Indigenous Approaches to Economic Development and Sustainability


Indigenous Approaches to Economic Development and Sustainability
Lecture/Paper Delivered to the Faculty of Anthropology and
Ethnology, Yunnan University, Kunming, China, July 25, 2009
By James M. Craven/Omahkohkiaaiipooyii
Professor of Economics and Geography, Clark College, Vancouver, WA. USA
Member, Blackfoot Nation

I began my studies of Political Economy over 40 years ago. In my first classes in Economics, in 1965, economic growth (increases in real GDP per person) was considered as either equivalent to economic development (qualitative improvements of the overall quality of life for the average person) or at least the major necessary condition of economic development. There was no notion that economic growth in the short-run, or of a certain nature involving certain types of “goods” and services, or of benefit only to a small group and not everyone, or that involved massive and unaccounted for negative externalities[1] , could potentially harm, not enhance, overall economic development (the overall quality of life faced by the average person).

As for the causes of economic growth, the models I was taught all noted that it takes inputs to produce output, and, that the major inputs were land, labor and capital. Of the major inputs, it was assumed that capital was the most decisive as it was said to be fundamental to augmenting and making operative the potentials, capabilities and productivity of the other inputs land and labor. And “capital” was defined as a physical capital or a “stock” [a fixed quantity in time and space] of “things” that had been produced specifically in order to produce something else for profitable exchange[2] . And finally, since physical capital was defined as the central ingredient of economic growth, which was seen as almost equivalent to economic development, obviously then, the owners and/or controllers of capital, capitalists and managers, were seen as central players or originators of economic growth and development.
When I asked some basic questions in class, I was often given a blank stare by the professors: What capital (machines, tools etc) can think or plan its own use or fix itself when it breaks down? If capital and land make operative and productive the capabilities and potential of labor, why is the reverse also not true—that labor makes operative and productive the capabilities and potential of capital and land? If a given machine is involved in production and productivity, why should the owners or controllers of that machine (who are often themselves deeply in debt and do not really own that machine free and clear) entitled to grossly disproportionate returns (profits) from the sales of what that machine produces relative to what labor (without which nothing could be produced by any machine and nothing produced by the machines could be bought on a mass level) has been paid? Are all commodities produced by economic growth really good for those who demand them and do they really improve rather than sabotage the quality of life for the average person? These were but some of the questions I posed and to which I still await answers from some of the esteemed professors.

Then came the 1970s and I was finishing graduate school and began teaching economics. Someone figured it out that no machine, without skilled labor that is able to effectively utilize all the capabilities of it, and, that is able to fix that machine when it breaks down, and, that has the right work ethic and attitudes, will produce much of anything. So this suggests that experience, skill, training and motivation by labor is a critical ingredient in economic growth. There was also now the suggestion that economic growth and development were not synonymous. But what about the central role of capital and the capitalist in economic growth and economic development? The answer was defintional and with some sleight of hand. Since “capital” is defined as any “thing” that is produced and used to produce something else, well, the skills, experience, education and even work attitudes are all “produced” by an educational system as well as family environment, and, they are used to produce something else, so we can just call all those produced and aquired skills, experience and attitudes of labor, all “human capital”; and so the textbooks now began to discuss “human capital” (not labor or skilled labor that had to make the conscious decision and effort to acquire or not acquire, and apply or not apply, those skills) as another critical “factor” in economic growth which was said to be a critical factor (a necessary if not sufficient condition) in overall economic development. The 1970s and 80s passed, as did my years of teaching Economics and other subjects, and then in the late 1980s the textbooks added something new again. Even if you have potentially productive machines and tools (physical capital), and even if you have highly skilled, experienced and motivated workers who know how to get the best out of those machines (human capital), what if those workers have no hope in the future and no reason to be motivated?; what if the workers feel they are being exploited by the system and those who run it?; what if the workers or the capitalists no longer accept the dominant values, beleifs, traditions and myths of the system that cause them to invest, save, get an education, take risks etc? That led to the concept of “social capital”[still barely mentioned in the texts] that refers to institutions that foster trust, hope, cohesion, cooperation, belief in the system, reciprocity, etc and cause people to sacrifice in the present for a possible future, take risks, save, invest and do all those activities critical to economic growth and development.

The term social capital was first coined in 1916 by L. Judson Hanifan[3] to refer to social networks and institutions/norms of reciprocity (goodwill, fellowship, sympathy and social intercourse) associated with them. Hanifan, by his own admission, employed the term “capital” (anything that has been produced and used to produce—for profitable exchange—something else) to catch the eye–and patronage–of the business community. Hanifan suggested that these social networks and institutions could, on micro as well as macro levels, enhance productivity, competitiveness, employment and income creation, etc. in some of the same ways that physical capital and human capital can, also, produce the same effects.

