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The sun set of ‘throw-away’ sociality

The future is brighter than most of us think; at least according to macro-economist Geert Noels. The system adopted by so-called ‘western societies’ for decades has some severe cracks and is obviously not working perfectly. Throwaway products were first conceived following World War II, as a convenience and as a way of creating jobs and sustaining economic growth. The more goods produced and discarded, so the reasoning went, the more jobs there would be. However, we now start to realise there are only a finite number of TV sets, shoes, watches, articles of furniture which can be purchased in a year. Our grandparents used to purchase one top quality item, to enjoy for years instead of buying five which would need to be replaced after a couple months, due to their cheap nature. We are already showing some indications of this gradual revolution in some western society. The breeze of this refreshing change can be already sensed in countries like Denmark, Holland, Norway or Sweden. The Harvard Business Review magazine described this shift as a transition to ‘human economies’. The mature economies of the world evolved from being industrial (where we created things using our hands) to knowledge economies (where we work with our heads). In the ‘human economies’ era we will be using our hearts instead. We will be more creative and passionate about what we do than ever before. This would mean that we work together in more collaborative ways to achieve more ambitious goals. We are going to waste fewer resources and produce something meaningful for others. ‘The human economy is already everywhere.’- says Keith Hart, Centennial Professor of Economic Anthropology in the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics. ’People always insert themselves practically into economic life on their own account. What they do there is often obscured, marginalized or repressed by dominant economic institutions and ideologies. Whenever we speak of “capitalism” or “socialism”, we are referring to just part of what goes on in an economy. But there is a lot more going on and economies are a lot more like each other in practice than polarised ideal types might suggest.’

Perhaps it’s time to finally dispose of the throw-away era.


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