Sustainability: Design for the Pluriverse

By Arturo Escobar

Photo: Philippe Gillotte/Flickr

Photo: Philippe Gillotte/Flickr

We are happy to start this year with some great news for our readers. Thanks to the support from the Society for International Development (SID), Palgrave Macmillan and of course to Prof. Arturo Escobar himself, we are able to share with you this enlightening piece on discussions of sustainability. In conversation with us, SID and Palgrave Macmillan have kindly made freely available the piece until the end of June of 2015 and we are very happy to share it with all of our Alternautas readers! The piece is available both in their own website as well as in the SID journal website homepage at Palgrave Macmillan that you can access here.

In ‘Sustainability: Design for the pluriverse’ Escobar brings together contemporary discussions of Transition Discourses - that is, discourses that argue for radical cultural and institutional transformations in ‘a transition to an altogether different world’. As discussed by Enrique Leff in our previous post, Escobar signals how these discourses have been emerging with particular strength in environmental and sustainability discussions in recent years. To Escobar, however, they highlight the necessity to overcome the modern ontology that ‘presumes the existence of One World – a universe’ and expand on the multiplicity of worlds possible. Rather than restricting the possibilities of re-thinking our debate on sustainability, Escobar emphasizes ‘the profound relationality of all life, these newer tendencies show that there are indeed relational worldviews or ontologies for which the world is always multiple – a pluriverse.’ His calls to open and re-imagine our discussions in this pluriversal understanding of sustainability are an inspirational contribution for Alternautas that we are happy to share with you as the opening post of 2015.

Originally, this article by Prof. Arturo Escobar was published in SID quarterly journal Development, Vol. 54.2 (2011) 'Challenges to Sustainability'.  SID has kindly shared it with us and it will be free to view with permission of the publisher until the end of June in the SID website


Arturo Escobar is a Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and associate editor of Development. His research interests are related to political ecology; the anthropology of development, social movements; Latin American development and politics. Escobar's research uses critical techniques in his provocative analysis of development discourse and practice in general. He also explores possibilities for alternative visions for a post-development era. He is a major figure in the post-development academic discourse, and a serious critic of development practices championed by western industrialized societies.