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 colonialist legacies.
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