Caribbean Political Economy

An Evening of Interpretations: Gardening in the Tropics, ARC

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On May the 25th at Medulla Art Gallery in Woodbrook, POS, Trinidad, ARC Magazine brought together a group of scholars, writers and artists to celebrate the launch of Issue 5 and also to develop much needed dialogue around the work of Jasmine Thomas Girvan…

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Seven Deadly Sins of Caribbean Culture, Angela Cropper

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In an address to graduating UWI students in Arts and the Humanities, Angela Cropper points to seven negative cultural,   facets of Caribbean culture and challenges her audience to transcend them. Ms Cropper, ‘a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and the Rest of the World’, recently retired as Deputy Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

The concept of creators and custodians of our culture is not only intriguing; it is complex, wide-ranging, potentially far-reaching, and certainly demanding. It is also fundamental to the future of Trinidad and Tobago and Caribbean society, and to the way in which we contribute to, and engage with, the global civilization of which we are a part…

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Under leaves so green, Andre Bagoo

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How to describe it? The extraordinary work of Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, who twists pieces of palm fronds into tongues of flame, who places a cage within a cage within a cage, whose human figures twist into tortured, glorious creatures: bodies illuminated by the mahogany that encases them?…


‘Gardening in the Tropics’: An Appreciation, Mervyn Claxton

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Jasmine’s exhibition is a paean to Nature, to Mother Earth, and to the power, beauty and (inner) strength of ancestral Amerindian and African-Caribbean women. It radiates symbolic meaning and glorious subliminal messages…

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View catalogue of ‘Gardening in the Tropics’

ALBA Research Scholarships on Culture and Critical Theory

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Construction Of Inclusive, Culturally Diverse And Environmentally Responsible Societies In Latin America And The Caribbean

Call For Applications For Research Funding From The ALBA Cultural Fund

The ALBA Cultural Fund has issued a call for applications for funding of research projects on the building of inclusive, culturally diverse and environmentally responsible societies in Latin America and the Caribbean; with an emphasis on projects that generate theory from a critical analysis of the realities of the region. Researchers may be from both ALBA and non-ALBA member countries. Applications for research grants of up to $5,000 will be considered. Details are provided in the attached documents. For further information contact Ambassador Joan Underwoo,Office of the Prime Minister, Government of Antigua and Barbuda. email
It is important that scholars from the English,Dutch and French speaking Caribbean are adequately represented in ths research. Please pass this information on to others.

ALBA Cultural Research Call For Applications

Antigua and Barbuda

Africa’s contributions to world civilization, Mervyn Claxton

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In the special issue of ALAI–Latin America on the Move–to mark the International Year for Peoples of African Descent, Mervyn Claxton reviews Africa’s s outstanding contributions to world civilization with examples from iron technology, the creative arts, agriculture, gender equality and governance.

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Coca: Bolivia’s Cultural Heritage, the War on Drugs, American Hypocrisy; Mervyn Claxton

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In January 2009, Bolivia’s president Evo Morales, whom the Western press regularly (not at all innocently) describes as a former coca leaf planter, submitted a new constitution (the country’s 17th) to a national referendum… The constitution was reformulated to reflect Bolivia’s indigenous reality. The referendum, in which 90% of the population ..participated,was approved by a plurality of 61% of the electorate…Perhaps the most controversial provision (for the United States and its Western allies) in
Bolivia’s new Constitution is the one that protects coca and its traditional usage, on the grounds that it forms part of the countryʼs cultural heritage..

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Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Development, Mervyn Claxton


Third Distinguished Lecture, The Cropper Foundation; UWI, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago; September 1, 2010

Biodiversity, indigenous knowledge, and sustainable development are very closely linked. The indigenous knowledge systems of the peoples of the South constitute the world largest reservoir of knowledge of the diverse species of plant and animal life on earth. For many centuries, their indigenous agricultural systems have utilized practices and techniques which embody, what one scientist has called ‘Principles of Permanence’- ..

