Hornborg and Crumley, 2007). But even here, in contemporary attempts totranscend the academic distinction between social and natural sciences, thereis a clear divergence between perspectives emphasizing, respectively, consensusand conflict. In this article, I will take power, contradiction, and ‘capital accumu-lation by dispossession’ (Harvey, 2003) as a point of departure for understandingthe disastrous course of current socio-ecological processes. In other words, I willargue that economic growth will generally tend to occur
at the expense
of othersocial groups. I will also briefly demonstrate why the hegemonic interpretationsand policies that instead assume consensus (e.g. the functionalist discourse on‘resilience’) are so misguided.The article is divided into three parts. The first discusses how a population’sperceptions of technology, economy, and ecology are conditioned by its positionwithin global systems of resource flows, and how mainstream modern perceptionsof ‘development’ can be viewed as a cultural illusion confusing a privileged posi-tion in social space with an advanced position in historical time. The second parttraces some lineages of critical thinking on environmental load displacementand ecologically unequal exchange, arguing that such acknowledgement of aglobal environmental ‘zero-sum game’ is essential to recognizing the extent towhich cornucopian perceptions of ‘development’ indeed represent an illusion.The third part, finally, offers some examples of how the rising global anticipationof socio-ecological contradiction and disaster is being ideologically disarmed bythe rhetoric on ‘sustainability’ and ‘resilience’.
1. MACHINE FETISHISM: TECHNOLOGY/ECONOMY/ECOLOGY AS CULTURE
In the mainstream language of policy for sustainable development, the words‘technology’, ‘economy’, and ‘ecology’ are used in an unreflective, matter-of-fact way that suggests bounded categories of reality given once and for all andexempt from critical scrutiny. This is the language of positivism and simple em-piricism, the diametrical antithesis to those traditions in social research thatemphasize a deeper and second look at the surfaces of the world that presentthemselves to our senses. In this latter tradition I would include what DavidHarvey (1996) calls ‘dialectics’, but also the whole thrust of ‘deconstruction’ and‘defamiliarization’ (Marcus and Fischer, 1986) that has characterized so muchof the work in humanities and some of the social sciences in recent decades.Researchers from these traditions will find it easier to digest what I am nowgoing to propose, viz. that our notions of ‘technology’, ‘economy’, and ‘ecology’are
categories that train us to think about our socio-ecological realities inparticular ways. These three categories represent overlapping phenomena, theanalytical separation of which diminishes our chances of grasping the totality of which each gives a glimpse. The three concepts represent distinct and extremelyinfluential fields of research lodged in separate academic faculties, yet each cansimultaneously be used as a point of departure for extensive anthropologicalreflection on how mainstream thought is culturally constituted (e.g. Croll and