Market Economy and Good Living: Obstacles to Its Achievement in Orellana, Ecuador

Market Economy and Good Living: Obstacles to Its Achievement in Orellana, Ecuador

Arturo Luque González, Leonor Karina Guamán, Cristina Raluca Gh. Popescu
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-6750-3.ch003
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There is currently an economic metamorphosis underway that involves myriad (mis)development processes. At the same time, processes of inequality are emerging, imbued with their own historical context. This study evaluated the eco-social program known as Good Living (Buen Vivir, Sumak Kawsay) in Ecuador as a tool for change for the most vulnerable sectors that are intrinsically connected to their culture and customs. The study also examined the parallel processes of inequality and the excessive protection of private interests that favor a new world order driven by the maximization of profit. With this objective, the current state of the processes associated with Good Living in the Ecuadorian province of Orellana was analyzed through interviews with relevant local representatives of institutional life. The results highlight the abandonment of the processes of the solidarity and social economy and the resurgence, both by action and omission, of an extractivist model far removed from the principles of compassion, inclusion, and social participation.
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1. Introduction

The market economy has become an autonomous system in which decisions are remotely directed toward the goal of the maximization of profit within a framework of poorly enforced and tailor-made legislation. This makes it often difficult to know what is being produced (components, origin), under which conditions (job insecurity, social dumping), what the present and future consequences of the production are, and what proportion of the resulting profits are subject to processes of tax avoidance and evasion. This systemic reality, though a relatively recent phenomenon, plays a formative role in contemporary societies, making them more complex (Cesaratto, 2020).

The origins of neoliberal theory are diffuse but generally coalesced in 1947 when, in addition to the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Mont Pelerin Society was created, whose founding members include two outstanding neoliberal theorists, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. The Society provided a forum for discussion of post-war problems. One side advocated the coverage of social rights and the deployment of an inclusive economic model while the other saw the encroachment of the welfare state as a totalitarian threat to market freedom. Ultimately, the latter group succeeded in stripping away greater social coverage to reveal their philosophy of capital, albeit with a friendly face. This new philosophy was to use the family unit as the means to colonize new spaces, establishing a role for women that appeared equal, but in fact remained clearly chauvinist, and drawing on concepts of voluntariness and false empowerment, with religion as a central element of cohesion. This was, in short, the establishment of a new social order tailored to economic interests (Whyte, 2019). The paradigm brought with it corruption, incipient eco-social complexes and the unequal distribution of wealth and power in post-war organizations such as the UN. Once neoliberalism had managed to divest itself of its commitments, there remained two more spaces to secure. First was the protection of investments by minimizing risks through a process of transferal to weak countries or governments eager to attract foreign money. This was carried out through tools of high economic precision, artificial intelligence and legal and economic engineering, such as free trade and investment agreements established through pseudo-tribunals of arbitrage in which a corporation can be both “judge” and attorney at the same time. The second area was the justification of environmental predation through an unsustainable model of life. As Stratford observes, “reining in rentier power is a pre-condition for imposing tough limits on resource use without social damage, and tough limits on resource use and waste emissions are a precondition for reining in rent extraction without environmental damage” (Stratford, 2020). This approach allows new growth alternatives to be promoted on the one hand while economic, social and environmental problems emerge on the other. The constant crises caused by this hegemonic system generate complex situations of impoverishment and exclusion that affect a large proportion of the population, who are unable to satisfy their basic needs, and that impact nature and all its interdependent elements. In fact, there is a systemic relationship between nature and economy on the one hand, and on the other between economy and environmental deterioration (Naredo, 2010; González de Molina, 2014; Haberl et al., 2016; Alier, 2021). The situation is exemplified by the expert panel of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations) composed of 270 scientists from 67 countries, who, after reviewing more than 34,000 research articles, concluded that human-induced global warming compromises “human well-being and planetary health” and that “the scope and magnitude of the impacts are greater than estimated” being immersed in a global process of “unsustainable development”. Some of the damage is already irreversible, such as the loss of certain species (in 47% of the 976 species examined, extinction is associated with the increase in temperature) and much more is bordering on becoming irreversible. The report itself points out that “the global hotspots of high human vulnerability are particularly found in West, Central and East Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, small island developing states and the Arctic” and that such a situation can be quantified: “between 2010 and 2020, human mortality from floods, droughts and storms was 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions, compared to regions with very low vulnerability”. Additionally, climate change drives humanitarian crises and forced displacement contributing to violent conflicts in some countries (IPCC, 2022). According to González and Ramiro (2022),

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Economy: Encompasses a variety of businesses, organizations and different legal entities. They share the objective of systematically putting people first, producing a positive impact on local communities and pursuing a social cause.

Resilience: Transformations within a complex system related to the capacity for self-organization while maintaining internal structure, together with the ability to create adaptive responses, generate knowledge, experience, and learning. Resilience and sustainability are directly related to changes within societies, economies, and the human system as a whole. The transformation of systems is inevitable since it allows systems to strengthen.

Welfare State: A system the state and supranational organizations undertake to protect the health and well-being of its citizens, especially those in financial or social need, by means of grants, pensions, and other benefits.

Cooperative: An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

Public Policy: This refers to decisions and actions that a government takes when addressing public or collective issues.

Sumak Kawsay: Describes a way of doing things that is community-centric, ecologically balanced, and culturally sensitive.

Economic Globalization: This is a phenomenon in expansion that causes profound changes on the world stage. It revolves around trade, the flow of investment, financial capital, division of labor and specialization. The concept is not limited only to economic variables since its effects extend to individuals, society to the state. Developing countries are experiencing stagnation in the face of their inability to cope with globalization, which is compounded by poor management of their financial markets, leading to an increase in the income inequality gap. Economic globalization brings with it the mobilization of goods and capital, reduces distance between borders and energizes international trade with some alterations to sovereignty.

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