GROWTH! What Growth?

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GROWTH! What Growth? intro/featured/selected 

Growth!WhatGrowth? updates here + ALT-, De-, non- GDP- post-Growth updates here

Alf Hornborg writes in his article “How to turn an ocean liner”:  “Although soon reduced to a heterodox and marginalized position, the critique of growth has continued to challenge mainstream dogmas of economics and policy for over four decades. Countless debates have raged on what exactly is the problem of sustainability, whether the design of taxes and subsidies, the choice of energy sources, the internal contradictions of capitalism, or even the biological essence of the human species. Considering the centrality of the focus on the economy, it is remarkable how little attention has been paid to the phenomenon of money. Mainstream economists certainly do not question money, but neither do most Marxists or ecological economists. Even Georgescu-Roegen (1971), who is recognized as the origin of both ecological economics and the proposal for degrowth, wrote a 457-page book on the contradiction between economics and thermodynamics without once asking if the cultural convention we know as money might in fact be the elephant in the room.”         Alf Hornborg  How_to_turn_an_ocean_liner –  read  GM PDF here 2017 Degrowth: culture, power and change – by Susan Paulson.

Harmful environmental consequences of growth have been rigorously documented and widely publicized throughout the past half-century. Yet, the quantity of matter and energy used by human economies continues to increase by the minute, while governments and businesses continue to promise and to prioritize further economic growth. Such a paradox raises questions about how we humans change course. This introduction to a Special Section offers a new theoretical approach to change, together with glimpses of adaptations underway around the world. It directs attention away from individual decision-making and toward systems of culture and power through which socialized humans and socioecological worlds are (re)produced, sustained and adapted. Potential for transformative change is found in habitual practices through which skills, perspectives, denials and desires are viscerally embodied, and in cultural systems (economic, religious, gender and other) that govern those practices and make them meaningful. Case studies reviewed illuminate diverse communities acting to maintain old and to forge new moral and material worlds that prioritize well-being, equity and sustainability rather than expansion. This article endeavors to galvanize change by conceptualizing degrowth, by decolonizing worldviews of expansionist myths and values, and by encouraging connections between science and activism, north and south.

>Climate Change, Political Ecology, DeGrowth, Transition, Cambio climático, Ecología Política, Décroissance, Ecologia Política, Changement Climatique, écologie Politique, Socioecological Systems, Cambio Climatico, Sistemas Socioecológicos,
Transición, Decrecimiento, systèmes socioécologiques gg/pdf 2018 From despair to where? Marx, Ecomarxism and Degrowth – by Andreas Mayert

abstract: In his 200th year of birth, Marx’s critique of capitalism has been associated with various current problems. It is therefore interesting to compare Marx’s radical critique of capitalism in the 19thcentury with contemporary theories that radically question the economic system of the 21st-century. What do they have in common? What contradictions can be found? Is a convergence possible – or is the divisive dominant? The critique of the economic system and society by advocates of degrowth is particularly suitable for such a comparison, not only because of the radical nature of their economic and social concepts, but also because, like Marx in his day, they take the view that the current accumulation of crisis phenomena could soon create the conditions for a complete transformation of society. The present text compares the two lines of criticism with a special attention to the interpretation of Marx in ecomarxism.

