Whether one agrees or not with the Kondatriev waves theory, one must admit that it can offer a very useful simplification of modern economy history, since the industrial revolution (second half of 18th century) to nowadays. According to Kondratiev, an economic wave last from 50 to 70 years. So, considering that the IT wave started in the 1990s, it should be soon decreasing and give way to a new, totally different one within the next 20-30 years.
So, where can we find something so powerful to boost another wave today? My idea is that we could find this spark in Ethics, which means ethical production / consumption, which basically means trying to responsibly match our economic activities with social equitiy and environmental care, through common sense and some written global rules that we already have agreed on. Ethics could be the sixth Kondratiev wave! In brief:
- There’s no doubt that we are in a global economy, therefore the next K. wave will have to be relevant for the whole world, because the whole world will have to participate and to benefit from it, equally.
- Ethics comes from the ancient greek ethos: a system of moral principles, that reflcet in one’s behavior. Therefore acting ethically means: acting by the rules of a community. At the dawn of economy, when everything was done at village scale, it was easy to understand where ethics was: to be ethical you just have to produce (and live) according to the rules of the village. Things are a little bit more complicated at times of the global village, where comsumers are so far away from the producers, times when advertising is so powerful and often misleading. How can we know if the producers works according to our own and to the common ethical principles of the international agreements (i.e.: no child labor)? Today it’s a much more difficult and the possibility for an unethical producer to sell his products without having to respond for his behaviour are more then a possibility.
- The world has already, and in theory, defined the borders of this ethical framework through its most fundamental international agreements, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998), the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2016), ecc.
- The world today is witnessing a period of unprecendetned wealth, but this is not happening without negative impacts, which can be summarised in the following two main issues: a) an unprecedented social crisis, due to the wealth unfair distribution that is, among the others, causing uproars in many countries such as France, Ecuador, Lebanon, Chile just to name the last ones; b) global warming, confirmed by IPCC and 99,9 % of world scientists, taken as the tip of the iceberg of the greatest environmental crisis since homo erectus appeared on Earth, which also include the increasing of hurricanes and similar extreme events (in these days Japan has been striked by typhoon Hagibis, the strongest in 60 years) or the summer wildfires in the Artic region; the plastic emergency seems to be another very big problem, and at the same time a good indicator that the wave of the absolute faith in linear economy and in the oil derivate economy is about to (or at least should) end.
- So, given that: a) the geographical dimension of the next K. wave is: the globe AND b) that the global scenario suggests that we must fix the two major negativities caused by the mainstream economic model and that therefore we shoud build a much less unjust and much cleaner world, WE could assume ethics as our boosting ingredient for the next K. wave, where ethics is key to build an economic system aiming to the achievement of sustainable development (UN-CED, 1987) through everyone’s (Corporate, Governmental, Individual) Responsibility. So easy!
There’s a very long list of what this wave will be made of: renewable energy, energy conservation and efficiency, green public procurement, waste reduction strategies, circular economy, car sharing, education at all levels, organic farming, animal welfare, vegetal plastics, responsible tourism, plastic free supermarkets, preventing geological and climate-related risks, social housing, fair trade, community supported agricolture, green mobility, healthier diets and lifestyle, urban gardens and traditional farming, sustainable fishing strategies, ethical banking and finance, local purchasing, transition towns, slow food presidia, new museums and art exhibitions, ecc. ecc. are all parts of a “new” economic wave whose figures and diversity have been successfully increasing year by year, in spite of the very little support they received by national and international institutions.
Most interesting, thie sixth one would be the first very democratic K. wave, because it will have a positive impact on every single “carriage of the train”, regardless to who holds to keys of the information / technology locomotive. Of course, big food, big pharma, and all the very big players will probably lose a little of their overwhelming power on people’s life, but losing should be part of the (waves) game.
According to Amin Maalouf (Le naufrage de civilisations, 2019), the philosopher William James – a convinced pacifist – once posed the following question to a group of students: “if periods of war mobilize energies and bring out the best of people – sense of belonging solidarity, fervor, altruism – shouldn’t we maybe desire, as some do, a “good war” to put and end to indolence and carelessness?”. My answer is: YES, of course we should, and the good, global war would be the one against social injustice/inequalities and global warming / pollution and it would be a war to make of sustainable development happen.
Sustainable development has already become the long period target for some countries like Sweden, that is going to be fossil fuel free by 2050, and whose citizens already enjoy one of the best quality of life of the whole world. Also, in December 2019, the new European Commission President, Ursula Van der Leyen has stated that “the European Green Deal is our new growth strategy“.
It’s just a matter of scale: sustainabilty, implemented through the Responsibility of customers, governments and corporations, must and can become the mainstream economic model, a win win strategy for everyone. So easy! As a follow up to this post, confirming that this theory could be not so utopian, the statament by BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, that “will make sustainability and climate risks key tenets of its investing strategy“, as reported by the WP in January 2020.