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however, as indeed the book points out, the right to cultural self-identity has been compromised by accepting the development world-view. Despite decolonization in the political sense – which has led to independent states – and despite decolonization in the economic sense – which has made some countries into economic powers – a decolonization of the imagination has not occurred. Quite the reverse: across the world hopes for the future are fixed on the rich man’s patterns of production and consumption. The longing for greater justice on the part of the South is one reason for the persistence of the development creed – even if, in this century, neither the planet nor the people of the world can any longer afford its predominance.However, it is crucial to distinguish two levels of equity. The first is the idea of relative justice, which looks at the distribution of various assets – such as income, school years or Internet connections – across groups of people or nations. It is comparative in nature, focuses on the relative positions of asset-holders among each other, and points towards some form of equality. The second is the idea of absolute justice, which looks at the availability of fundamental capabilities and freedoms without which an unblemished life would be impossible. It is non-comparative in nature, focuses on basic living conditions, and points to the norm of human dignity. Generally speaking, conflicts about inequality are animated by the first idea, while conflicts about human rights are animated by the second. As it turns out, the demand for relative justice may easily collide with the right to absolute justice. To put it in political terms: the competitive struggle of the global middle classes for a greater share of income and power is often carried out at the expense of the fundamental rights of the poor and powerless. As governments and businesses, urban citizens and rural elites mobilize to forge ahead with development, more often than not the land, the living spaces and the cultural traditions of indigenous peoples, small farmers or the urban poor are put under pressure. Freeways cut through neighbourhoods, high-rise buildings displace traditional housing, dams drive tribal groups from their homelands, trawlers marginalize local fisherfolk, supermarkets undercut small shopkeepers. Economic growth is of a cannibalistic nature; it feeds on both nature and communities, and shifts
xiPREFACEunpaid costs back onto them as well. The shiny side of development is often accompanied by a dark side of displacement and dispossession; this is the reason why economic growth has time and again produced impoverishment next to enrichment. The globally oriented middle classes, although they push for development in the name of greater equality, largely disregard the plight of the poor. No wonder that, in just about all newly industrializing countries, social polarization has been on the rise along with growth rates over the past thirty years.