The corporate capture of sustainable development and its transformation into a ‘good Anthropocene’ historical bloc

Leslie Sklair


Inspired by Antonio Gramsci’s analysis of bourgeois hegemony and his theoretical formulation of historical blocs, this paper attempts to explain how the concept and practice of sustainable development were captured by corporate interests in the last few decades of the twentieth century and how they were transformed into what we can name a ‘good Anthropocene’ historical bloc at the beginning of the twentyfirst century. This corporate capture is theorised in terms of the transnational capitalist class as represented by corporate, statist/political, professional and consumerist fractions operating at all levels of an increasingly globalising world. In this essay, I propose the term ‘critical Anthropocene narrative’, highlighting the dangers posed by the Anthropocene and the need for radical systems’ change entailing the end of capitalism and the hierarchical state. The critical Anthropocene narrative, thus, stands in radical opposition to the ‘good Anthropocene’ narrative which I argue was invented as a strategy to defend the socio-economic status quo by the proponents of sustainable development and their successors in the Anthropocene era, despite the good intentions of many environmentalists working in corporations, governments, NGOs, and international organizations. The paper concludes with some suggestions on how to deal with the potential existential threats to the survival of humanity.


*** A captura corporativa do desenvolvimento sustentável e sua transformação em um bloco histórico do “bom antropoceno” ***

Inspirado na análise da hegemonia burguesa de Antonio Gramsci e sua formulação teórica de blocos históricos, este artigo tenta explicar como o conceito e a prática do desenvolvimento sustentável foram capturados pelos interesses corporativos nas últimas décadas do século 20 e como eles foram transformados em que podemos nomear um bloco histórico “bom antropoceno” no início do século 21. Essa captura corporativa é teorizada em termos da classe capitalista transnacional representada por frações corporativas, estatistas/políticas, profissionais e consumistas que operam em todos os níveis de um mundo cada vez mais globalizado. Neste ensaio proponho o termo “narrativa crítica do Antropoceno”, destacando os perigos colocados pelo Antropoceno e a necessidade de mudanças sistêmicas radicais que implicam no fim do capitalismo e do estado hierárquico. A narrativa crítica do Antropoceno, portanto, opõe-se radicalmente à narrativa do “bom Antropoceno” que, segundo argumento, foi inventada como uma estratégia para defender o status quo socioeconômico pelos proponentes do desenvolvimento sustentável e seus sucessores na era do Antropoceno, apesar das boas intenções de muitos ambientalistas que trabalham em corporações, governos, ONGs e organizações internacionais. O artigo conclui com algumas sugestões sobre como lidar com as possíveis ameaças existenciais à sobrevivência da humanidade. 

Palavras-chave: Desenvolvimento sustentável. O Antropoceno. Blocos históricos. Captura corporativa. Classe capitalista transnacional.


Sustainable development. The Anthropocene. Historical blocs. Corporate capture. Transnational capitalist class.

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Direitos autorais 2019 Civitas - Revista de Ciências Sociais

ISSN-L: 1519-6089  -  e-ISSN: 1984-7289

Civitas - Revista de Ciências Sociais


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