Subsequent to Hanifan’s apparent introduction of the term social capital, the term and concept was reintroduced—and partly redefined—at least six times up to the present:

1) in the 1950s by sociologist John Seeley[4] to refer to ‘memberships in clubs and associations’ that act just like negotiable securities in producing career advancement and tangible returns to individuals;

2) In the 1960s, by urban economist Jane Jacobs[5] to refer to the collective value and effects of informal neighborhood ties and associations;
3) in the 1970s by economist Glenn Loury[6] to refer to wider social ties lost by African Americans as one of the legacies of slavery;
4) In the 1980s by social theorist Pierre Bourdieu[7] to refer to the actual or potential resources linked to durable networks of institutionalized relationships of mutual recognition and assistance;
5) In the mid-1980s by economist Ekkehart Schlicht[8] to refer to the economic value and productivity-enhancing effects of organizations, moral order, cooperation and cohesion;
6) in the late 1980s by James Coleman to refer, as Hanifan[9] had done, to the social arrangements, relationships and institutions creating and shaping the environment or social contexts of education.
The above-mentioned definitions of social capital are all closely related and narrow in their focus. They focus on immediate relationships—institutionalized or informal—and the networks, and norms of reciprocity that serve as tangible assets and have economic impacts not only on the micro level (personal career advancement, obtaining employment, political influence, personal safety etc) but also on the macro level in terms of enhancing productivity, reducing information and transactions costs, enhancing competitiveness, enhancing community safety and reducing crime, encouraging cooperation, limiting destructive forms/levels of competition. These definitions of social capital are designed to rescue neoclassical economics from the internal contradictions of methodological individualism in that they show how supposedly atomistic and individualistic utility and profit maximizing individuals might be acting cooperatively and obeying social norms and laws, appearing to be socially aware and consciousness individuals, while all the while, only appearing to be social, in order to maximize and attain individual utility and profitability imperatives and goals. It was in this area that John Walsh got the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in Game Theory showing how apparent social cooperation and social consciousness “versus” individual atomistic utility and profit maximization behaviors and activities might not be contradictory.

Again the focus is on a new form of “capital” as a central ingredient in economic growth and development. In Indigenous societies, social harmony, mutual respect, cooperation, respect for law as well as law worthy of respect, absence of alienation, social cohesion, are all considered essential for collective survival, economic growth and economic development. Reciprocity is considered a virtue on its own and not, as an instrument for or of, personal gain or maximization of individualism and individualistic preferences.

So the Eurocentric and capitalist-based models of economic growth gradually incorporated and refined five Basic ingredients to economic growth[10] but said little about the concept of sustainability:

1) Capital Accumulation;
2) Available Resources;
3) Growth Compatible Institutions (Markets, Property Rights, Monetary Systems, Government Policies and “Proper” Roles of Government);
4) Technology;
5) Entrepreneurship

These Eurocentric and capitalist models of economic growth and development basically set up a tautology or circular argument. By defining the goals of economic growth and development as equivalent with those values and goals most common to capitalism (materialism, conspicuous consumption of expanding volumes of goods and services, etc.), by measuring economic growth and development in narrow monetized terms (real GDP per capita with no comment on the types of goods and services making up that GDP or on the social costs of producing and distributing them) and by making, as key ingredients to growth and development, those inputs that are central to capitalism as a system (monetary system, private property rights, markets, profit incentives), we wind up with a virtual tautological equivalence[11] between capitalism and economic growth and development.

So a society that produces, on the average or per capita (without any allowances for the fact that the de-jure or on paper statistical average per capita may well not represent the typical de-facto situation for the average person due to outliers and de facto asymmetric distributions of incomes, wealth and goods and services) more goods and services, even if those goods and services have corrupting influences as in the case of drugs, pornography, alcohol, tobacco etc, and even if producing those goods and services involves waste of non-renewable resources and massive negative externalities, such a society is said to be experiencing and promoting both economic growth and development according to the Eurocentric and capitalist-based models of growth and development. And this system is seen as a kind of perpetual motion machine with little or no friction: new spending creates new incomes which create new spending creating new incomes (multiplier effects); new incomes and consumption spending create new jobs, tax revenues, savings leading to new investment spending (multiplier and accelerator effects) leading to even more incomes and multiplier effects etc.; the so-called “Virtuous Upward Spiral”.

This is but one example of one of the new growth theories:

From: Parkin, Michael, Macroeconomics 7th Edition, Pearson, Addison-Wesley, Instructor’s Resource Disk, Chapter 7, Reprinted Under Fair Use Doctrine for Educational and Scholarly Exchange purposes only.)

