Language and thought are closely connected, and we struggle to wordify what we are thinking in ways that others will understand. Words with the meaning sucked out illustrated this problem with the example of “co-design”. This post, where Eric Michael Johnson interviews Fritjof Capra, illustrates the problem again, this time with “growth” and “development” (my italics).
FC: Like “growth,” “development” is used today in two quite different senses, one qualitative and the other quantitative. For biologists, development is a fundamental property of life. All living systems develop; life continually reaches out to create novelty. The biological concept of development implies a sense of multi-faceted unfolding, of living organisms, ecosystems, or human communities reaching their potential. Most economists, by contrast, restrict the use of “development” to a single economic dimension, usually measured in terms of per capita GDP. Economists recognize only money and cash flows, ignoring all other forms of fundamental wealth — all ecological, social, and cultural assets. Now, when we speak about “sustainable development,“ we need to specify which kind of development we have in mind. If “development” is used in the current narrow economic sense, such economic development can never be sustainable, and the term “sustainable development” would be an oxymoron. If, however, the process of development is understood as more than a purely economic process, including social, ecological, and spiritual dimensions, and if it is associated with qualitative economic growth, then such a multidimensional systemic process can indeed be sustainable.
Full post – Why Economists Don’t Know How to Think About Growth – An interview with Fritjof Capra, by Eric Michael Johnson.