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Haitian culture is Haiti’s most important development resource, Mervyn Claxton

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No country endowed with the outstanding creativity, originality, and inventiveness of Haitian culture – its world-class art, its world-class literature and the astonishing technological/scientific/medical knowledge embedded in its voodoo culture – can be considered poor, let alone “the poorest country in the Western hemisphere”. Those who hold such an absurd opinion evidently suffer from an acute form of cultural myopia.

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The Danger of a Single Story, Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding…

Click here to watch Chimamanda tell her story (18 minutes video)

Reflections on Religion and 9/11, Mervyn Claxton

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It is not for me to say whether religion (that is to say, the acts committed in the name of religion, since an abstract ideology or belief system cannot in itself produce any concrete effects) has caused more harm than good. I leave such judgements to others who are better informed, or wiser, than I am. It does appears to me, however, that the harm done in the name of religion over the centuries has greatly obscured the good done in its name. I am open to correction if my impression is wrong in that respect. It is true, human nature being what it is, that the good that is done in the world often goes unsung – forgotten, minimized or dismissed as uninteresting – while the bad that is done keeps our attention riveted…

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Uribe in the Mirror

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by Atilio Borón

The UNASUR summit in Bariloche, Argentina will have to face two grave problems weighing heavily on Latin America: the military coup in Honduras and the militarization of the region as a result of the installation of not one but seven U.S. military bases in Colombia…

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UNESCO Honours Cuba and Cubans

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From AfroCuba Web UNESCO grants medals to Cuba and to Cubans, 6/09

Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaí¯ (left), Benin’s Ambassador to UNESCO and Chairman of the UNESCO Executive Board, arrived in Cuba on 6/16/09 and attended a number of ceremonies. At several of these, he gave out medals. We have numerous photos of the main ceremony, where the recipients are mostly people who have long been featured on AfroCubaWeb.

According to the UN office in Cuba, those who received a medal include:

– Alicia Alonso, Medalla Mahatma Gandhi
– Dr. Rogelio Martí­nez Furé, Medalla Toussaint L’Ouverture
– Dr. Miguel Barnet, Medalla Simón Bolí­var
– Dra. Nancy Morejón, Medalla Ví­ctor Hugo
– Dra. Jean Stubbs, Medalla Toussaint L’Ouverture
Pedro Pérez Sarduy, Medalla Ví­ctor Hugo
Gloria Rolando, Medalla Federico Fellini
Familia Baró de Jovellanos, Medalla Toussaint L’Ouverture
Manuel Mendive, Medalla de la Diversidad Cultural
– Dr. Tomás Robaina, Medalla Toussaint L’Ouverture
Asociación Cultural Yoruba de Cuba, Medalla de la Diversidad Cultural
– Abel Prieto, Ministro de Cultura de Cuba, Medalla Ví­ctor Hugo
– Republic of Cuba, Medalla de la Diversidad Cultural

Yoruba Andabo played for the guests. See our UNESCO medals – photo gallery.

Ambassador Yai has been a distinguished scholar for many years, he is considered a Guillen scholar and has traced many of Nicolas Guillen’s styles back to the literary styles used in the Oyo Empire in Nigeria.

Ambassador Olabiyi Yai Remarks

Reception hosted by the Director of UNESCO Havana Office, Mr. Herman Van Hoof, on the occasion of the visit to Cuba of the Chairman of the Executive Board, Ambassador Olabiyi Yai. 14-19 June 2009.

In his introductory remarks, he stated the following:

“As Chairman of the Executive Board of UNESCO, I am pleased to honour you today with the following medals in recognition of your efforts to promote peace, equality, cultures values, and to fight all forms of discrimination and exclusion wreaked in particular on descendants of enslaved people. While Cuba has contributed significantly to the reinforcement of UNESCO’s program and goals in you country and the region, little has been done to acknowledge your significant contribution. This awarding ceremony is therefore a symbolic gesture to a selected number of you as part of UNESCO’s good intention to encourage you in your tireless efforts for peace, freedom and fundamental rights.”

The following Cuban experts were honored:

, · Alicia Alonso received the Gandhi medal. The medal was issued at the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, India’s ” Father of the Nation” and the world’s advocate of non-violence, peace and tolerance.