Now here are some other models that illustrate the typical Indigenous views of survival, development (seen to be about more than economics) and sustainability that differ markedly from those typical of Western, Eurocentric and in particular capitalist economies. The economy is seen as an inseparable part of the total society. Present-day activities are always with the Seventh future generation and sustainability in mind. Spirituality is seen as a key ingredient in both social stability and development. The types of goods and services and their impacts and implications on the survival of the culture, along with the true costs of producing and distributing them are considered critical factors in the basic decisions of What, How and For Whom to produce and distribute the means of subsistence.
Core Values
Western(Capitalist) vs. Indigenous[12]
Competition vs. Harmony
Materialism vs. Prudence
Acquisition vs. Reciprocity
Accumulation vs. Distribution
Ownership vs. Kinship
Growth vs. Sustainability
Immediacy vs. Caring for Future Generations
These core values of course do not represent the values of all members of each group held and practiced respectively, but are meant to represent and convey fair generalizations of some of the different traditions and core values celebrated in the literature and traditions of the respective systems and cultures—Eurocentric and capitalist vs. Indigenous and communalist—that are typically presented and advocated by their advocates and adherents. It is very clear from the internal documents of the U.S. and Canadian Governments, as well as from the internal documents, diaries and memoirs of the missionaries and “Indian Agents”, that the core and defining values, institutions, practices, priorities, relationships and other dimensions of the culture of Indigenous nations, were not simply regarded and dismissed as “inferior” or backward; rather, they were first and foremost regarded as direct challenges (without any evangelical intentions by Indigenous Peoples to do so) to the core values, practices, relations, theologies and institutions—cultures—of capitalism and those of the settlers. Just as some capitalist nations have regarded the mere existence of socialism and socialist values as an existential threat, without any alleged overt or covert acts of aggression by socialist social formations like China, so Indigenous cultures and systems, with definite communalist and non-capitalist practices and values, were regarded as existential threats and banned. Even many Indigenous prayers, with communalist values, were seen as a threat to cultures—and interests—built on capitalism. Here are but two of many examples from the archives of the Department of Indian Affairs in Canada and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the U.S. that show the real nature and intentions of their policies. For example, in many traditional societies, there is the sacred practice of “Potlatch” or “Give Aways” (Blackfoot) in which prized personal possessions are given away; they are not, by the way forms of “gambling” or “lotteries”. These ceremonies are designed to teach: the transient nature of all material possessions; not to become a slave to personal possessions; community spirit; compassion and that happiness of others is more important than individualistic and selfish desires and possessions. These traditional values are decidedly not consistent with market-based economies that are commonly based upon—often celebrated in elements of their social capital—greed, selfishness, ultra-individualism, competition, materialism, acquisitiveness, competition, narcissism and the logic of profits-for-power-and-power-for-profits. That the conflicting core values, relationships and institutions of traditional Indigenous societies were in direct conflict with—and seen not co-exist with—those of market-based societies was seen early on in U.S. and Canadian histories. For example:
Office of Indian Affairs-Washington
Supplement to Circular No. 1665 February 14, 1923
Indian Dancing

To Superintendents:

At a conference in October, 1922, of the missionaries of the several religious denominations represented in the Sioux country, the following recommendations were adopted and have been courteously submitted to this office:
1. That the Indian form of gambling[sic] and lottery[sic] known as the “ituranpi” (translated “Give Away”) be prohibited.
2. That the Indian dances be limited to one in each month in the daylight hours of one day in the midweek, and at one center in each district; the months of March and April, June, July, and August be excepted.
3. That none take part in the dances or be present who are under 50 years of age.
4. That a careful propaganda be undertaken to educate public opinion against the dance and to provide a healthy substitute.
5. That there be close cooperation between the Government employees and the missionaries in those matters which affect the moral welfare of Indians.
…After a conscientious study of the dance situation in his jurisdiction, the efforts of every superintendent must persistently encourage and emphasize the Indian’s attention to these political, useful, thrifty, and orderly activities that are indispensable to his well-being and that underlie the preservation of his race in the midst of complex and highly competitive conditions.
The instinct of individual enterprise and devotion to the posterity and elevation of family life should in some way be made paramount in every Indian household to the exclusion of idleness, waste of time at frequent gatherings of whatever nature, and the neglect of physical resources upon which depend food, clothings[sic] , shelter, and the very beginnings of progress. [13]
“It is readily acknowledged that Indian children lose their natural resistance to illness by habitating[sic] so closely in these schools, and that they die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is geared towards the FINAL SOLUTION OF OUR INDIAN PROBLEM.” [14]

