Essay: Capitalism, Justice And Sustainability

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  • Subject area(s): Sociology
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  • Published on: 18th June 2012
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Capitalism, Justice And Sustainability

Describe the concepts of sustainability and justice. How are these ideas related?
Sustainability is the cautious and efficient stewardship of resources by its citizens. It is the practice of meeting our natural, cultural and financial needs while respecting the needs of future generations.
Social justice is allocation of advantages and burdens among all members of a community. In essence, it is the attempt to 'even out the playing field' to ensure the greater population of an approximately equal quality of life. Social Justice exists when all people share a common humanity and therefore have a right to equitable treatment, support for their human rights, and fair distribution of community resources. Theoretically, in a socially just and perfect word, no subset part of the population would receive any dramatic benefit or inconvenience (related to health, pollution, political representation, or access to education..etc.) However, this is not the normative.
As such, the principal of sustainability and social justice are closely intertwined and is becoming increasingly clearer that sustainability is an issue of social justice. Sustainable actions attempt to improve the human condition, meet the legitimate development aspirations of all people while they protect, preserve and restore the integrity of the earth's life support systems. Attaining social justice in sustainability requires the distribution of the environmental and economic "goods" and "bads" among the population. Social justice is not only desirable in and of itself, but social inequalities are among the causes of environmental degradation. It is also true that the poor are disproportionately affected by environmental problems. For example, environmental catastrophes disproportionately affect poor people in undeveloped regions, deforestation and desertification make access to resources even more difficult for those already in need at the same time as they create barriers to gender equality, and conflict over quickly disappearing resources is an undeniable cause of violence and war.
Although, I am not advocating for the quentincential social, economic and environmental spheres, because there will inevitably be injustices in this world, it is important to clarify that the presence or absence of a given attribute in a community is not a direct indication of social justice, what matters is whether the attribute is spread equitably over the population.

Part I: Question two
Tainter argues that the process by which complex societies develop is the same process by which complex societies collapse ' but in reverse. Describe how complex societies develop. Then, describe, according to Tainter's theory of collapse, how complex societies collapse.
The premise of Tainter's argument is that social complexity increases when humans set out to solve the problems with which they are confronted. In attempt to overcome these problems, often times societies respond by investing in technical abilities, new institutions, diversifying social, economic, and political roles, as well as increase production and information flows, all of which require energy and resources. This inadvertently tends to create new layers of bureaucracy, infrastructure, or social class to address the challenge. Given problems continually arise, there is tireless pressure for growth in complexity (91). Both historically and today, such problems might include securing enough food, adjusting to demographic, climatic, or other environmental changes, dealing with aggression within or between societies, organizing society, and so on. The social or cultural 'complexity' is what Tainter uses to describe the development in human organization and behavior.
However, we live on a world that has finite resources and limitless growth is not sustainable. Tainter's believes that complexity is subject to diminishing returns, At the center of Tainter's theory lies his idea that social complexity is an economic function that has diminishing marginal returns--which is to say, over time the benefits of complexity diminish and the ongoing costs of maintaining or increasing complexity augment. He argues that complexity is an economic function in the sense that it involves a cost-benefit analysis and when the value of complexity turns negative, the costs of solving a problem will actually be higher than the benefits gained. At this point, further problems will not or cannot be solved, and societies become vulnerable to deterioration or even rapid collapse.
However the big debate is if such complex systems can divest in meaningful ways, or is the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change? In Tainter's view, the tendency of all societies to become more complex, coupled with the diminishing marginal returns on complexity, means that eventually all societies get locked into a process of mandatory growth in complexity that eventually becomes unsupportable. This theory of social complexity implies that all societies have an inbuilt tendency to collapse.

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