Indigenous economic development policy: A discussion of theoretical foundations
Jacobsen, Ben, Jones, Craig R., & Wybrow, Roy (2005) Indigenous economic development policy: A discussion of theoretical foundations. In Social Change in the 21st Century, 28 October 2005, QUT Carseldine, Brisbane.
Current media attention on policy about Indigenous people has largely focused
on the plight of rural and remote Indigenous communities and has centred
around two main areas: land and economic well-being. The second dimension
defines the Indigenous person as an economically rational being seeking to
maximise individual benefit and share costs across the community. Policy
options based on individual wealth maximising behaviour and rational self
interested actions may serve to explain economic growth in the dominant
culture of developed countries but is less useful in other contexts. We argue
that assumptions inherent in capitalist policies are unlikely to mesh with
traditional Aboriginal settings.
Capitalist enterprises establish labour contracts founded on notions of individual
self interest that may conflict with cultural community responsibilities and
expression of identity. Individual identity in community and connection to place
may undermine the motivational assumptions of free market solutions. Where
norms and social interactions are important policy options should explicitly
consider ownership structures and property relations.
Cooperatives as a form of organisation offer the potential for economic
development initiatives to align with the sociological and citizenship features of
Indigenous communities. We propose that business can be structured so that it
meets collective needs, operates to develop a competitive advantage from its
cultural base, and competes in a western socio-economic dominant market.
Explicit consideration can and should be given to the culturally evolving
landscape in remote Indigenous communities. Policy alternatives incorporating
traditional conceptions of citizenship offer some prospect for discontinuing
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