And it is more than irony that the term “Final Solution of ‘our’ the Indian Problem” in the DIA memo of D.C. Scott is the exactly language used by the Nazis as in “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem”. The Alberta Sterilization Act of 1928[15], and the Eugenics Laws of 27 states of the U.S. were specifically cited by the German Nazis as the direct “inspirations” for their own 1933 Race Hygiene Law and 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws.”[16] According to John Toland, biographer of Adolf Hitler:
Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa And for the Indians in the Wild West; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination-by starvation and uneven combat-of the ‘Red Savages’ who could not be tamed by captivity.[17]
And from an internal document of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs:
“Set the blood-quantum at one-quarter, hold to it as a rigid definition of Indians, let intermarriage proceed, and eventually Indians will be defined out of existence. When that happens, the federal government will finally be freed from its persistent Indian problem.”[18]
Thus it has been made clear by the U.S. and Canadian governments that Indigenous institutions, values and practices, Indigenous cultures and systems, are considered not only as “existential threats” to their own orders, institutions and values, but are considered fundamentally inconsistent with what they define as economic growth and development and the fundamental conditions and ingredients necessary for economic growth and overall development.
Now let’s explore the model of Indigenous development and sustainability given below. The first thing that must be noticed is the four points of the model that correspond with the four primary directions of the compass: North, or Control of Assets; East, or Spirituality; South, or Kinship; and West, or Personal Efficacy. These imperatives are considered fundamental to overall development and sustainability in Indigenous terms.

(click on picture to enlarge)

Why are these four[19] core values and imperatives considered fundamental to development and sustainability in Indigenous terms? There is an old saying that sums it up: “It is better to know where to go and not know how, than to know how to go and not know where.” Technology, “Capital” even “land” and “Labor”, are part of the how to go and not where to go. Without Sovereignty and Control of Assets and critical resources, without Vision informed by Spirituality[20] , without Kinship and healthy families and Clans and Bands, without Personal Efficacy (health and viability) of individuals, no nation, especially one surrounded by hostile forces that consider its mere existence a “threat” of some sort, will grow, develop or even survive and be sustained. This is no different for China than it is for any Indigenous society and vice-versa. Since its inception in 1949, the People’s Republic of China, with its own sovereign and socialist institutions and roads to growth, development and sustainability with Chinese characteristics, has been: encircled; threatened with nuclear annihilation; attacked internally by secessionist and separatist forces acting as proxies for foreign powers; hit with repeated embargos and denials of critical technologies and goods and services; slandered, demonized and isolated among the community of nations . [21]

Social systems engineering, to which all Indigenous nations, along with socialist nations like China have been subject, involves putting targeted nations under such siege from external and internal pressures that have been manufactured and/or exacerbated, that the targeted nation winds up in a straight jacket, forced to divert precious scarce resources into defense and away from development and sustainability, that the targeted nation appears to “conform”, and thus the “proof” has been engineered, of the caricatures that have been made of that targeted nation: “backward”; “repressive”; “inefficient”; “undemocratic”; “stagnant”[22] etc. But in a fair fight, or peaceful competition between systems, socialism beats capitalism any day, even in terms of capitalism’s own definitions and measurements of “efficiency”, just as traditional Indigenous societies beat modern-day assimilated BIA-DIA controlled and capitalist influenced Indigenous societies, in terms of all the requisite ingredients to development and sustainability shown in the traditional Indigenous model of development and sustainability, any day. That is why they were put under siege with their core institutions and values slandered, demonized and marginalized historically and in the present: in a fair and peaceful competition between systems, socialism beats capitalism, as Traditional ways are far superior, even in terms of levels of science and technology, than what has become of Indigenous societies in North America and elsewhere under capitalism and “modernity.” [23]

This is why I have urged young Chinese students who ask me about getting to go to school in the West to consider that they have some very fine teachers and schools in China and I have urged them, as a foreigner, not to worship things foreign. I have given the metaphor that if I were given a basic test of Economics in Mandarin, which I do not read, write or speak, it would appear that I know nothing of economics even though I have taught it over thirty years. This is only because I have been given a test and criteria of “success” that were designed and intended for me to fail and thus my “failure” and “proof” of my lack of knowledge of economics were “engineered” by those with the power to do so. The same holds for Indigenous societies put under siege by colonial and imperial powers to engineer the “proof” of their supposed “backwardness”, “stagnation” lack of “civilization”, etc; and thus my advice to Indigenous students, who seek capitalist “civilization” and “progress” away from Traditional Ways, is the same as my advice to Chinese students seeking supposed “advanced education” in the West: perhaps take a good look at, and then appreciate, what you have right in front of you.

Notice in the Indigenous model of development and sustainability the focus is not on conquering or subduing nature but in working in harmony with nature. In Indigenous terms there is no such thing as Humankind versus Nature or the Environment as whenever humankind works against, or tries to conquer, the forces of that of which humankind is an integral part—“Nature”—then “Nature” is destined to win the battle as is evidenced by present-day global climate change and a whole host of threats to the planet that come from capitalist greed, myopia and disrespect for that—environment—of which humankind is an integral part of a delicate web of life froms and matter. Notice also that “Hope”, “Future Orientation”, “Cultural Integrity”, “Social Respect” and “Civic Participation”, all the elements of the overall construct of “social capital” to which modern-day Economics is only beginning to mention as critical to growth and devleopment, has been a part of Traditional Indigenous thinking for thousands of years. Notice in the Indigenous model, the focus on Health and Safety, on Vibrant Initiatives, and on individuals taking “Personal Responsibility” for the “Consequences” of their actions, in addition to “Incomes” (how they are earned and used), “Productivity” and “Trade” as critical to development and sustainability. The Indigenous model includes, holistically, factors that are clearly critical to development and sustainability and yet are nowhere to be found and/or are only newly-emerging, in the Western and capitalist-based models of growth, development and sustainability.