conclusion – In his 200th year of birth, Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism is associated with all sorts of current developments: globalization, the continuing advance of automation, the exploitation of Uber-drivers and Eastern European contract workers – to name just a few examples. It is therefore only logical to look for links between Marx’s sharp criticism of 19th-century capitalism and current theories that radically question our form of economic organization in the 21st-century. Degrowth is particularly well suited for such a search, not only because of the radical nature of its social concepts, but also because, like Marx in his day, it takes the view that the current accumulation of crisis phenomena could soon create the conditions for a complete transformation of society. As our study has shown, the links between Marx’s critique of capitalism in the 19th-century and the critique of degrowth theory of our current form of economic organization are largely limited to these superficial commonalities.
Unlike the proponents of degrowth, Marx was an optimistic advocate of progress. He welcomed the expansion of productive forces in capitalism, which should be the economic basis of a higher form of society. He criticized the impact of short-term capitalist profit striving on environmental sustainability at least in agriculture. But this critique is not synonymous with a general critique of man’s domination of nature on the basis of technological achievements. Rather, his critique is to be interpreted in such a way that the exploitation logic of capitalism is incompatible with a rational mastery of nature. His critique was basically an economic one: the anarchy of capitalism wastes the power of the workers as well as the fertility of the soil, the blind accumulation of capital leads capitalism from one crisis to the next. He simply did not consider capitalism capable of directing its dynamism into reasonable channels and of controlling the forces it had conjured up. He had nothing against the dynamics and the forces themselves. The ecological criticism that Marx was therefore an enemy of nature could be refuted by ecomarxist theorists such as John Bellamy Foster (2000), Kohei Saito (2017) and Reiner Grundmann (1991a, b).

This does not mean, however, that he aspired to a form of society that is in harmony with nature. The rational metabolism of man with nature that he aspired to should not be confused with a life according to the rhythms of nature – on the contrary, Marx abhorred nature’s dominance over man as much as the dominance of capitalist production relations over the worker. The emancipated and free man of his future society should never again be controlled by external powers. All this is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile with a degrowth theory that prefers a return to more pristine natural conditions and that sees the technological achievements and productive forces of Western industrialized countries, regardless of the economic formation in which they are used, as the cause of the progressive destruction of nature and, not least, of climate change. While Marx wanted to unleash the technologies developed under capitalism, degrowth wants to reduce them to a level that avoids crossing 28 ecologically justifiable boundaries. And while Marx wanted to use automated production processes to keep the workload in communism to a minimum, degrowth propagates the reappropriation of manual skills as an expression of human autonomy.

All this does not mean that Marxism, or its interpretation in ecomarxism, does not regard today’s way of doing business as a dangerous aberration in the same way that degrowth theory does. The danger of catastrophic climate change plays just as big a role in ecomarxism as in the degrowth literature. But degrowth sees the disastrous wandering on this aberration as being based on a wrong to pathological world view of human beings (in Western societies), whereas the aberration in ecomarxism has only ever been entered due to the specific laws of capitalism. In degrowth theory man cannot escape this aberration if he is too weak to resist the ideology of growth, to escape his status thinking and to renounce his consumer needs. In ecomarxism, the vast majority of humanity cannot escape the aberration because, as non-owners of the means of production, they are at the mercy of the interests and the decisions of a numerically tiny class of capitalists, which ultimately force them onto this aberration.

Is it still possible to escape the aberration at all? In the third chapter of this study, Walter Benjamin was quoted as suggesting that revolutions consist in the human race stopping a locomotive that is obviously on the wrong track by pulling the emergency brake. But why should it be ready to do so? If degrowth is correct, the (Western) human race enjoys the convenience of train travel as long as it can, unless its false imaginations are taken away from it. In principle, this is a correct notion. After all, it is not alien to Marxism to speak of the fact that the workers are not aware of the mechanisms of their exploitation – they therefore consider the world as it presents itself to them to be natural. So, from the point of view of degrowth as well as from the point of view of ecomarxism, enlightenment is necessary.

About what? Perhaps about that: Firstly, that a sustainable transformation of the economy from a social point of view would not require a fundamental change in lifestyle in Western societies due to the massive technological progress in the field of renewable energies in recent years.

