Reform begins in the factory

scores of books have been penned on sustainable development, but David Wallace's study provides a short and critical appraisal of global approaches to sustainable development.

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

The structure of industrialisation lies at the root of sustainability. Without finding new modes of industrial organisation, it would be impossible to bring about a transformation in the structure of industrialisation. The other debates concerning sustainability, like the transfer of clean technology on preferential terms are largely extraneous issues. The monograph succinctly traces the current trends and pressures surrounding industrial organisation.

One of the main arguments proffered by the author is that a new paradigm has emerged in the way firms relate to their use of natural and human resources and the society around them. However, such a transformation cannot occur without the active participation of Multinational Corporations ( mnc s), which embody organisational and technical knowledge. Wallace has not presented mnc s in all their pristine glory but he does feel that they own critical technologies which could promote sustainability. He also believes that developing countries should use their market power to lay down the conditions for mnc investments so as to incorporate sustainable considerations.

Wallace also argues that the Rio summit has failed to advance the dialogue between the North and the South, which has lent credibility to the criticisms hurled by radical greens that the economic model of development followed in the West might not be appropriate for the South. A robust model for North-South co-operation should ideally take cognizance of the following factors:

The historical processes of industrialisation and its contemporary driving forces.

The nature of major shifts in industrial organisation

The relationship between industrial organisation and the rest of the economy and society.

What is disconcerting is Wallace's argument that it is the efforts of the developed world alone, which generate the essential knowledge and insight regarding the issue of sustainability! Also, like other Northern analysts, Wallace does not argue that the main responsibility for sustainable development lies with the power brokers, that is the ruling elite of the developing countries.

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