, · Four experts were honored with Toussaint L’Ouverture medal: Rogelio Martinez Fure, Jean Stubbs, Familia Baro de Jovellanos, Tomas Robaina. The medal was designed to reward an outstanding achievement that, in keeping with the spirit and action of Toussaint L’ouverture, has made a lasting contribution to combating racism in the political, literary and artistic fields. A black divisional general, Toussaint L’ouverture is the hero of the Haitian independence, symbol of the struggle against slavery and racial discrimination.

, · Miguel Barnet was honored with Simon Bolivar medal, in acknowledgement of his actions and activities that contributed to the freedom, independence and dignity of peoples and to the strengthening of a new international economic, social and cultural order.

, · The Victor Hugo medal was given to Nancy Morejon, Pedro Perez Saduy, Abel Prieto, in acknowledgement of their writings, which contribute significantly to the protection and promotion of the rights of man/woman and the oppressed.

, · The Federico Fellini medal was given to Gloria Rolando in acknowledgement to her notable efforts to boost the art of film.

, · Manuel Mendive and Asociación Yoruba de Cuba received the World Decade for Cultural Development medal, commonly known as the cultural diversity medal in recognition of their work for the promotion of cultural diversity.

These remarks were delivered in fluent Spanish, to the surprise and delight of Cuban officials who were present.


La visita a Cuba de Olabibi Babalola Joseph Yaí¯: Reconocimiento de la UNESCO a Cuba y a intelectuales y artistas cubanos 6/19/2009,  ONU Cuba:,  “El reconocimiento de la UNESCO y de sus paí­ses miembros a Cuba y a prestigiosos intelectuales y artistas cubanos por su infatigable labor cultural en beneficio de la humanidad expresó el Embajador Olabibi Babalola Joseph Yaí¯, Presidente del Consejo Ejecutivo de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, Ciencia y Cultura y Delegado Permanente de la Repíºblica de Benin ante esa organización, en una ceremonia en la sede de la UNESCO en esta capital. El encuentro fue presentado por el Representante de la UNESCO en Cuba y Director Regional de Cultura para América Latina y el Caribe, Herman van Hooff, quien resaltó la importancia de la visita oficial a Cuba del Embajador Yaí¯ y sus conversaciones con altos dirigentes cubanos, intelectuales y artistas. Asimismo, subrayó el gran agrado con que la institución acoge la presencia en Cuba de tan distinguida personalidad.”

Slave Route Museum Inaugurated in Matanzas, Cuba 6/17/2009,  Juventud Rebelde:,  “The Afro América exhibition was opened during the inauguration featuring 105 educational posters and 14 African sculptures donated by Cuban artist Lorenzo Padilla.”

Concede la UNESCO a Cuba Medalla de la Diversidad Cultural 6/17/2009,  Trabajadores:,  “Olabiyi entregó a Abel Prieto, miembro del Buró Polí­tico y ministro de Cultura, la Medalla de la Diversidad Cultural de la Unesco, en reconocimiento a la posición de Cuba contra los prejuicios y estereotipos que aíºn prevalecen debido al estigma de la esclavitud, y a una actividad cultural encaminada a distinguir el proceso de transculturación y mestizaje en nuestros pueblos. Al agradecer el gesto, el titular cubano de Cultura reconoció que tiene un gran valor, sobre todo porque el Museo se vincula con la filosofí­a del Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio de que un museo no es un almacén de piezas, concebidas como algo arqueológico que pertenece al pasado, sino que esas instituciones culturales deben verse como instrumentos educativos, vivos, en manos de la comunidad, de maestros y escuelas.”

Otorga la UNESCO a Cuba medalla de la diversidad cultural, 6/16/09


Abel Prieto, ministro de Cultura de Cuba, recibió en la ciudad de Matanzas la Medalla de la Diversidad Cultural, que otorgó a la Isla la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura (UNESCO).

Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai, presidente del Consejo Ejecutivo de la UNESCO, entregó el reconocimiento a Cuba, que “sobresale en la defensa de raí­ces e identidad nacional y es ejemplo de ello para el mundo”.