And secondly, that it is above all the profiteers of fossil capitalism who stand in the way of the unleashing of these technologies. There is a goal, there is a way and there is an obstacle that can be removed because it is not “natural”. The power of the beneficiaries of the fossil economy is based on a social construction and could, recognized as such, be eliminated with a coup. Intervention in property rights cannot be sacrosanct if the exercise of these rights has the potential to plunge the world into chaos. However, one should not be too optimistic about the impact of such enlightenment. It does not reveal deeply guarded secrets. And it will be vehemently denied, not least by advocates of degrowth. A revolution is not to be expected. But hope, as we know, dies last. 2018 Green growth or post-growth? by Jennifer Bird

Thoughts and reflections on the launch of Tim Foxon’s new book ‘Energy and Economic Growth: Why we need a new pathway to prosperity’. By Nora Blascsok

Students and faculty gathered together on 14 December to hear from Tim Foxon, Professor of Sustainability Transitions at SPRU and CIED, whose new book ‘Energy and Economic Growth: Why we need a new pathway to prosperity’ explores an important question:  Do we need to move beyond an economic system predicated on growth to achieve a sustainable future?

The book presents a historical perspective of the role of energy in driving economic growth. It grapples with the question of whether we need radical change to our economic system to create a sustainable future or whether investment in renewables will drive a new phase of “green growth”. The discussions at the event clearly demonstrated how divided the sustainability community is over answering this question. While everyone agreed that we need a positive approach, some were arguing for more radical changes to deal with the magnitude of the problem. … gg/pdf amazon 2016 The Hegemony of Growth – The OECD and the Making of the Economic Growth Paradigm – Matthias Schmelzer

In modern society, economic growth is considered to be the primary goal pursued through policy-making. But when and how did this perception become widely adopted among social scientists, politicians, and the general public? Focusing on the OECD, one of the least understood international organizations, Schmelzer offers the first transnational study to chart the history of growth discourses. He reveals how the pursuit of GDP growth emerged as a societal goal and the ways in which the methods employed to measure, model, and prescribe growth resulted in statistical standards, international policy frameworks, and widely accepted norms. Setting his analysis within the context of capitalist development, postwar reconstruction, the Cold War, decolonization, and industrial crisis, The Hegemony of Growth sheds new light on the continuous reshaping of the growth paradigm up to the neoliberal age and adds historical depth to current debates on climate change, inequality, and the limits to growth.

M Schmelzer_- Hegemony of Growth – Deutsche Zusammenfasssung/PDF  2015  Putting Power Back Into Growth Theory  by Blair Fix

Abstract: Neoclassical growth theory assumes that economic growth is an atomistic process in which changes in distribution play no role. Unfortunately, when this assumption is tested against real-world evidence, it is systematically violated. This paper argues that a reality-based growth theory must reject neoclassical principles in favour of a power-centered approach. Building on Nitzan and Bichler’s Capital as Power hypothesis, I argue that hierarchy formation is an integral part of the growth process. I hypothesize that the role of capital accumulation (through profit) is to facilitate hierarchy formation by legitimizing the authority of capitalists.

> distribution, economic growth theory, energy, hierarchy, power


what (de)growth? – related GaiaMoney posts and pages

what (de)growth? –this page

types of growth

a – bio growth  b – linear  c – exponential

population growth

Peak human =10 bn?  see GaiaMoney page on population and demography

product/industry/sector growth

Global CO2 emissions from cement production

The Delusion and Danger of Infinite Economic Growth. How economists came to ignore the natural world.  By Christopher F. Jones

Economists have only begun to model never-ending growth over the last 75 years. Before that, they had ignored the topic for a century.  And before that, they had believed in limits.

The founding fathers of economics—luminaries including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill—shared a belief that growth was finite, and that the reason for limits lay in the natural world. Writing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they based this conclusion on three observations. First, there was a limited supply of land. Second, all economic processes required at least some products of the land as raw materials. And third, the productivity of the land was subject to the law of diminishing marginal returns: each additional bit of labor and capital added to a plot of land will offer less and less benefit until no more gains are possible. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, leading economists recognized the interdependence of natural and economic systems.

While Adam Smith considered this inevitable slowing of growth to be “dull” and “melancholy,” others were optimistic. John Stuart Mill thought the stationary state would come when there was enough to satisfy human needs, and embraced its arrival, writing in 1848 that it “would be a very considerable improvement on our present condition [with] much room for improving the art of living” when humans could abandon the rat race of endlessly pursuing more. Whether good or bad, the end of growth was a matter of when, not if, for the classical economists.

