The structure of contemporary international trade facilitates a net flow of resources from the peripheral Global South to core Northern countries, limiting the developmental potential of the South but enhancing that of the North. This argument is the basis of the theory of ecologically unequal exchange (EUE) and the focus of this PhD dissertation.
To interrogate the intellectual rigor and pragmatism of conventional scientific perspectives and discourses from an EUE perspective, a life cycle analysis (LCA)- based methodology for assessing the occurrence of EUE is first developed and tested. Second, the core tenets of EUE theory are synthesized and translated into assessment criteria for policymakers and social movements. Lastly, in an attempt to re-politicize EUE, the current dominant economic or materialist conception of EUE theory is criticized and the theory reappraised from a postcolonial and cultural perspective.
Though marginalized, EUE theory challenges conventional economic, environmental, and social discourses, and frames the sustainability challenge from a biophysical, cultural, and justice perspective. The EUE phenomenon remains a political problem that can only be solved politically