La ceremonia de entrega de la medalla aconteció en la inauguración oficial del Museo Nacional de La Ruta del Esclavo, enclavado en el otrora Castillo de San Severino, sitio fundacional de la urbe matancera, a unos 100 kilómetros al este de La Habana.

El dirigente de la UNESCO, oriundo de Benin, en ífrica occidental, destacó la contribución de Cuba a la alfabetización en ese continente y en la lucha por la liberación contra el colonialismo, al tiempo que felicitó la idea de instituir aquí­ este museo, reflejo de la triste etapa de la esclavitud.

Abel Prieto, miembro del Buró Polí­tico del Partido Comunista de Cuba, dijo a la AIN que la condecoración quedará en el museo y constituye un reconocimiento a la polí­tica cultural del paí­s.

El ministro elogió la idea de la UNESCO en defensa del patrimonio cultural de la humanidad, y dijo que Cuba asume como práctica polí­ticas inscriptas en documentos de esa institución, como el ví­nculo de instituciones culturales con escuelas y comunidades, por muy intrincadas que estén.

A la ceremonia, asistieron dirigentes polí­ticos y del Gobierno de la provincia de Matanzas, además de destacadas personalidades de la cultura cubana e integrantes del cuerpo diplomático acreditado en la Isla, fundamentalmente de paí­ses africanos e iberoamericanos.

[La UNESCO ortogo a Cuba la Medalla de la Diversidad Cultural y a Abel Prieto la Medalla Victor Hugo.]

Cuba Elected to UNESCO Committee on Cultural Diversity, Cuba Now, 6/17/09

The island received the largest number of votes (61) after Canada (63) during an electoral process in Paris. UNESCO also granted Cuba the Cultural Diversity Medal during a ceremony in central Matanzas province.

Cubanow.- Cuba was elected by huge majority to the Intergovernmental Committee of the Convention for the Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity with the UN Education Science and Culture Organization UNESCO.

During the election of representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Paris, France, Cuba got 61 votes and Brazil 57; for the Asian region, China and Laos were elected; Albania and Bulgaria were chosen to represent Eastern Europe, Jordan and Tunisia for the Middle East and Cameroon and Kenya were elected representatives for Africa. Canada and France were elected among the highly developed countries.

Cuban ambassador to UNESCO, Hector Hernandez Pardo described Cuba, ´s election as an extraordinary result that proves the acknowledgement of the island, ´s consecration to the issue.

Cuba obtained the majority of votes after Canada, which got 69 votes, said Hernadez Pardo who also noted that despite the failed and obsolete isolation policy practiced by Washington against the Caribbean nation, Cuba always had impressing support. The election of Cuba expresses strong support of the cultural policy of our country, he said.

UNESCO adopted the Convention for the Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity in 2005 despite the opposition of the United States and Israel and following huge debates.

Meanwhile, Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto received in central Matanzas province the Cultural Diversity Medal granted by UNESCO.

The president of the executive council of the UN organization, Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai gave Cuba the important distinction, for its outstanding defense of its national identity and roots and for being an example for the world.

The ceremony took place during the inauguration of the National Museum located at the San Severino Castle, the founding site of Matanzas city.

The UNESCO executive underscored the contribution of Cuba to fighting illiteracy in Africa and to the struggle against colonialism. He praised the idea of opening the museum, which is called ” La Ruta del Esclavo” (The Slave, ´s Route) which recalls the sad story of slavery.

Abel Prieto said that the medal will be displayed at the museum and that it constitutes an acknowledgement to the Cuban cultural policy. He added that Cuba practices the policies stated in UNESCO documents, such as the relationship between cultural institutions and schools or communities, no matter how remote they can be.

The ceremony was attended by Communist Party and government officials in Matanzas province as well as renowned figures of the world of culture, members of the diplomatic community, particularly from African and Ibero-American nations.

June 17, 2009, 11:27 am–


Nicolás Guillén, poet (1902-1989), on AfroCubaWeb, cites Olabiyi Yai as a Guillen scholar.

Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai – Biography
Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai is Chairman of UNESCO’s Executive Board
Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaí¯ elected Chairman of UNESCO Executive Board, 11/07

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Windmills Of The Mind, Mervyn Claxton


I decided to wait until all the comments on my paper Port of Spain Declaration: A Critical Analysis were posted before making a global response. Four comments were received – those by Norman and Yash in this exchange and two others – by Wendy Lee and Margaret Gill – (Wendy’s contribution is posted on the website, Margaret’s is not) in two separate, parallel e-mail exchanges. Notwithstanding the several important points made by Norman and Yash (which I discuss below), it is my opinion that only Wendy’s and Margaret’s contribution grasped the essential issue involved – sustainable development.

Wendy posed the crucially important question “How can we get decision-makers to absorb and act on the information that is so readily available about sustainable development IMPERATIVES, including critical ecological requirements, instead of pursuing the same old false, unjust and unsustainable models?” Margaret identified another key aspect (one that I explored in the paper) – how do we inform and educate the Caricom public on that essential issue.

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Mimetism Weapon in the Cuba Hate Industry, Alberto Jones


alberto-jonesAlberto Jones is an Afro-Cuban of Jamaican ancestry who runs the Caribbean American Children Foundation in Palm Coast, Florida

At this late stage of the fifty year old US-CUBA political strife, reasonable individuals would assume that those charged with inflicting pain, suffering and destruction on the Cuban people, would have concluded that their despicable task have come to an end, that the game is over, and as good sportsmen, they would retreat to their burrows and accept defeat with dignity.Doing what is right would have earned these Cuba-haters at least a few milligrams of sympathy, but it is now clear, that such principles are not part of their genetic make-up nor their life values.

Today, we were introduced to Dr. Jose Azel’s treatise. ‘Fidel Plays the Race Card’, Cuba Transition Project 6/16/09 ctp.iccas@MIAMI.EDU in which his mimetic, new found love for Afro-Cubans living in Cuba without family members overseas sending remittances, broke his heart. He is also profoundly offended by Castro casting himself once again as Robin Hood, with sinister overtones.

What this opportunist fails to include in his article, is that he is part of this multi-pronged effort to incite racial division, strife and a potentially dangerous racial confrontation without lines of demarcation, in such a highly mixed society.Like many others bent on squeezing out every penny out of US-AID, CIA and front foundations willing to pump millions of dollars into every fake organization purporting to be fighting the Cuban government, they are required to present a bio, a body of dirty work against Cuba to support their job application and approval.

Clever, educated and able to use some extra cash, why should Dr. Azel not build up his standing among his peers and future employers, by regularly compiling and publishing tendentious fact sheets as others do?

Key in this chain of command is Mr. Frank Calzon, who has not being indicted as yet, notwithstanding his closest aid, Felix Sixto sits in prison for the next six years, for depleting and pocketing nearly half a million dollars earmarked for their ‘Freedom Fighters’ in Cuba.

Still, the most disgraceful trait of this band of opportunists, is their shameless attempt to exploit real, unresolved problems that seriously affect the wellbeing of tens of thousands of Afro-Cubans, by pretending to be their benefactors, when most who are familiar with our convulsive history since our forceful arrival on these shores, are acutely aware of who our real tormentors are.

Beautifully laid out, are Dr. Azel’s bio-statistics of the Cuban government breakdown, is sublimely presented to draw a parallel with the racist, apartheid South Africa government, which by the way, most of them wholeheartedly supported and many fought alongside their defense forces.

Pitifully invoking the name of their newly coined poster boy, Dr. Elias Biscet and proudly reminding us of his Presidential Medal of Freedom, I wonder, as so many other Cuban dissidents who decided after time to set up shop in south Florida, if Dr. Biscet will be a welcome guest in his neighborhood, his home or as other Afro-Cubans, he will be confined and forced to find refuge in Allapath, Overtown, Parramore, Cabrina Greens or any of the hundreds of Ghettos reserved for Blacks and other minorities across the United States?