So when did growth become infinite? If you had to pick a Hans Christen Anderson for the fairytale of eternal economic growth, American economist Robert Solow would be your man. Solow launched modern growth theory with a pair of pioneering articles written in 1956 and 1957. Still alive today, he has done more to shape growth theory than any other thinker.
Like Abramovitz and Lewis, Solow turned his attention to growth in the 1950s because the topic was “in the air.” Calculations of Gross National Product (GNP) had been pioneered during World War II and were spreading across the globe. Fueled by international competition and the reality of robust economic expansion in many nations, growth had quickly become the catchword of the day in economics departments and government bureaucracies.

Solow advanced these discussions with a new model of growth, one that sought to analyze the relative contributions of capital, labor, and technical progress. Whereas Smith, Ricardo, and Mill had taken for granted that land was one of the three factors of production with labor and capital, Solow assumed that land did not matter. To the extent that land or natural resources merited mention (and they rarely did), they could be seen as a sub-category of capital, interchangeable with money or machines.
Ignoring land meant cutting the natural world out of modern growth theory at its inception. Solow wrote that this seemed the “natural assumption” to make in a theory of growth, though he did not specify why. And since in the 1950s, abundant land and resources appeared available, few would have disagreed. Moreover, Solow was a modeler, and the chief virtue of a good model is that it simplifies. A map of a city that included every detail would be as large as the city itself, of course, and of no real use. With bottomless pools of oil in the Middle East, extensive minerals from developing nations, and swaths of farmland available, why clutter a model by including them?

With the rise of the environmental movement in the late 1960s, however, this assumption was called into question. And nowhere was the attack stronger than in the blockbuster 1972 report The Limits to Growth, in which an MIT team commissioned by the Club of Rome argued ecosystem collapse would be the inevitable result of exponential growth. Solow called the report “worthless as science” and “ignorance masquerading as knowledge.” Integrating natural resources into his growth model in 1974, he argued with complex mathematics that “the world can, in effect, get along without natural resources.”

“How dare you,” Thunberg might easily have scolded.

But while readers might imagine Solow to be a laissez-faire fundamentalist beholden to corporate interests, in reality, he was a left-of-center thinker committed to government intervention and planetary protection. He wrote about abating pollution and joined a Sierra Club board. And he scoffed at infinite models: The real world is so complex that to predict more than twenty years into the future is foolhardy, he once told a Congressional committee.

Solow was partly right to critique sloppy thinking among some environmentalists. Limits to Growth did not take account of the ways increased prices or technological advances make new resources available. Nor did such reports account for the fact that from the 1940s to the 1970s, most natural resources did not become demonstrably more scarce. Plus, Solow noted, a no-growth economy could still be highly wasteful. Pollution, not growth, should be the focus of environmentalists.
The specific blind spot in his model was climate change. When thinking about economic growth, he and other economists focused exclusively on inputs to the production process. Would we have enough coal, oil, iron, and minerals to make new goods? With price signals, substitution, and technological change, Solow and his colleagues were convinced we would. But they did not consider outputs—waste and pollution—to be more than a nuisance. They did not imagine that greenhouse gas emissions could be so consequential as to threaten ecosystem integrity in ways that could affect growth.
Similarly, Solow didn’t consider how his ideas would be used by others. His footnotes and caveats showed he didn’t think it made sense to talk about infinite growth. But few people read footnotes and caveats, particularly busy politicians. The easy and convenient takeaway from his models has been that growth can proceed regardless of planetary conditions, and Solow did little throughout his career to correct this misinterpretation.

