The important factor that often gets missed out in this prominent discourse of development is that society is treated as an entity separate from the biosphere, however, the truth is that society is inseparable from the biosphere. It was only in the past few decades that the educational system and scholars around the world have been accommodating aspects of the environment, this was the direct effect of the increasing effect of climate change on humans.
The system that humans are a part of is a capital system that nurtures individualism. The brutal exploitation for profit maximization and increasing individual wealth has led to the complete denial of the scientific fact that society is dependent on nature or elements of the biosphere.
To further elaborate on the cohesion of the society with that of the biosphere Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi along with the Centre for Development Communication and Studies invited Dr Antje Linkenbach as a guest speaker as part of the #WebPolicyTalk, for the running series of The State of Development Discourses – #CohesiveDevelopment on the topic “Cohesive Development in the Anthropocene”. The session took place on the 23rd of August 2021 and this session was moderated by Professor Sunil Ray Former Director, A. N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna; Advisor, CDECS, and IMPRI.
Professor, Sunil Ray opened the discussion by giving his views on the topic at hand. He noted that this topic has only grown prominence since the last decade as the effects of harming nature are finally having repercussions on humans. He then invited Dr Antje Linkenbach to give her presentation.
She began by giving her views on the book Theorizing Cohesive Development: An Alternative Paradigm which for the first time reflected on the concept of cohesive development from an interdisciplinary background.
The cohesiveness between society and nature is underexplored and undefined along with the idea of co-evolution which is closely associated with the definition of cohesive development. Dr Antje’s efforts were to reflect on possible ways to reconceptualising human nature relationships from a socio-anthropological perspective.
The human footprint is a quantitative measure of how many natural resources are used up by humans. According to data, humans have well exceeded the limit of total biocapacity. To describe the most recent period of earth’s history as “Anthropocene”. This term also refers to “Anthropos” or the human species is responsible for the large-scale modification of the earth system.
The current period is also referred to as “Capitalocene”. Capitalocene describes the process which has caused the modifications to the biosphere. It is closely related to European rationalism and capitalism, namely primitive accumulation, distractions, industrialization, and dependency on fossil fuels along with colonial and imperial expansionism and the pursuit for an international economic and political order favoring the global north.
Dr Antje entered the next subtopic of the talk “Hybrid Ontologies – A view from Anthropology”. The most recent ontological turn in anthropology is said to be able to think beyond “human” and consequently revive radical alterity. If one can see alterity as a remarkable difference rather than radical otherness can open a new approach to a world with different epistemologies, forms of knowledge, and interpretation.
Themes under value theory were also covered during this session where Dr Antje distinguishes between instrumental versus non-instrumental value with regard to the philosophy of utility. More radical approaches criticize that by making moral distinctions and erecting moral boundaries value theories reproduce human supremacy and the ethical dualism, they want to overcome. The approach that helps to overcome this divide is ecology and deep feminism.
The other approach would be Nature as a legal subject, another possible way to move away from objectivation and mastery and establish stewardship and care towards nature would be possible by giving subjective rights to natural entities. Multiple countries around the world have granted entities of nature such rights.
The next aspect that was covered was the concept of co-evolution. Co-evolution is derived from the discipline of biology but has entered other disciplines like sociology. Coevolution could be described as a process where subsystems interact with others directly as they co-evolve together and with nature. Co-evolution allows for the transformation of profound human-nature relationships.
In conclusion, Dr Antje noted that cohesive development is a humble concept. Under cohesive development, it views humans as cultural human beings and part of shared humanity equipped with self-conscious intellect and morality and capable to deliberately shape the world in form of the immediate social and natural environment but increasingly on a global dimension.
Prof Ray provided his remarks on the presentation. He was profoundly impacted by the ideas shared by Dr Antje, post which he opened the discussion to the rest of the discussants in the session.
Acknowledgment: Arjun Sujit Varma is a research intern at IMPRI.