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Ethics in the Social Sciences

Social ethical dilemmas run parallel in a community. While as a species, our communities have diverse and adapted to the social and political problems through different means, several dogmas remain ambiguous giving rise to ethical dilemmas (Burawoy 2016). This paper will discuss the case presented by Trainer (2010) focused on the sustainable lifestyle. The prime question that is raised by Trainer in the research is how only one-fifth of the world resides in the developed countries with adequate sources that have been derived from the third world countries (Evani 2019). However, it is a concern that the resources to transit growth of the societies have been directional rendering the second and third world national deprived affecting their overall growth (Burawoy 2016). This paper will discuss the ethics that surround the dilemma of how justified it is to be living in these countries with knowledge of systematic exploitation of other countries. This paper will explore the theories of universal ethical egoism and Nicomachean virtue ethics to discuss the notion. This paper will also propose an evidence-based resolution to this dilemma.

A developing country is defined as a country with relatively less developed industrial base (Trainer 2016). The growth of first world countries or the developed nations has been fostered through the developing countries and has been categorized so under the dependency theory. The dependency theory highlights how the developed countries remained rich through the extraction of resources from the developing nations (Trainer 2010). This created a dependency and thus affected the overall growth and wellbeing of the developing nations. The very construct of developing and underdeveloped countries is associated with the history of colonization and economic exploitation (Burawoy 2016). While a major population of the world still thrives in the less developed nations, it becomes critical to understand the very cause of the existence of this disparity. The underdeveloped and developing nations suffer largely from resource scarcity that is needed for growth. As highlighted by Trainer (2010) the reservoir for the natural resources that accelerated the growth of the now developed nations is at the brink of extinction due to regular exploitation and translocation. This implies, that the modus operandi of growth that was followed and applied by the developed nations is not possible for the developing countries as the dynamics of resource availability has changed (Evani 2019). This can be understood through the perspective of the industrial revolution where the availability of coal and petroleum to the developed nations was pooled from the underdeveloped and the developing nations under colonies era. This then drove employment and better economic structure and stability for the developed nations leaving the developing countries deprived of opportunities as well as the resources (Hassoun 2015). A British English word “loot” originated from colonized India translating to theft gives a prime example of the same. But the question remains, how far does one think that these processes were ethical or justified (Lockie 2016). The power dynamics in the international community have always played an essential role in the determination of the beneficiaries and the historical social and financial exploitation of these countries is an example of the same. Since the resources were extracted, even after the colonization and exploitation had ceased, the countries were left with only minimal options to compete in the market space with the developed nations (Hassoun 2015). This led to unprofitable exchanges between nations to maintain relevance and develop a stature in the era of globalization that was again led by the nations in power. Therefore, the argument put forward by Trainer (2010) over the ethics of consumption of resources and the Ponzi scheme structure created by the globalized developed nations is debatable in terms of its fair application and results (MacNeill 2020).

The theory of universal ethical egoism serves as a doctrine to assert that all individuals should pursue their interests exclusively. However, a Socratic paradox lingers this theory to highlight, what is actually the interest? This theory is applicable in the case with two dimensions (O’Niell 2015). The psyche of the colonizers can be understood through this theory on how the power dynamics and the rule of law were exploited to retrieve and extract the resources from the developed nations. Yet, it also imposes if it was the “correct interest” that was identified. The idea of sustainability is relatively new in the terms of the social age (O’Mathúna et al. 2018). However, it has existed in society in local communities and Indigenous beliefs. The idea of well being in the Indigenous societies lingers aground the ell being and growth of the community as a whole and not as an individual. However, with a history of unidimensional growth and self-interest, the idea was ignored (Widdows 2011). The consequences of the same have been present in the current world. The overexploitation of the natural resources has led to a shortage of fossil fuels and a significant impact on the environment. The greenhouse emissions from the developing countries amount to 63%, however, these statistics were not significantly relevant or elucidated at the growing stages of the now developed economies (Tickamayer & Patel-Campillo 2016). This is also evident with the rise in greenhouse emissions after the industrial revolution that resulted in the rise of the carbon dioxide content from 280 ppm to 409.8 ppm. Therefore, the validity of sharing the burden and identification of the cause of this burden remains utterly significant (O’Mathúna et al. 2018).