Here is another Indigenous model of development and sustainability that manifests the some of same concepts and constructs:

(Source: Sustainomics and Sustainable Development—adapted from Munasinghe 1992, 1994 Reprinted under Fair Use for Educational and Academic Exchange Purposes Only)

The warning against abuse of Nature and all that humankind is an integral part of has come from Indigenous Peoples over many years. Chief Sealth, of the Dwamish and Suquamish nations gave the following warning to U.S. President Franklin Pierce in 1855:
” The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. How can you buy or sell the sky–the warmth of the land. The idea is strange to us. Yet we do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us. Every part of this earth is sacred to my people.

We know that the White Man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother but his enemy, and when he has conquered it he moves on. He leaves his father’s graves and his children’s birthright is forgotten.
There is no quiet place in the White Man’s cities. No place to hear the leaves of spring or the rustle of insect wings. But perhaps because I am savage and do not understand–the clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man[sic] cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of a frog around the pond at night.
The Whites too, shall pass–perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses tamed the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket. Gone. Where is the eagle. Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift and the hunt. The end of living and the beginning of survival. ” [24]
Chief Sealth 1855
I once gave a lecture at Tsinghua University entitled Socialism versus Capitalism: Which Will Win? I answered the central question of the lecture that I do not know which will win; but I do know which must win for the planet and humankind to survive: Socialism (and some Traditional Indigenous values that closely parallel socialist values). Capitalism, simply, has destroyed and will destroy this planet.
[1] Externalities are costs or benefits that accrue to society as a result of private or public transactions and activities by individuals or entities within that society. Environmental destruction, social alienation, citizen cynicism and distrust are all examples of negative externalities with social costs, that result and “spillover” on society from private or public activities. Externalities can also be positive such as the health benefits on many people from use of a public park or perhaps a private gymnasium. In “mainstream” neoclassical economic theory, without the very government intervention that they neoclassical economists often decry, there is a tendency for unregulated markets, coupled with greed and competitive imperatives, to cause less than all the true (private plus social) costs to be assessed and paid by those causing them and less than the true benefits (private plus social) to be assessed and paid by those receiving them. Thus unregulated markets tend to over-production and under-pricing when negative externalities are present, and under-production and under-pricing when positive externalities are present.
[2] Capital is usually defined as any “thing” that has been produced specifically in order to produce something else. But capital is also a social relation in the sense that under capitalism and private property, those who own and/or control capital are, by virtue of their ownership and control, able to hire and fire and make basic decisions about the use or non-use, employment or non-employment of that capital while those who labor, who have nothing to sell but their labor power or capacity to work, are, by virtue of their lack of ownership and/or control of capital, the ones who are the hired and fired and the ones whose ability to sell their labor power is dependent upon the decisions of those who own and/or control the capital. Capital stands in relation to and is defined by Labor and vice-versa.
[3] Hanifan, Lyda Judson, “The Rural School Community Center”, Annals of the American Academy of Political Science, 67 (1916): pp. 130-138. Note: An excellent overview of the development of the concept of social capital, for which I am indebted, can be found in: Putnam, Robert D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Simon and Schuster, N.Y. 2000 and also in Putnam, Robert D (ed), Democracies in Flux: The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society, Oxford University Press, N.Y. 2002

[4] Seeley, John R, Sim, Alexander and Loosley, Elizabeth; Crestwood Heights: A Study of the Culture of Suburban Life, Basic Books, N.Y. 1956

[5] Jacobs, Jane, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Random House, N.Y. 1961
[6] Loury, Glenn, “A Dynamic Theory of Racial Income Differences” in Women, Minorities and Employment Discrimination, Wallace, P.A. and LeMund, A (eds), Lexington Books, Lexington Mass. 1977
[7] Bourdieu, Pierre, “Forms of Capital” in Handbook of Theory and Research for The Sociology of Education Richardson, John (Ed), Greenwood Books, N.Y. 1983

[8] Schlicht, Ekkehart, “Cognitive Dissonance in Economics” in Normengeleitetes Verhalten in den Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker and Humblot, Berlin, 1984