Has Dr Azel evolved at such an astronomic speed, that he no longer thinks and acts like his proud ancestors, who brag of having kept their puppet President Fulgencio Batista out of their exclusive Havana Yacht Club, Nat King Cole forced to use the kitchen door at the Hotel Nacional to perform, or when the Kasalta restaurant marked the border, beyond which, Afro-Cubans could not go after dark, without being escorted out Miramar by their private security guards?

Can any of these south Floridian, right-wing Cuban-Americans, suddenly enamored with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and staunch supporters of the Civil Rights Movement, present any document, pictures, newspaper articles or oral history, demonstrating that any one of them supported or was ever near any of these history changing developments in the early 60’s, when they enjoyed privileges denied to all blacks in the United States?

Although Cuban-Americans since the early 60’s had wide access to radio and print media in the US, never, did anyone of these upper class, rich, powerful individuals, with ample access to the highest level of the US government, ever uttered a word on behalf of blacks, whose flesh was ripped apart by attack dogs, lynched by supremacists, incarcerated in mass and murdered with impunity.

Thanks, but no Thanks, is all we can say to Dr. Azel and thousands like him, who are skillfully resorting to mimetic tactics, trying to inflame our sentiments, fight the Cuban government and hand them in a silver platter, a country they have proven to be genetically unfit to fight for by themselves.

June 18, 2009

16. Women, Culture & Society (II): Renaissance to French Revolution, Mervyn Claxton

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Sixteenth article in the series

The visceral misogyny which had stamped the Catholic church and its clergy like stigmata, from the time of the early Church Fathers, continued to exercise its baneful influence on Christian societies in the Renaissance and the post-Renaissance period. The Mexican anthropologist, Fernando Benitez, recounts in his book, Demons in the Convent (1998), that the Archbishop of Mexico, Francisco de Aguiar y Seijas (1680-1698) detested women so much that they were not allowed in his presence and, if, in a convent or monastery, a nun crossed his path, he would immediately cover his eyes with his hands. Only men were worthy of his sight – men and Christ. In his archbishopric, over zealous priests felt encouraged to give free rein to their misogyny.

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Critique of Herman Daly’s ‘Steady State Economy’, Mervyn Claxton


Although Daly’s basic tenet in From a Failed Growth Economy to a Steady State Economy has considerable merit, Steady-state economy theory is a Northern-centered theory that is written from an exclusively Northern viewpoint. It reflects Northern interests and Northern fears. It does not take into consideration the situation of the South. Given their present circumstances, virtually all countries in the South would require many years of positive growth to be able to significantly alleviate (not to speak of eradicating) poverty, and for their populations to be able to attain a decent living level…

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Mervyn Claxton reviews ‘An Encounter With Haiti’, by Reginald Dumas

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Reginald Dumas has written a fascinating, highly readable, well documented account of his experience as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Adviser on Haiti, in the period immediately following President Aristide’s resignation from power, which was disingenuously described as ‘voluntary’ by certain foreign interests.. His penetrating insight into the dynamics of big power, small country, and international organization politics illuminated his observations and analysis throughout the book…


15 Women, Culture and Society-1, by Mervyn Claxton

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From Antiquity to the Renaissance

This analytical overview of the situation of women in society from historical to modern times and the redoubtable problems they have faced in winning acceptance of their right to an equal place in it, not only from men but also from the society as a whole, is intended to be non-partisan and objective. I fully recognize that for a man to undertake such an endeavour is like him deciding to walk through a minefield without the benefit of a mine detector, so much has this subject area come to be regarded as an exclusive female preserve…


14. North-South Narratives of Superiority and Inferiority-3, by Mervyn Claxton

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The current near-universal admiration of European peoples of the North by non-European peoples everywhere, which implicitly acknowledges the former’s superiority, did not always exist…The colonial period gave rise to different attitudes and reactions, on the part of peoples of the South, to European peoples in the North. The different attitudes of peoples in the South (or of non-European minorities or majorities to those who dominated them in their own countries) towards individual nations in the North were largely influenced by the manner in which they were treated and the attitudes adopted towards them…


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