The second relevant ethical theory that can be associated with the case is of Nicomachean Ethics. The theory was proposed by Aristotle and asserts that moral virtue is a deposition as to behave in the right manner to bring in a balance between the extremes of excess and deficiency (Widdows 2011). The current world is divided in the extremes with only a small number of individuals or groups with excess to the majority of the resources while the other extreme is improvised and deprived of the suitable needs. A critical example of the same can be seen through the income divide, 1% of the population of the world owes 44% of the global wealth (Osaretin 2017). This is a significant concern as the individuals in the developing and underdeveloped countries are battling the social and economic crisis of poverty, malnutrition, and starvation (Sandin & Rocklinsberg 2015). The ethical principles of the Nicomachean theory can therefore be applied to bring in a balance and sustainability in the world with social and economic justice to the developing and underdeveloped nations (Sandin & Rocklinsberg 2015).

When one ponders over what could be a solution to this global social problem, the first resolution that emerges is to move towards sustainability. Sustainability is closely associated with the availability of technology and resources to bring in the desired changes (Osaretin 2017). For example, to be able to conserve fossil fuels and promote electric vesicles, it is crucial for a country to have the capacity to build infrastructure for the change. This is where a possible solution comes from (Sandin & Rocklinsberg 2015). The developed countries that have an enhanced access to resources and technology, can facilitate the growth of the developing nations to improve their infrastructure and move toward sustainability (Tickamayer & Patel-Campillo 2016). The developed countries that have been colonizers or exploitive in the past need to facilitate this collaborative approach as a moral implication of owing the reparations. Further, other nations that aim to assist the relatively underprivileged nations, can do so by ensuring investment in the countries, helping in the improvement of infrastructure through fair trade and provision of equal opportunities (Widdows 2011). This will help in increased participation of the developing and the underdeveloped nations in the process of decision making and thus promote understanding their perspectives as well as the growth needs. This will also promote fair trade and enhance a collaborative approach that will be more sustainable and progressive (Widdows 2011).

This essay provides an analysis of a case research provided by Trainer (2010) who asserts that the developing nations have been deprived of an equal opportunity for growth with the exploitation of resources in past by the now developed nations. This paper applies the case and identifies the extent of the problem. Further, this essay also applies the theories of ethical principles, that is. Universal ethical egoism and the Nicomachean ethical principles for secondary analysis. This paper also discusses how the concept of sustainability can be achieved as a solution to this dilemma to foster a collaborative effort for sustainable development.

References for Global Challenges for National Disciplines

Burawoy, M 2016, ‘The promise of sociology: Global challenges for national disciplines’, Sociology, vol. 50, no.5, pp.949-959.

Evani, T 2019, ‘The sociology of knowledge in change processes: Connecting Sub saharan African psychosocial idiosyncrasies to the global development discourse’, Sociology, vol. 4, no.12, pp. 1026.

Hassoun, N 2015, ‘Consumption and non-consumption’, in D Moellendorf and H Widdows(ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Global Ethics, Routledge, Abingdon UK, pp. 267-278

Lockie, S 2016, ‘Sustainability and the future of environmental sociology’, Environmental Sociology, vol. 2, no. 1, pp 1-4

MacNeill, T 2020, ‘Culture in critical and sociological thought. In Indigenous Cultures and Sustainable Development in Latin America (pp. 39-56). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

O’Mathúna, D P, Dranseika, V & Gordijn, B, 2018, ‘ Disasters: Core Concepts and Ethical Theories’ (p. 244). Springer Nature.

O’Neill, J 2015, ‘Sustainability’, D Moellendorf and H Widdows (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Global Ethics, pp. 401-415.

Osaretin Odia L 2017, ‘Ethnography of development sociology’. IAU International Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 7, no. 2, pp.1-10.

Sandin, P & Rocklinsberg, H 2015, ‘The Ethics of Consumption’, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, vol. 29, no. 1, pp 1-4.

Tickamyer, A & Patel-Campillo, A, 2016, ‘Sociological perspectives on uneven development’, The Sociology of Development Handbook, p.293.

Trainer, T 2016, ‘The simpler way: Working for transition from consumer society to a simpler, more cooperative, just and ecologically sustainable society’ [online]. Available at: http://thesimplerway.info/

Trainer T. 2010, ‘Transition to a sustainable and just world’, Envirobook, Canterbury.

Widdows, H 2011, ‘Global Ethics: An introduction;, Acumen Publishing, Durham, pp 228-249.

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