[9] Coleman, James, “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital” in American Journal of Sociology, 94 (1988)
[1o] See Colander, David, Economics 7th Edition, Power point slide 24-15, McGraw-Hill, N.Y. 2006; quote of Edward Denison who saw U.S. economic growth 1928-2005 as a function of 4 basic sources: Physical Capital 19%; Human Capital 13%; Labor 33% and Technology 35%
[11] A Tautology is a circular argument or definition. Examples include “Science is what scientists do and scientists are those who do science.” Or, science is that which builds upon a foundation of what was generally regarded by a community of scientists as science.” Here by defining as economic growth and development what is in essence central to capitalism and its survival (conspicuous consumption of ever expanding material goods and services per capita) and by defining as essential to achieving economic growth and development that which is defining in capitalism (production of commodities by means of commodities, markets, property rights, wage labor) we wind up with a tautology that capitalism = economic growth and development and/or only capitalism can best and most efficiently promote and achieve economic growth and development.
[12] Adapted from Seib, Rebecca, “Culturally Appropriate Community Economic Development: Aboriginal Land Development Conference”, June 22-25, 2004, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan under Fair Use Doctrine.
[13] Long Standing Bear Chief, “Ni Kso Ko Wa: Blackfoot Traditions and Spirituality” pp. 8-9, Spirit Talk Press, Browning, Montana, 1992

[14] Department of Indian Affairs, Superintendent D.C. Scott to B.C. Indian Agent-General Major D. McKay, DIA Archives, RG-10 series, April 12, 1910 (emphasis added)
[15] The 1948 UN Convention on Genocide, to which Canada became a signatory in 1953 and to which the U.S. still remains not a full signatory because of the Hatch, Helms and Lugar “Sovereignty Amendment of 1988, in Article II defines a five-part test, any one of which, not all required to constitutes genocide: a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting upon a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures designed to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of one group to another group.

[16] Black, Edwin, “War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race” Thunder’s Mouth Press N.Y. 2003; Alberta Sterilization Victims Also Used as Guinea Pigs Revelation Comes as 40 victims win $4M settlement; Marina Jimenez National Post 10/28/98

[17] Toland, John, “Adolf Hitler”, Vol II, p. 802, Doubleday and Co. N.Y. 1976

[18] Limerick, Patricia Nelson, “The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of American West” WW. Norton and Co. N.Y. 1987 p. 338
[19] In most Indigenous cultures, the number four is not merely a quantity or cardinal magnitude, without quality or force as in many Eurocentric cultures (four of what?); it has its own power, symbolism and force giving it quality in addition to quantity. The number four stands for: the four principle directions of the compass (North, South, East and West); the four principle colors of the human family (Black White Red and Yellow); the four forms of balance that all humans must seek to survive and prosper (Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual); the four basic elements of Nature (Wind, Fire, Earth and Water). In this model, there are four basic dimensions of development and sustainability that illustrate the dialectical unity of the macro and the micro levels of existence: control of assets and kinship (macro) and personal efficacy and spirituality (micro).

[20] In most Indigenous cultures, “Spirituality” (more an individual matter) is differentiated from religion which is about organized dogma and rituals shared by a community of the religious. “Spirituality” means being guided by the “spirit” of something transcendent and beyond oneself. When indigenous people refer to “spirit” they are referring to the potential energy (as specified in the four laws of thermodynamics) embodied in all things and thus one reason why Indigenous peoples do not differentiate “animate” and “inanimate” aspects of the cosmos.

[21] The so-called Republic of China or Taiwan is currently only recognized by 23 nation states including the Vatican, as the supposed “legitimate government” of all of China whereas up until the 1970s, the reality and legitimacy of the People’s Republic of China as the sole and legitimate government of all of China was denied except by a handful of nations yet the objective reality of and international law supporting, the PRC as the sole and legitimate representative of the whole nation of China was never in question by any honest and thinking person or government.
[22] For example: “I don’ t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” (Henry Kissinger); “Not a nut or bolt shall reach Chile under Allende. Once Allende comes to power we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and all Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty.” (Edward M. Korry, U.S. Ambassador to Chile, upon hearing of Allende”s election) “Make the economy scream [in Chile to] prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him”(Richard Nixon, orders to CIA director Richard Helms on September 15, 1970) “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup. It would be much preferable to have this transpire prior to 24 October but efforts in this regard will continue vigorously beyond this date. We are to continue to generate maximum pressure toward this end, utilizing every appropriate resource. It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG and American hand be well hidden…” (A communiqué to the CIA base in Chile, issued on October 16, 1970.) Also quoted in :Neoclassical Economics and Neo-liberalism as Neo-Imperialism” by James Craven/Omahkohkiaayo I’poyi, Lecture to Academy of Marxism of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, August 11, 2009, Beijing, China.

[23] See: Weatherford, Jack, “Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America”, Fawcett Columbine, N.Y. 1991;”Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World 1988; “Savages and Civilization: Who Will Survive?” 1994. Peat, F. David “Blackfoot Physics”, Weiser Books, Boston, 2002 pp 191, 193-96, 216
[24] This was based on a translation of a speech by Chief Sealth from Suquamish into Chinook jargon and then into English. Its authenticity has been questioned and that of Chief Sealth only on the basis that he sounded “too articulate” to be the real author and that “thus” it “must have been” written by a screenwriter.

