Underlying the issues that have been discussed in the previous chapter is the sense that the development of human society, in all of its aspects, can be described as ‘distorted’ (Midgley, 1997). At the same time as human ingenuity has produced ever more complex technology, for example extending dramatically the way in which food can be produced, the development of human society continues to see disparities between different parts of the world and between people on grounds of socio-economic class, sex, age, ethnicity and ‘race’, sexuality and (dis)ability. Debates about the causes of and solutions to poverty and other factors limiting social development have, of course, proceeded over many decades. In the 1990s, at an international level, and increasingly in many individual countries, these debates were dominated by economic concerns couched in the terms of the theoretical and ideological position which is usually referred to as ‘neo-liberalism’ (Deacon, 2007; Correll, 2008). That is, social development (including human advances in health, education, cultural activity, community and family life and so on) was seen among the most powerful institutions and decision makers to be entirely dependent on, and in some cases simply a derivative of, economic growth.
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