A Strategic Discussion: Technology Cycles and Natural Resources

A Strategic Discussion: Technology Cycles and Natural Resources

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By Monica Bruckmann *

This succession of technological transformations affects the economic system as a whole and determines business cycles (see Nicolai Kondratiev's study on long waves) as part of a series of articulated innovations that each constitute an industrial revolution. However, these transformations are not permanent, in a strict sense, but discrete phenomena separated by periods of relative calm, even when it is a continuous process. An industrial revolution or the absorption of the results of a revolution is always in progress, both processes forming part of an economic cycle.

This dynamic has two key analytical implications:

1. To the extent that it is a process whose elements take a considerable time to manifest themselves in their true forms and definitive effects, it does not make sense to study it in the short term, but in a long period of time, that is, a cycle or a succession of business cycles;

2. As it is an organic process, the analysis of any of its parts in isolation can illuminate certain details of the system, but does not provide more general conclusions.

The cyclical analysis of the economy, in addition to offering more rigorous instruments to understand the essence of economic processes, opens the way to prospective analysis and a greater ability to anticipate and anticipate the behavior of cycles of technological innovation and of the world economy as a system complex.

The impact in Latin America

When analyzing the consequences of the wave of technological innovations in Latin America, the Argentine scientist Amílcar Herrera [2] examines the impact of the Kondratiev cycle, which began with the end of the recession of the 1930s and culminated in the late 1930s. 60, as a period of "modernization" in the region and in general in the so-called Third World, corresponding to the introduction of the wave of innovations associated with this cycle through, basically, the expansion of multinationals.

The strategy of the multinationals in spreading these technologies was associated with the objective of expanding the world market, by implementing a new international division of labor, which offered them important advantages: first, because it was a simple process, which represented the mechanical translation of the conception originated in the developed countries and, second, it seemed to ensure economic growth without essential changes in the prevailing social and economic structure in the countries of the region.

Thus, the industrialization model, widely disseminated in the region, was fundamentally conducted to meet the needs of the bourgeoisie and the middle class with the same consumption patterns as the central countries. At the end of this period, that is, at the beginning of the eighties, the rest of the population of the countries of the region remained in a similar or worse situation than in the past, with the exception of the countries of the Southern Cone. The innovation associated with the previous long cycle failed to improve wealth distribution, as it did in the central countries. Consequently, while the core countries entered a post-industrial era, Latin America suffers the impact of the new wave of technological innovation without having achieved the benefits of the previous cycle.

The failure of Latin America to fully benefit from the earlier Kondratiev wave, Amilcar Herrera observes, was due to the fact that the hegemonic social forces were unable to act, or acted in bad faith, in implementing the necessary socio-institutional changes. The strategy to face a new cycle implies the introduction of a set of radical transformations in the current socio-institutional structures. A technological paradigm is not a closed system whose evolution is unequivocally determined, on the contrary, it is a nucleus of knowledge and basic technological elements that offer a great variety of possible trajectories, whose orientation is, to a large extent, determined by the environment. social and political development that develops decision-making capacity in technological fields considered critical for socioeconomic development.

This analysis makes it clear that the ability to take advantage of technological innovation cycles in Latin America depends on the development of a strategy to guide political and institutional changes that allow decision-making in technological fields considered critical. The failure of the region to benefit from the previous wave was due to the inability of the hegemonic social forces to introduce the set of radical transformations that the current socio-institutional structures needed. This "inability" has to do, certainly, with the fact that the interests of the ruling classes in the region were historically articulated with the interests of the hegemonic powers. At the base of Latin American dependent capitalism is the colonial spirit of its ruling classes, which to a large extent, renounced their own commitment to national development.

The analysis of the impact of the new technological wave that began in the eighties in Latin America will make it possible to observe more clearly the scientific and technological challenges of the region within the framework of strategic development projects that incorporate the interests of the great majority, of the new emerging social and political subjects.

Certainly, in this context, new visions of development and new ways to achieve it will emerge.

The current situation in Latin America poses enormous challenges for the region. Perhaps one of the most important is the need to develop strategic thinking that allows recovering the economic and scientific management of the natural resources that Latin America possesses. The debates that have been generated from UNASUR, whose General Secretariat is committed to setting and expanding an agenda that deepens these strategic issues, are an important step in this direction.

Sovereignty over these natural resources means facing an articulated policy of domination and appropriation of them, a policy that profoundly marks the strategy of the hegemonic countries, and that unfolds into economic, political and military strategies. The central elements of the strategic thinking of the United States in the scientific area give a clear dimension of what are the geopolitical interests of this country in the region. The Science Plan for the decade 2007 to 2017 is developed in the document Facing Tomorrow’s

Challenges: Science in the Decade 2007–2017, prepared by the United States Geological Survey, attached to the Department of the Interior of this country. This document establishes the strategic orientation of scientific development, and investment and research policies in technological innovation and the training of scientists, at the same time that it conducts the planning and monitoring of the State at the most diverse organizational levels. It is a science plan developed to articulate scientific research and science-technology policies to the strategic interests of the United States.