Responses to Questions on the First Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street

James Craven and Xinning Zhang
World Review of Political Economy
Vol. 3, No. 4 (Winter 2012), pp. 501-526
Published by: Pluto Journals
Article Stable URL:



Responses to Questions on the First Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street

Craven, James, Zhang, Xinning, World Review of Political Economy

Note: Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has been the first large-scale, ideologically diverse and spreading protests since the 1970s in the US. On September 17, 2012, protesters assembled near the New York Stock Exchange to commemorate the first anniversary of OWS. In the meantime, marches and rallies were held in more than 30 cities worldwide. Demonstrators protested social injustice ignited by insatiable corporate greed of banks and financial institutions like Wall Street and the protesters are still angry over issues such as that their homes are underwater, that the economy is in disarray due to the ineffective supervision of the American government. To view OWS in a clearer and deeper sense, Xinning Zhang interviewed Prof. James Craven at Clark College, Vancouver.

On Developments of the OWS over the Past One Year

Xinning Zhang: Dear Prof. James Craven, thanks for your responses to my questions on the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. As we see it, since it began on September 17, 2011, OWS has been viewed as an anti-capitalist protest; or as a broad-front and leftist protest, targeting the likes of the American Tea Party. Parallels are sometimes given with other movements in terms of demonstrations organized by mostly young people, with advanced social networking technology, to show their dissatisfaction on a wide range of issues such as those raised in the so-called “Arab Spring” demonstrations or in the protests against high unemployment in Madrid. Participants typically range from the unemployed, college students, babysitters, nurses, bus drivers, to general employees, etc. Political paradigms range from liberals, middle-of-the-roaders, socialists and some types of conservatives, to anarchists and libertarians. How can we understand the various claims, paradigms as well as forms and levels of participation of the diverse protesters?

James Craven: First of all I still see no evidence of a real “Movement”-yet- only a “Moment”; or, perhaps, several “Moments,” linked mostly by a common label across the country, with some demonstrations on symbolic dates mostly of significance to commemorate previous actions and/or that have mostly been conferred as “significant” by the “mainstream media” [“MSM”]. And I do not see strong parallels yet between the OWS “Movement” and the “Arab Spring” demonstrations or demonstrators on several levels. I do not believe that many of those in OWS could or would be capable of facing the levels of violence and state repression that those in the “Arab Spring” demonstrations have faced. In places like Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and other places the level of state violence and repression are far beyond anything the typical OWS protester has ever faced.

Many of the “Arab Spring” demonstrations are focused against regimes that were installed, supported, protected by US imperialism; regimes that, by the way, were once trusted to act as destinations for accused “terrorists” under “Extraordinary Rendition” by the CIA. They were chosen for outsourcing torture forbidden by US law while also being targeted in some cases for “regime change” [as alleged regimes (e.g., Libya and Syria) that routinely carry out torture they were sent prisoners by the US government (USG) to do what the USG claimed was a reason for wanting regime change-torture]. Yet many of those involved in regime change among the “Arab Spring” protesters and insurgents are still begging the same forces of U.S. imperialism for support, appealing to “American-style democracy” and “human rights” that were behind installing and/or protecting and collaborating with the very regimes they want to change. And the demonstrators involved in the “Arab Spring” demonstrations, among whom Al Qaeda elements are surfacing and taking control, are not “pro-democracy,” pluralists, or whatever; many are not expressing anti-capitalist or even anti-imperialist sentiments or demands so much as for simple regime change and “reform” to some system as yet unspecified in any detail.

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Prof. James Craven’s Views

Zhang Xinning ( PhD Candidate of CASS):
Most people think that distorted financial institutions, disparity between the poor and the rich, together with the high unemployment rate in the US, are the main causes of the resistance. Do you agree with them? What do you think has led to “Occupy Wall Street?”

James Craven( Tenured Professor from Economics Department of Clark College): I have been going to the demonstrations and talking at length with people from the various segments represented (Gays; Greens; Anarchists; Union representatives; Unemployed; Students; Feminists; Democrats; Green Party; Homeless; various shades of “Left”; Radical Academics; Hippies; etc).  Although wealth and income inequality of the U.S. (Gini coefficient same as China overall at 0.5) is the highest of any “developed” capitalist economy, most of the people in the street were not mentioning or protesting this two years ago. Most did/do not know the numbers or theories behind the inequalities of wealth and income; nor do they know the full implications even in bourgeois theory; but they are reacting at the “meme” (thought virus) level. That is progress in terms of moving from reform of capitalism to wanting to see the end of capitalism and imperialism; but right now there is more of a carnival atmosphere than a climate of unified understanding of and struggle against, capitalism here and US Imperialism abroad and here.

Zhang Xinning:The “Occupy Wall Street” movement seems leaderless, without focused demand. Whom do you think will take the lead of the movement with the spreading of the protest? Will there be a common political aim?

