Alternatives to sustainable development: what can we learn from the pluriverse in practice?

Shivani Kaul, Bengi Akbulut, Federico Demaria*, Julien François Gerber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)


The debates on the sustainability of development have a long history. Although the Brundtland Report popularized “sustainable development”, this slippery concept sidelined previous critiques of development and has been compatible with a wide range of conflicting agendas. A notable example of this contradiction is the uncritical promotion of capitalist growth in the pursuit of social justice and ecosystem health by the sustainable development goals. In contrast to this reliance on the “one world” of Euroamerican market economies, this special feature presents 12 case studies of “alternatives to sustainable development”. These case studies question the anthropocentric universalism of the development project and enact radically different relational ontologies, often gathered under the conceptual umbrella of the “pluriverse”. They focus on territorial, community, and network initiatives that intend to move methodologically beyond discourse analysis with a situated and empirical analysis of how pluriversal practices might flourish as well as generate tensions. We identify three frictions with capitalist modernity emerging from these contributions: (1) how alternatives to sustainable development relate to state institutions, (2) how they engage with the distribution of surplus, and (3) how they unsettle scientific epistemologies, at times regenerating past resources—and at other times radical futures. With this special feature, we hope to re-politicize the debates on the science and practice of sustainability, and weave the contributions of anticolonial and indigenous science studies into neo-Marxist and post-development critiques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149–1158
Number of pages10
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements We are thankful to all contributors, reviewers, journal editors, and staf. The editors have enjoyed working together
as a collective that is more than the sum of four individuals. Each editor was in charge of three papers. Shivani Kaul acknowledges support
from the project “Global Future Health”, which has been funded by the European Research Council (ERC; Grant no. 759414). Federico
Demaria is a Serra Hunter fellow and acknowledges support from the Maria de Maeztu Unit of Excellence ICTA UAB (CEX2019-0940-M),
as well as the projects “EnvJustice” (GA 695446) and PROSPERA (GA 947713), both funded by the European Research Council (ERC).

Publisher Copyright: © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature.

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