In early 2017, it was revealed that eight men owned as much wealth as half the world’s population (Oxfam 2017). This is in a world where, according
to the most conservative figures, around one in three workers live in
poverty. More realistic calculations show that the majority of the
world’s population suffers from poverty of one form or another. These
inequalities and deprivations are only one symptom of capitalist
development. Others include environmental destruction, systematic racism
and gender discrimination, each of which generate their own poverty
burdens.

Whether in Augusto Pinochet’s Chile (the laboratory for free-market
development) or in Park Chung-hee’s South Korea (the most celebrated case
of state-led development), capitalist development is founded upon the
exploitation and political oppression of labour. Moreover, capitalist
development is predicated upon environmental ruin and the (re)production of
various forms of discrimination.

Theories of capitalist development are united by a common conception of
labour as a resource, or as an input into the development process. This is
equally the case for the self-stated free-market followers of Adam Smith as
it is for the statist followers of Friedrich List (Selwyn 2014, 2017). Such
theories are united in viewing the world through the lens of capital, and
they perform a major ideological role in fortifying capitalist development
by encouraging the world’s poor to do so.

Such capital-centred development perspectives reproduce themselves in at
least four ways: (i) they identify capital accumulation as the basis for
the development of the poor; (ii) they identify elites (corporations and/or
states) as drivers of capital accumulation; (iii) myriad actions, movements
and struggles by the poor are disregarded (that is, not considered
developmental), and are often considered to be hindrances to development;
and (iv) as a consequence of point (iii), elite repression and exploitation
of the poor is legitimized, especially when the latter contest
capital-centred development.

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