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Sustainability 2013, 5(2), 417-431;

Understanding Progress: A Heterodox Approach

Department of Economics, Metropolitan Autonomous University–Xochimilco, Calzada del Hueso 1100, Villa Quietud, Coyoacan, Mexico City, DF 04960, Mexico
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 5 December 2012 / Revised: 15 January 2013 / Accepted: 21 January 2013 / Published: 30 January 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Measuring Socio-Economic Well-Being)
Full-Text   |   PDF [208 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]


This paper examines the possibility of understanding and measuring well-being as a result of “progress” on the basis of today’s dominant epistemological framework. Market criteria distort social values by allowing purchasing power to define priorities, likening luxury goods to basic needs; in the process they reinforce patterns of discrimination against disadvantaged social groups and women, introducing fatal distortions into the analysis. Similarly, because there are no appropriate mechanisms to price natural resources adequately, the market overlooks the consequences of the abuse of natural resources, degrading the quality of life, individually and collectively, or—in the framework of Latin American indigenous groups—foreclosing the possibility of “living well”. We critique the common vision of the official development discourse that places its faith on technological innovations to resolve these problems. The analysis points to the need for new models of social and environmental governance to promote progress, approaches like those suggested in the paper that are inconsistent with public policies currently in place. At present, the social groups forging institutions to assure their own well-being and ecological balance are involved in local processes, often in opposition to the proposals of the political leaders in their countries. View Full-Text
Keywords: progress; sustainability; epistemology; alternatives; autonomy progress; sustainability; epistemology; alternatives; autonomy
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Barkin, D.; Lemus, B. Understanding Progress: A Heterodox Approach. Sustainability 2013, 5, 417-431.

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