Ethonomics and Development

How ethonomics is relevant to development

Achieving ethical economics in developed countries would yield:

• a better environmental and social impact on the developing world; and

• an improved model for developing countries to aspire to.

The developed world should also seek to exploit the profound socioeconomic and cultural differences between different societies, especially developed and developing. In this way they would be able to further their understanding of how to improve their societies (including how to integrate ethics with economics). They would be able to do this by seeking to understand how different socioeconomic and cultural arrangements impact upon the ability of markets to function ethically.

A simple example of this lies in contrasting:

• the impact of having most of one’s market connections lying within a face-to-face context of a village or other similarly local context; versus

• the modern day, where market connections span the globe.

It is clear that community censorship can function in the first setting but that it struggles in the second. This is the challenge that we need to work with, utilising all the modern tools we now have at our disposal, particularly including the internet and associated technologies.

Origins of work on ethonomics: ‘reverse-development’

Work on ethonomics came from broader (though overall now less developed) work on ‘reverse-development’: exploration and implementation of the things that less developed parts of the world can teach more developed parts.

Ideally such work would sit alongside and complement the development work that is carried out by a great variety of organisations, but with knowledge flowing in the opposite direction from developing to developed.

Thus ‘reverse-development’ aims to move the conversation between developed and developing worlds from something looking essentially like a monologue, to the dialogue that it should be.

The impact of development

The term ‘reverse-development’ arises from a recognition that not all elements of development have been positive for developed countries. This is most noticeably the case in terms of community values and social dysfunction.

‘Reverse-development’ therefore refers either to relearning lost community values and social functionality, or to using the inspiration of those things in developing parts to inspire new solutions compatible with modern settings.

(It is worth noting here that ‘developing’ here is intended to refer more to places that have been relatively untouched by development (such as certain rural communities) than those where development will generally have made a major impact (such as large towns or cities)).

The impact of the one-sidedness of the developed/ developing dialogue

The impact of the tendency towards monologue in the developed/developing worlds conversation is that:

• the developed world often fails to realise that solutions to social and other problems already exist in other ‘less developed’ societies; and

• the developing world may have an inappropriate sense of inferiority.

Perhaps the most fundamental challenge for reverse-development lies in thinking how to replicate in developed societies (particularly in urban areas) the community, vitality and warmth of rural village communities in the developing world all around the globe. (At the same time, though, the harsh physical and economic conditions that such rural communities may be exposed to should not be downplayed.)

Areas of work for reverse-development

Work on reverse-development is necessarily multi-disciplinary in nature. Targeted solutions in specific policy areas must work coherently together in an overarching framework. A key aspiration would be for the concept of reverse-development to gain general recognition, enabling cultural change in developed and developing areas, and promoting integrated research in this area.

Some areas of work are given below. At this stage this is largely comprised of links rather than integrated material and therefore the connection of that material to reverse-development is left to the reader rather than being made explicit here.

In each area there is clear potential for material/inspiration to be gained from developing regions. Linked information and websites may include specific examples from developing regions.

However, in other cases the linked information/websites may identify new solutions (particularly through IT) that can enable developed regions to gain traits (such as community traits) that developing societies currently have to a greater extent. In such cases, the key contribution of developing societies will be in creating aspiration.

Examples of reverse-development work:

• individualism, competition and community in society and the economy; see:

• the rest of this website;

moral economy;

James C. Scott;

The Great Transformation, and

the invisible hand (particularly the comments by Stiglitz and Chomsky));

• lessons from communities in less developed settings

• creating functional communities, including through community layout;

• the relationships between communities and their work; and

• cultural and ethnic make-up of communities.

On these see:

social alienation;

Christopher Alexander;;

defensible space theory;; and

shared space;

• control:

• the impact of loss of control of communities and individuals in communities over things affecting their lives, particularly including the increasing power of the state (see metagovernment and much social science literature);

• the raising of children (the Continuum Concept);

• social security;

• the social impact of transportation;

• perceptions of poverty.

Ethonomics, development, society and God

On a sociological theme, the work of Durkheim emphasised the social context of religion: “God is society, writ large.” Durkheim also believed that “society has to be present within the individual”.

Perhaps it is possible to draw the following from this: one way in which people from developed parts of the world can learn from visiting less developed parts of the world, is simply by experiencing what it feels like to be in a society whose boundaries are much more proximate. In this way:

• in those places where society’s boundaries are much more proximate, God (in this sense) can be seen and felt much more easily;

• by contrast, in the developed world, life is connected to all corners of the earth in such a complex web, tying together the significant strands into a meaningful whole is much more difficult.

In less clinical language perhaps, the challenge of rooting oneself is greater in developed world settings. For a US office worker, for example, to find a frame of reference for him or herself, in the context of the global economic, global political and other complex systems at which he or she is at, or near, the centre, is formidable.

Examples of individuals and institutions learning from the developing world

Of course, there are many great examples of developed world individuals and institutions learning from the developing world or acknowledging strengths there.

The following are just a couple of examples:

The Pope spoke, in October 2009, about “political colonialism that continues to blight Africa”: the export of materialism, which he called “toxic spiritual rubbish”.
• In music Steve Reich (further information here, for example) has used ideas from countries such as Ghana and Bali in his ground-breaking works, as did György Ligeti (African polyrhythms and Gamelan influences). Béla Bartók was one of the founders of ethnomusicology, collecting and studying folk music, and incorporating its influences into his own compositions.

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