Perhaps the relative newness of the idea of eternal economic growth can give us hope. In demanding an accounting of growth better suited to today’s problems—one that takes planetary boundaries seriously—we do not need to overturn fixed or timeless laws of nature. As we grapple with the growing dangers of climate change, we can create fresh models and write different stories. That may mean returning to the field’s origins: a time when ideas of growth and the natural world were intertwined.

read newrepublic article here  

Despite the global dominance of capitalism, economic growth continues to trend downward. Mainstream economists blame the slowdown on various ‘distortions’, but as this animation shows, the reality is quite different. Capitalists seek not more income per se, but greater power-through-redistribution, which they achieve by strategically stymying growth.       more on youtube     The Tragedy of Growth   To protect wellbeing and avoid ecological disaster we must abandon GDP growth and transform our economic system    by David Barmes + Fran Boait      Critiques of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of economic progress are widespread. However ‘beyond GDP’ narratives often seek to complement the dominant indicator with other measures of progress, aiming for ‘inclusive’ or ‘green’ growth, instead of truly moving ‘beyond GDP’.

Language and Economics pdf here   2014  Crisis in the habitat of the economic growth monster  by  Emil Urhammer

Economic growth is also present in semiotic discourse. A researcher from a think tank reported, based on his observation of governmental departments that he had seen banners on the walls promoting economic growth and, according to him, economic growth is engrained in these departments to such an extent that it extends beyond theoretical equations to a general discourse promoting economic growth as an ultimate good and the solution to all our problems. Additionally, Seaford observes “[…] that in practice GDP does tend to be treated rather like a single welfare function” (Seaford 2013:27), an observation also supported by Fioramonti, who confirms the widespread use of economic growth as a proxy for wellbeing (Fioramonti 2013). Thus, the  economic growth discourse has shaped the ability to imagine what wellbeing is by reducing it to a monetary phenomenon. To use Fioramonti’s formulation, this shaping is a form of domination, or discursive power (Haugaard 2003), which can also be detected in the ability to determine what wealth and valuable contributions to society entail, namely increased GDP, as well as that which contributes to this increase, regardless of social and environmental consequences (Fioramonti 2013).

back to top – intro – growth what growth – updates 3-2023 29 -3-2023 Why economic growth alone will not make British society fairer or more equal – by Stewart Lansley

In presenting his spring budget, the British chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, claimed his plans are all about growth. For the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, growth is his key “mission”.

Higher growth – of the right kind – is a desirable goal. But Britain has a dismal record on this front. The rate of economic growth in the UK has slowed sharply since the millennium. Today it is lower than those of other rich nations.

However, this is only one of the multifaceted problems the country faces. Levels of poverty are double those of the 1970s. The income gap between rich and poor is wider than in nearly all other countries. And key public services have been starved of resources.

Neither the Labour party nor the Conservatives have much to say about these multifaceted crises, nor how to tackle them. The message seems to be that without faster growth, little can be done – a stance which recent history shows is far from the solution to either rising poverty or social frailty.

My research shows that the gains from economic activity in recent decades have been increasingly captured by a small, rich elite, while many post-war social gains have been reversed. This has been greatly exacerbated by rolling austerity measures since 2010.

Personal enrichment Britain’s pro-rich, anti-poor bias is central to its broken economy and fractured society. In recent decades, key determinants of national strength – rates of innovation, investment, labour force skills and the quality of social support – have lagged those of our competitors.

A primary, if not the only reason for this failure, has been the way business activity, too often aided by misplaced state policies, has been increasingly geared to quick personal enrichment. This process of “corporate extraction” by a small elite has come at the expense of the long-term wealth creation that would boost economic resilience and serve the common good.

Neoliberal economists claim that weaker state regulation makes markets more competitive. However, more relaxed rules hand greater freedoms to boardrooms, enabling them to consolidate corporate power. Key markets, from banking and audit to pharmaceuticals and housebuilding, are now dominated by a few narrowly owned and controlled companies.

Many large corporations have been turned into cash cows for owners and executives. Boardrooms have adopted anti-competitive devices, from killing off rivals to price collusion. This is a return of what the American economist Thorstein Veblen termed “market sabotage” over a century ago.

Such practices crowd out the kind of innovation that offers greater social value. Since the Victorian era, they have been a central driver of Britain’s low wage, low productivity and high poverty economy. And their return in recent decades has become a key barrier to social and economic progress.

