on nature, especially on nature as natural living conditions of people – especially of the socially and globally weakest of them. So we have to face the destruction of nature caused above all by industrial countries with capitalist modes of production in the countries of the global South.

The question is, if the debate on ecological debt could promote the organization and mobilization of political forces for as just as solidarity socially and ecologically sustainable development – for changing the economic structures in the industrial countries, for adaption to global warming and fighting social and ecological destruction in poor countries. These economic structures have caused and cause the ecological destruction in the poor countries in a very degree. They are inseparably connected with societal power relations, hierarchies, consumption pattern and modes.

c. The debt issue as a challenge for the political activation of the multitudes of people, for new political alliances and for further research   

There are many actions and activities highlighting the connections between individual and collective social problems as debt, commons and nature[2].

Only one example: “Everywhere in Europe, debt repayment is used by governments as a pretext to impose the biggest social backslash since World War II. Everywhere citizens’ rights and hard-won social benefits are jeopardized.

CADTM suggests alternatives to this unfair and deadly logic. Some have been concretely experimented in Southern countries and are worth being examined, others are being explored and need strengthening, others yet have to be invented. All will require our common endeavour.”[3]

The challenge is to use the debt issue for (further) politicizing thinking and behavior of people, for their organizing. This demands to show the connection between debt, the societal power relations, hierarchies, production and consumption pattern, production and consumption modes and their influence on the production and reproduction of living conditions. In this context the commodification and financialization processes must be analyzed and explained.

The different and partly unifying networks of economists are not doing so or are not doing enough now. This is a challenge what must be regarded and realized in inseparable connection with commons and nature while highlighting the links between concrete movements and initiatives.

d. Values and pluralism in economics, limits of pluralism

Pluralism should not be regarded as the tolerance or acceptance of any position or theory. Some principles must be realized:

–       the universality of human rights

–       the solidarity at first with the socially and ecologically weakest

–       the approach to the social and ecological living conditions of peoples as inseparably interrelated

–       the absolute priority of the survive of human being

–       the wished and promoted dispute among economists, scientists about reality.


Pluralism should be regarded and realized as dispute and common search for reality, possibilities to act and so for new cooperation and political alliances.

e. Conclusions for further research and for academic teaching; conclusions for political education and modern left/modern socialist politics

On the one hand the main challenge is to analyze the commodification and financialization processes of living conditions of people – at first of the socially and globally weakest – and so the danger and conditions for reproduction of the commons. On the other hand the main challenge is to show the links and contradictions of the interests of individuals, people and actors and of their social and political organizations. At the same time a challenge is to highlight the existing, possible and necessary links between movements and initiatives – promoting political work on alliances.

So the working title for our next workshop is “Commons – beyond the Ostroms”.

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