In this way, scientific development is placed in its exact political dimension, organically articulated to the most general strategic objectives of the country to meet vital needs and what is understood by "national security", as it is clearly expressed in its main formulations [ 3].

The central objective of the scientific strategy is the access and management of strategic natural resources to ensure the "supply of the nation". However, the data show that these "supplies", in all cases, are primarily located outside the continental and overseas United States. What is at stake is a long-term dominance of natural resources on a global level. To better understand these dynamics, it is useful to verify the central axes of this science plan:

1. “Understand ecosystems and anticipate their changes to ensure the economic and environmental future of the Nation; 2. Verify the variability and change of the climate, recording and evaluating its consequences; 3. Energy and minerals for the future of America, providing a scientific basis for resource security, environmental health, economic vitality, and land management; 4. Develop a national hazard, risk, and resistance assessment program to ensure the long-term health and wealth of the nation; 5. Understand the role of the environment and animal life in human health, through a system that identifies the risks of the environment for public health in America; 6. Prepare a census of water in the United States to quantify, forecast and ensure fresh water for the future of America. ”[4]

It is clear that the strategic interests of the United States are directed fundamentally towards energy resources, mineral resources and water, as explicitly stated in the document analyzed. In addition, the understanding of ecosystems and biodiversity is placed as a priority as a basis to "ensure the economic future of the country", which is certainly directly linked to access to regions with a high concentration of biodiversity that represent the basis for much of scientific development more advanced than humanity is producing right now, in the realm of biotechnology and genetics.

In relation to mineral and energy resources, the plan establishes access and supply of these as a priority to “sustain the economy” of the United States. The document recognizes that "the Nation faces a growing demand for mineral and energy resources, a growing dependence on imported resources from other countries and a growing pressure to consider alternative sources based on technological innovation."

That is to say, the political, economic and military strategy of this country in the region is developed within the framework of a policy of appropriation and control of natural resources considered vital and whose supply has the capacity to impact “national security”, therefore It also has the ability to put the entire State apparatus in tension to guarantee it.

Technological cycles and strategic minerals

Undoubtedly, a study of the behavior of the consumption of strategic minerals in each technological cycle in relation to economic and industrial cycles would allow us to evaluate more exhaustively the trends in world demand for minerals. The importance of this prospective analysis for the development of strategic thinking and economic and scientific-technological policies is fundamental for an efficient management of these natural resources.

Analyzing in a more systematic way the cycles of minerals in relation to the cycles of technological innovation will allow the development of a theoretical-methodological tool aimed at thinking of minerals and natural resources not only as commodities, which represents one of the most serious processes of financialization of the nature, but as resources that can be the fundamental basis for the integral development of peoples and nations.

The emergence of new powers in the world creates a deeply complex scenario for the redefinition of hegemonies. One of the main threats to the appropriation of natural resources and the hegemonic project of the United States in the region is the growing capacity of the governments of Latin America to regain sovereignty over their natural resources, strategic minerals, oil and gas, reserves. of fresh water, biodiversity, jungles and forests. This sovereignty assumes a deeper meaning when it unfolds into political and economic sovereignty and is affirmed in visions of the future and its own development models, based on the recovery of a historical and civilizational legacy.

Scientific and technological development requires the intervention of the State as manager of this process, because the demands for investment, mobilization of resources and political-institutional transformations that it requires exceed the management capacity of any private company. The expansion of multinationals, transnationals and global companies lead to growing imbalances that disrupt the world economy. Capitalism itself, which is capable of producing colossal forces of creation and innovation, needs to dramatically destroy what it produces and the very natural base on which it produces to guarantee the accumulation process. This question places us in front of another dilemma: the need to think about scientific-technological innovation cycles and economic cycles in relation to the use, transformation, appropriation and consumption of natural resources. The way in which this relationship is directed represents a strategic question for the planetary human civilization and for the nations that comprise it.

It is a confrontation between two development models, one based on the sustainable use of natural resources aimed at meeting the needs of the majority of social actors and the other based on the violent and militarized expropriation of these resources.

* Monica Bruckmann is a sociologist and PhD in political science; Professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and advisor to the General Secretariat of UNASUR.
[1] See: SCHUMPETER, Joseph A. Capitalism, socialism and democracy.
Madrid: Aguilar, 1968.
[2] See HERRERA, Hamilcar. A new technological wave in developing countries, problems and options. In: Revista Política e Administração (FESP), vol. 1, n ° 3, October - December 1985, Rio de Janeiro.
[3] For more information see BRUCKMANN, Monica. Natural Resources and the Geopolitics of South American integration. Perumundo: Lima, 2012.
[4] Facing Tomorrow’s Challenges: U.S. Geological Survey Science in the Decade 2007 - 2017, USGS.


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