Instead of private investment and wages being boosted, the rising profits of recent times – which have continued to grow during the pandemic – have been siphoned off in disproportionate payments to shareholders and executives.

A 2019 report from the Trades Union Congress reported that three-quarters of the profits of FTSE 100 companies were returned to shareholders in buy-backs and dividends in the four years from 2015.

With UK corporations increasingly owned by overseas institutional investors – notably US asset management firms – little of this flow has ended up in UK pension and insurance funds or been fed back into the domestic economy.

Wealth creation versus appropriation In 1896, the influential Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto distinguished between “value-added activity” that brings gains across society and “extractive” or “appropriative” business practices that benefit a powerful minority.

Appropriation was commonplace in the 19th century. With the return of concentrated power, such practices have once again become dominant. These include the rigging of financial and product markets and the skimming of returns from financial transactions.

Consortiums of private-equity investors seeking fast and inflated returns have taken over many publicly listed companies (from motoring group the AA, to retailers TopshopDebenhams and Morrisons, to name a few). In many cases, including Debenhams and Topshop owner Arcadia Group, this has weakened long-term viability.

Key public services are now undergoing similar treatment. Social care, once provided largely by public agencies, has become a key target for the private buy-out industry. As a result, significant proportions of public money are being effectively siphoned off by the new providers.

These trends have had a mostly damaging effect on the way society functions. An important effect of the process of wealth accumulation, for example, has been the diversion of resources from meeting the basic needs of all citizens to feed the lifestyles of the wealthiest.

As a result we are seeing the reappearance of what the American economist JK Galbraith once called “private affluence and public squalor”. Since 2010, at least 1,000 Sure Start childcare and family services centres have folded in England. Cuts in council spending have led to the loss of more than 4,500 youth worker jobs.

Compare britain’s low level of social investment with the surging demand for private jets. Land that could be used to build social housing has been swallowed up by luxury developments.

Post-war social reforms When Clement Attlee became UK prime minister in 1945, his Labour government inherited a society shattered by war. The public was hungry for change. Heeding economist and social reformer William Beveridge’s 1942 warning that Britain needed “more than patching”, he ignored the nation’s historic debt crisis (the result of paying for the war).

Instead, he launched an unprecedented programme of social spending that took priority over boosting private consumption. Ground-breaking and popular reforms included the National Health Service, a comprehensive, compulsory and universal system of national insurance, and family allowance benefits.

The strategies of both main political parties today contain a central contradiction. Higher growth alone, even if it can be delivered, will not bring a stronger, fairer and more equal society. That requires a transformative plan to tackle the way in which so much of modern business strategy drives inequality. As in 1945, this means more than “patching”. gg/pdf 2010 Implications of a persistent low growth path – A Scenario Analysis – Literature Review and Expert Interviews – by Elke Pirgmaier, Andrea Stocker, Friedrich Hinterberger 29-10-2022 The first country in history to hit the limits of growth by Simon Kuper 22-10-2022 The Apocalypse in Charts – Published 50 years ago, the Club of Rome’s bracing and best-selling environmental report, The Limits to Growth, changed the way we think—if not the way we live – by Cullen Murphy 9-2022 Global living standards are moving in the wrong direction – Climate change and conflict could make things even worse

Life in the 2020s is tough. In most developed countries the pandemic created the biggest fall in life expectancy since the second world war. A deadly conflict in Ukraine is pushing up the cost of everything from energy to a loaf of bread. And amid all of the acute challenges, long-term ones have not gone away: climate change is a growing threat, as record droughts, heatwaves and floods in various parts of the world show.

To see just how tough, look at the un’s latest Human Development Index (hdi), released on September 8th. The composite gauge of living standards—which includes measures of life expectancy, education and income per person—fell in 2021 for a second year running. It is the biggest consecutive decrease since the index was started in 1990, wiping out any gains since 2016 .

