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Of Limits and Growth
The Rise of Global Sustainable Development in the Twentieth Century


Part of Global and International History

  • Date Published: July 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107420953

£ 23.99

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About the Authors
  • Of Limits and Growth connects three of the most important aspects of the twentieth century: decolonization, the rise of environmentalism, and the United States' support for economic development and modernization in the Third World. It links these trends by revealing how environmental NGOs challenged and reformed the development approaches of the US government, World Bank, and United Nations from the 1960s through the 1990s. The book shows how NGOs promoted the use of 'appropriate' technologies, environmental reviews in the lending process, development plans based on ecological principles, and international cooperation on global issues such as climate change. It also reveals that the 'sustainable development' concept emerged from transnational negotiations in which environmentalists accommodated the developmental aspirations of Third World intellectuals and leaders. In sum, Of Limits and Growth offers a new history of sustainability by elucidating the global origins of environmental activism, the ways in which environmental activists challenged development approaches worldwide, and how environmental non-state actors reshaped the United States' and World Bank's development policies.

    • Offers a significant reinterpretation of 'sustainable development', one of the most significant concepts and keywords of our time
    • Presents an innovative and rich analysis of how environmental non-state actors reshaped US foreign policy and World Bank lending
    • Brings together the history of US-foreign relations, international and transnational history, and environmental history through original archival research
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This illuminating book shows the decisive role NGOs played in affixing 'sustainable' to 'development'. But sustainability's popularity can be a function of how it smoothes over or obscures real differences among various constituencies regarding the ends and means of development … the book offers a revealing story about the power of NGOs to influence world affairs even as it demonstrates their limits.' David Ekbladh, Tufts University, Massachusetts

    'This book provides the best history in print on international environmental NGOs and their influence on policy. Macekura explains the emergence of these NGOs after the Second World War, he shows how they helped to define 'sustainable development', and he analyzes how they reshaped international affairs. Macekura also elucidates the limits of these organizations, especially when confronting resistance from the United States and other powerful states. This is a foundational book for anyone interested in international development, environmentalism, and contemporary foreign policy.' Jeremi Suri, University of Texas, Austin

    'Of Limits and Growth is a compelling addition to the literature on the rise of the global environmental movement and its struggle with the pressures for Third World development that followed decolonization in Africa and Asia. Macekura integrates the many dimensions of the subject more lucidly than [in] any previous work. His book will be well received by international studies scholars and environmental historians, as well as the development aid community.' Richard Tucker, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

    'This excellent contribution to contemporary political history skilfully documents the role of NGOs in pressing governments to pay more attention to the ecological and environmental consequences of their policies and to push for sustainable development.' Richard N. Cooper, Foreign Affairs

    'This volume examines the role played by environmental NGOs in shaping the development approaches of the United States, the World Bank and the United Nations from the 1960s through to the 1990s, and in giving rise to the concept of 'sustainable development'.' Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

    'Stephen J. Macekura's Of Limits and Growth provides a dispassionate and thorough yet concise account of the emergence of 'sustainable development' as a unifying mantra for environmentalists and those interested in economic development … The book is essential reading for those interested in the history of sustainable development and how it has impacted international relations.' Carrie A. Meyer, The Journal of American History

    'A growing number of young scholars are writing the history of environmental diplomacy, and Of Limits and Growth is an important model for that new cohort to follow.' Kurk Dorsey, H-Diplo

    'Macekura offers a compact, intelligent, and well-written account that shows effectively how sustainable development - a term vaguely enough defined to occasion further debates - emerged in the 1970s. It is well attuned to the scholarly as well as the political implications of the topic, and adds in important ways to our understanding of development agendas in the 1970s and beyond - a topic that had been too often neglected in early generations of scholarship. With Of Limits and Growth, Macekura establishes himself as an important member of a new generation of scholars examining north-south dynamics in the Cold War world.' David C. Engerman, H-Diplo

    'Of Limits and Growth is a watershed work in taking environmental politics and international relations together. Macekura's research is outstanding, and the book's utility speaks to diligent scholarship and hard-won ideas. In 300 pages, he has introduced the characters, institutions, and ideas that have shaped international environmental governance in the postwar period, and he has created a framework for understanding how that shaping took place. As historians begin to dig more deeply into the overlaps between environmental politics and American foreign relations in the post-war period, this book will become a touchstone of that new endeavor.' Joshua Howe, H-Diplo

    '… Macekura shows that the environmentalists played a critical role in fashioning the current consensus that environmental protection is compatible with continued material abundance. Above all, his book is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the current impasse over a meaningful global climate change agreement.' Simon Toner, H-Diplo

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107420953
    • length: 348 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus. 4 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: on the origins of 'sustainable development'
    1. The rise of international conservation and post-war development
    2. Parks and poverty in Africa: conservation, decolonization, and development
    3. 'The world's most dangerous political issue': the 1972 Stockholm conference and the politics of environmental protection
    4. When small seemed beautiful: NGOs, appropriate technology, and international development in the 1970s
    5. Leveraging the lenders: the quest for environmental impact statements in the United States and the World Bank
    6. Conservation for development: the World Conservation Strategy and the rise of sustainable development planning
    7. The persistence of old problems: the politics of environment and development at the Rio Earth Summit
    Conclusion: the limits and growth of NGOs.

  • Author

    Stephen Macekura, Indiana University, Bloomington
    Stephen J. Macekura is Assistant Professor of International Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.

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