View Full Version : Famine in Africa and capitalism

08-03-2006, 03:21 PM
Millions face starvation in Eastern Africa:


I don't mean to trivialise this in any way, but aside from the imminent need for aid for these people, does anyone else feel that situations like these point up the failure of western affluent advanced capitalism to allow any organised response other than a vague guilt and maybe a donation of a few quid to an NGO before the next news feature comes along to distract us again? Our social and cultural structures seem to systematically and structurally prevent our societies from doing anything real to eradicate this suffering outside of charitable aid by NGOs (not to diminish their work, which however compromised by politics and/or administrative costs etc. is surely better than nothing?).

Obviously governments in the affected countries can be blamed also, but it seems appalling that our societies have no platforms or structures to debate or decide if and/or how we might want to "feed the world" or provide enough technology and help to prevent these situations. I know this is a hopelessly naive way to look at the issue, but those child-like questions ("why can't we feed the hungry?") can really cut through to the heart of the matter.

And the related political issue: how come capitalism's "least worst" option presents itself as the only one, as a kind of inevitable minimal damage limitation rather than active debate and decision-making about what kind of societies we want to create and live in?

11-03-2006, 08:36 AM
the process mostly lacks altruism. resources are available and the solution is possible. but governments withold funding because they can't see how it might benefit them in some way or another.

25-03-2006, 04:21 PM
"Obviously governments in the affected countries can be blamed also..."

Actually you can lay quite a lot of blame on the governments in affected countries. In most cases, there is enough food (either in the country or in the region) to feed people in need. Famine is a political question, sure enough (read Amartya Sen's Poverty and Famines for the starting point), but more often a local starting point.

Having said that, there have been a number of problems which we can lay at the door of western governments, notably the wholesale off-loading of agricultural surpluses onto developing countries (usually through the World Food Programme), and the inability to translate food aid into food security through systemic weakness in the international aid system (which goes through regular yet unpredictable funding cycles).