The report makes grim reading. More than 80% of the 191 countries in the index registered a fall in HDI scores in 2021 compared with 2019, before the pandemic. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean fell furthest. In destitute Venezuela, for example, hdi scores have been falling since 2015 and accelerated their decline during the pandemic. Living standards also fell significantly in South Asia. In India—which endured a brutal covid lockdown—life expectancy fell by three years.

Worse still is the situation in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 32 countries with the lowest hdi scores, 28 were in this region. Many, such as South Sudan and Ethiopia, are enduring brutal conflicts. Such is the region’s poverty that a child born today can expect to live for 60 years and have just six years of schooling, compared with 79 and 12 years, respectively, in the oecd, a group of rich

This drop in living standards undermines recent progress in some of the world’s poorest regions. Between 1990 and 2019 the hdi of the least-developed 46 countries grew nearly four times faster than those of oecd ones. In the past two years, the two groups have diverged. Things are unlikely to improve soon. Rampant inflation and climate change promise more bad news for much of the world. 2022 From Luddites to limits? Towards a systematization of growth critiques in historical perspective – by Matthias Schmelzer

While economic growth is still at the centre of politics around the world, driven by economic crises and ecological breakdown critiques of growth as well as calls for post-growth or degrowth are on the rise. This paper advances a systematization of various currents of growth critiques in historical perspective. Going beyond standard accounts, it demonstrates that next to a narrow and mainly ecological critique of growth, which emerged starting in the 1950s and criticized GDP accounting and growth as a policy goal, there were also broader critiques of the phenomenon of growth itself, which emerged already since at least the eighteenth century and criticize the phenomenon of economic growth itself. To substantiate this argument, eight currents of growth critiques are analysed by focusing on their core arguments and historical trajectories: ecological, socio-economic, feminist, South–North, cultural, anti-capitalist, critique of industrialization, as well as reactionary growth criticism.

Two types of growth critiques and eight currents of growth critical thinking gg/pdf 2017 Rethinking the Growth Mantra: An Exploration of the Post-Normal World of Declining Conventional Fossil Energy by Terry L Berg

>Gewerkschaften, Klimawandel gg/pdf 2019 “In der Wachstumsfalle. Die Gewerkschaften und der Klimawandel” by Ulrich Brand  pdf here 16-3-2022 Are there limits to economic growth? It’s time to call time on a 50-year argument – Researchers must try to resolve a dispute on the best way to use and care for Earth’s resources.

economicsfromthetopdown blog   2020  , Carey W King   The Economic Superorganism: Beyond the Competing Narratives on Energy, Growth, and Policy    –  review by Blair Fix   –

“If you are interested in the megatrends of the 21st century, then Carey King’s new book The Economic Superorganism should be on your reading list. It is a well-written, meticulously researched opus on how to understand the sustainability problems that face humanity.

Several other recent books have delved into the role of energy in driving economic growth. (For instance, Energy and the Wealth of Nations and The Economic Growth Engine). Yet King’s book is unique, because he has framed his arguments in a surprising way.1 He has focused on narratives.

Before discussing King’s narrative framework, it’s worth pausing for some reflection. Scientists who study the biophysical limits of the human economy run head-on into a cultural divide between the natural and social sciences. These ‘two cultures’ (as C.P. Snow called them) do not speak the same language.”

ecological economics – Macroeconomic narratives in a world of crises  2013   Emil Urhammer & Inge Røpke   An analysis of stories about solving the system crisis  –  abstract  The study thus contributes to the long line of analyses on discourses on sustainable economy: empirically, by investigating and analysing a number of macroeconomic proposals for solving the system crisis, and theoretically, by elaborating on the concept of narrative dynamics in relation to persuasive strength in political decision-making.  –  “…two opposing conceptions have led to the emergence of two different discourses as regards the dilemma of growth; here, we characterise these as a pro-growth and a no-growth discourse, respectively.”  read or download pdf here   2013  Post-growth policy instruments   Peter Ferguson

