1Economics and Imbalances

1.1. Capturing power

The founding definition by Brundtland et al. (1987) – “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – emphasizes the idea of a capacity, which is embedded and renewed over time. One of the fundamental questions raised by the concept of sustainable development is the place of the economy in the renewal of this capacity over time.

On its website, INSEE, the French national statistics office, offers another definition of sustainable development, which emerged from the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992: “Economically efficient, socially fair and ecologically sustainable development.” What meaning should be given to this definition? Is sustainable development an adaptation to the margin of economic development? Is it a question of adding social equity and ecological sustainability to the list of criteria that, in the history of thought, came to qualify economic development1? Or is it a question of rethinking development itself?

An animal species develops; we speak of vegetative development for plants; a city can also be considered as being in development, or – in a figurative sense – a social organization, such as a sect. But when the term development is used without a qualifier, it most often refers to economic development.

The epistemology relating to a sustainable development economy needs to be clarified. A possible beginning point is to look at the origins ...

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