James Craven: Bourgeois culture is by necessity (to create and expand markets and expanded reproduction of capitalism as a system) one of ultra-individualism, greed, selfishness, competition, envy, narcissism, triumphalism, braggadocio, predation and other evils. The people on the “Left” may think they are special and untainted by the bourgeois culture in which they were also raised, but just as a fish in polluted waters will always absorb some toxins in its tissue, so many of the “Left” are infected with the same bourgeois or petty-bourgeois mentalities they decry. There is so much “single issue-ism” and MY cause is paramount for special notice and concern. That is why my sign that I carry in the demonstrations says: “Liberty [does not equal]”Equal Opportunity to Become an “Oppressor”; Oppose U.S. Imperialism In “Our” Name; (covers all pet issues)”. We have in addition to a kind of carnival atmosphere, where the protesters are being so sweet and nice to the police and providing all sorts of nice photos for them to use, they are pushing for particular pet causes (Gay Rights, Environmentalism; Feminism; Tax the Rich; Reform Capitalism; Forgive all student Debt; More Jobs; etc) and you are correct that no real leadership, except what the bourgeois media selects and appoints as “Leaders”of “the movement”[when there are many and some contradicting the others under one umbrella]. So a lot of what is going on is indeed leaderless, mostly reaction to individual situations with individual and rather uncoordinated protests, and lacking in focus, direction, tactics, strategy, knowledge and experience in mass work and building united fronts against Imperialism and proto-fascism.

Zhang Xinning: The basic contradiction of capitalism is the contradiction between the expanded reproduction and individualism. Do you think that the current financial crisis and the Occupy Wall Street movement have intensified such contradiction?

James Craven: One of the central contradictions of capitalism is the contradiction between the forms of consciousness and basic values necessary for the expanded reproduction of capitalism (petty bourgeois ultra-individualism, selfishness, greed, need for some form of immortality, crude materialism etc) on the one hand, versus, the increasing socialization and integration of the productive forces of capitalism and the need for some social cohesion and integration on the other hand. The result of this on the “Left” in America and Canada is a form of “single-issueism” (Me. ME. ME, MY cause is paramount) that produces the reality of fragmentation and division of movements that may unite in action on a broad range of common interests, but not see that these “single-issues” ( environment, homosexual rights, increased taxes on the rich, rural development, union busting, anti-Iraq and Afghanistan illegal wars, feminism,, globalization etc) all flow from one central source: the fundamental nature, contradictions, dynamics, “logic”, imperatives, trajectories, impacts and power structures of di guo zhu yi. According to the secret “Plutonomy Report” from Citibank, the ultra-rich are worried about the fact that in a one-person-one vote system, the top 1% may have most of the wealth and a good chunk of total income, but they do not have 99% of the potential votes and thus they fear these kinds of reactions as they openly celebrate plutocracy which is inherently anti-democratic no matter anyone’s definition of “democracy”. So these demonstrations are important in consciousness raising; and they expose more and more people to the notion that capitalism and imperialism are the number one sources of terrorism today and the main threats to the survival of the whole human race. But they need to take more steps and learn more lessons to arrive at higher stages of consciousness than they presently demonstrate (like demonstrating for more “optimum” arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic). I’ve been living under “mei di guo zhu yi” as an American Indian for 65 years, studying it and struggling against it for over 40 years, and am a veteran of the U.S. Army 1963-66 where I saw the beast from the inside at levels that most soldiers never get to see. As an American Indian, who has lived and worked on the reserves and reservations of America and Canada, and as a tri- national (U.S. Canadian and Blackfoot) I have also seen mei di guo zhu yi (which I regard as the principal and most dangerous source of state-sponsored terrorism today) with and without “mian zhao” and with and without “tang yi pao dan”; it cannot be “reformed”.

Zhang Xinning: “Occupy Wall Street” is spreading through America and other capitalist countries, what do you think it will result in? What kind of influence will have on America capitalist system?

James Craven: As Chairman Mao Zedong warned many times [capitalism survives for a long time under socialism and] socialism may be used to build and restore capitalism [instead of capitalism being used to build and defend the material conditions and foundations of socialism] with the result of the longer-run demise of socialism which has happened in the former USSR and elsewhere. This is why the Chinese youth must be warned, not with slogans but with concrete evidence and reason, that the “di guo zhu yi de mian zhao he tang yi pao dan” represent: not freedom but enslavement; not progress and development but backwardness and reaction;  not personal ‘liberty’, but personal myopia and self-destructive and socially destructive forms of false freedoms and false liberties associated with narcissism, megalomania, selfishness and the mentality of “wei zi gi fu wu”—which will destroy China and the whole world. I am hopeful in the long-run that imperialism is a doomed system; doomed by the nature and weight of its own internal contradictions and logic.
As Bertolt Brecht said: “In the contradiction lies the hope”.

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