There are only few books out there that leave you feeling as furious, disheartening, and held accountable – all three at once, really – as Jason Hickel’s most recent piece on global inequality.
In his brilliant and thought provoking book, The Divide (2017), Hickel remains brutally honest: “At one of the most frightening times in our history, with inequality at record extremes, demagogues rising and our planet’s climate beginning to wreak revenge on industrial civilization, we are more in need of hope than ever.”
One doesn’t need to go further than taking a quick glance at daily news to understand the devastating implications that the constant economic growth imperative has for our planet. Yet, with the stunning cases and jaw-dropping statistics, Hickel manages to paint a picture of the world in a much worse shape than you could possibly imagine.
Reading this book, even the “need of hope” sounds hopeless at times – with contemporary solutions such as sustainable development and poverty eradication efforts being only “stories”, and charity work no more than a never-ending, pointless game.
Instead of supporting the development agenda, Hickel argues for a different approach. For him, to solve some of the most pressing issues in today’s society, we have to start by questioning what led to the economic system in which the world operates today.
Thus, “It is only by understanding why the world is the way it is – by examining root causes – that we will be able to arrive at real, effective solutions and imagine our way into the future.”
Based on a compelling analysis, Hickel offers somewhat idealistic but nevertheless radical solutions to save whatever there is left to be saved. Among others, he calls for complete debt cancellation, democratization of global governance institutions, establishment of fair trade system, introduction of universal basic income and just wages, fixing the international financial systems to ensure tax justice, eradication of land grabs, and finally, taking action to address the issues of global warming and climate change.
Whether one agrees with Hickel’s proposal or not, the one key challenge that his book brings forward is not whether we are able to close the divide, but rather whether we are truly willing to do so.
In the times marked by high uncertainty – and more often than not, lack of hope -, one thing remains certain for Hickel. Namely, “that if we are going to solve the great problems of global poverty and inequality, of famine and environmental collapse, the world of tomorrow will have to look very different from the world today.”