Jason Hickel Profile picture
Feb 15 12 tweets 3 min read
I’m excited to share this new paper we have out, “Imperialist appropriation in the world economy”. The results confirm that the global North relies on a massive net appropriation of resources and labour from the South. The figures are quite staggering. 🧵sciencedirect.com/science/articl…
In 2015, the North’s net appropriation from the South included:

-12 billion tons of embodied raw material equivalents
-822 million hectares of embodied land
-21 Exajoules of embodied energy
-188 million person-years of embodied labour
Two quick things before we go on: (a) “Embodied” here means inputs embodied in the production of traded goods, including manufactured products. (b) We use the IMF’s “advanced economies” list as a proxy for the global North.
To put these figures in perspective:

-12 billion tons of raw material equivalents is 43% of the North’s annual material consumption. In other words, *nearly half* of the North’s material consumption is net appropriated from the South.
-822 million hectares of land (more than twice the size of India), would in theory be enough to provide nutritious food for up to 6 billion people, depending on land productivity and diet.
-21 Exajoules of energy would be enough to cover the annual energy requirements of building infrastructure to ensure that all 6.5 billion people in the global South have access to decent housing, public transport, healthcare, education, sanitation, communication, etc.
In other words, all of this productive capacity *could* be used to provide for local human needs, but instead it is roped into servicing capital accumulation in the North. Patterns of net appropriation reproduce deprivation in the South.
These results also confirm that much of the ecological impact of resource use in the global North is effectively offshored to the global South. The North benefits from appropriated resources while the South suffers the damage.
How much are these resources worth? It is impossible to say precisely, as prices are a political artefact. But if represented in Northern prices the drain amounts to $10.8 trillion in the final year of data (2015). That would be enough to end extreme poverty 70 times over.
For the North, the drain represents a huge windfall, equivalent to a quarter of their GDP. But the true value to Northern capital cannot be calculated: this arrangement sustains the very possibility of growthism in the North, and stabilizes capital accumulation itself.
We also compared aid flows to drain, and found that for every dollar of aid that recipients get they lose on average $30 through drain to donor countries. Poorer countries are developing richer countries, not the other way around.
Finally, a big shout-out to my brilliant co-authors @C_Dorninger, Hanspeter Wieland and Intan Suwandi, whose work continues to inspire me, and to the many scholars whose research we drew on for this paper.

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More from @jasonhickel

Jan 11
Here's a quick round-up of highlights from our research and writing published in 2021, on degrowth, imperialism, decolonization and global justice. Free PDFs of all of these papers are available via the link at the end of the thread. 🧵
1) Post-growth and degrowth policies are key to enabling us to decarbonize fast enough to stay under 1.5 or 2C in a safe and just way, and we need climate mitigation scenarios that describe these pathways. Here's our argument in Nature Energy: nature.com/articles/s4156…
2) What does degrowth mean? This short piece is intended to address a few common questions that newcomers raise: tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.10…
Read 13 tweets
Jan 1
In 2022, let us build a political movement capable of dismantling the fossil fuel system and ensuring a just transition for all.
Btw, a just transition must be attentive to global inequality. Rich countries have disproportionately caused this crisis, and have wildly excessive levels of energy use. A just approach means they must reach zero emissions much faster than 2050 (which is a global average target).
This is crucial to give poorer countries more time, and to ensure everyone has energy sufficient for decent living. And that means ending the net appropriation of Southern resources by Northern states and firms, so they can be used instead to meet local human needs.
Read 8 tweets
Dec 27, 2021
I'm excited to announce the latest release of the Sustainable Development Index, now with data through 2019. Costa Rica tops the list! sustainabledevelopmentindex.org
Rich countries continue to perform poorly, with dangerously high levels of resource use and emissions. Sadly the Nordic countries also fall toward the bottom. aljazeera.com/opinions/2019/…
Middle-income countries that have strong public provisioning systems (specifically for healthcare and education) tend to perform best. This model allows countries to deliver relatively high levels of human welfare with relatively low levels of resource use.
Read 6 tweets
Dec 10, 2021
As the US "Summit for Democracy" continues today, it's worth remembering how the US has actively destroyed democracies across much of the global South over the past several decades, while propping up authoritarian regimes. Here are a few prominent examples:
In 1953, the US worked with Britain to orchestrate a coup that deposed Mohammed Mosaddegh, the elected Prime Minister of Iran, and in his place propped up the authoritarian regime of Reza Shah. Remember Mosaddegh:
In 1954, the US orchestrated a coup to depose Jacobo Árbenz, the democratically elected leader of Guatemala, and installed the military dictator Carlos Castillo Armas in his place. Remember Árbenz:
Read 10 tweets
Nov 18, 2021
I'm excited to announce this new paper we have out in Nature Sustainability. We track countries' performance on social and ecological indicators (the doughnut!) from 1992 to 2015. With the brilliant @AndrewLFanning, @DrDanONeill and @Nicolas43513211. nature.com/articles/s4189…
Here are some of the key findings:

1. No country has managed to achieve minimum social thresholds while remaining within planetary boundaries over the period analyzed. But a few do come close, with Costa Rica leading the way.
2. Social gains have been slow and insufficient even while resource use has exploded.

This is what happens when you have an economic system that is organized around capital accumulation and elite consumption rather than around meeting human needs.
Read 12 tweets
Oct 28, 2021
This is one of the most important books I've read this year. I've been researching and writing about capitalism and imperialism for my whole career, and I learned something from every page. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the world economy.
The Patnaiks argue that capital accumulation in the global North *requires* an imperialist arrangement with the global South, not as a bug but as a feature. This helps explain several turns in global economic history that economists have otherwise struggled to understand.
The book also includes a chapter that updates Utsa Patnaik's research on the British colonial drain from India, which I had reported on here. New data puts the total figure at $66 trillion. aljazeera.com/opinions/2018/…
Read 6 tweets

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