This paper proposes a framework to evaluate post-growth policy instruments which gauges their capacity to lessen the pressure for growth emanating from the labour market and the state’s contradictory legitimisation and accumulation imperatives, whilst increasing societal well-being and reducing the biophysical throughput of the economy. It is argued that the most effective policies to do this are measures to reduce average working hours, expand low productivity sectors and reduce inequality. Specific policies instruments include public sector expansion and the promotion of cooperatives, the introduction of citizens’ basic income schemes, environmental tax reform, the abolition of fossil fuel subsidies, reforms to monetary policy, financial regulatory reform and the introduction of alternative measures of progress to gross domestic product.  2009  Advancing_and_Resolving_the Great Sustainability Debates and Discourses – Resolving the “Growth versus Sustainability Debates”  through  “Green Growth/Decoupling”  to Progress the “Climate Change Debates”    M Smith   The Deep Structure of Economic Growth   by Paul Romer 

When I was working on growth in the 1990s, I wrote an article on economic growth … deep conceptual foundations. We can share discoveries with others. There are incomprehensibly many discoveries yet to be found. The economic jargon for this first point is the “nonrivalry of knowledge;” the jargon from math and computer science for the second point is “combinatorial explosion.”  …   The challenge for growth theory is to understand why growth in China was so much faster after reform than before …  To understand how persistent growth, even accelerating growth is possible, it helps to step back and ask where growth comes from. At the most basic level, an economy grows when whenever people take resources and rearrange them in a way that makes them more valuable. …

Every generation has perceived the limits to growth that finite resources and undesirable side effects would pose if no new recipes or ideas were discovered. And every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new recipes and ideas. We consistently fail to grasp how many ideas remain to be discovered. The difficulty is the same one we have with compounding: possibilities do not merely add up; they multiply. …    there have been two few people on earth and too little time since we showed up, for us to have tried more than a minuscule fraction of the all the possibilities. …   If we think of an idea as a recipe that shows how to create value by rearranging physical objects, it makes sense to define a meta-idea as a recipe for social interaction that encourages the production and transmission of ideas. Growth comes from ideas about objects. Meta-ideas are ideas about ideas. …  One of the biggest meta-ideas of modern life is to let people live together in dense urban agglomerations. A second is to allow market forces to guide most of the detailed decisions these people make about who they interact with each other. … The third big meta-idea is the system of science …           read whole article here  Seven Billion Solutions Strong    Why Markets, Growth and Innovation Are the Antidote to Eco-Pessimism     Pierre Desrochers   Joanna Szurmak

…”…In retrospect, then, Godwin and Malthus’s contributions are better understood as significant steps in fleshing out two coherent narratives — the optimist versus pessimist, the cornucopian versus Malthusian — each possessing a distinct set of assumptions, values, and goals.   ….

The track record of neo-Malthusianism, however, has been so dismal that even prominent environmental activist Bill McKibben acknowledged two decades ago that “[e]ach new generation of Malthusians has made new predictions that the end was near, and has been proved wrong.” But like many other pessimists before and after him, McKibben pivoted by arguing that the real issue facing humanity was “running out of… what the scientists call ‘sinks’ — places to put the by-products of our large appetites.”[19]   Today, neo-Malthusian claims revolve largely around the greatest pollution sink of all: the global atmosphere, which is said to be unable to absorb increased carbon dioxide emissions while sustaining conditions favorable to human life …

… the American Trotskyist Joseph Hansen argued that Marxists had long taken “a decidedly different view of humanity” than neo-Malthusians because they “note that man has hands and a brain, the capacity to use tools and an inclination for teamwork. These have made him, in distinction to all other animals, a food producer.”    Needless to say, the perspective developed by Godwin, Marx, George, and other optimist thinkers has long been decried by pessimist environmentalists as anthropocentric and amounting to a belief in human supremacy.  …

However, what people like Watson, Pachauri, Rees, and Rockström fail to account for is how the innovative nature of human activities in market economies, while indeed handling greater volumes of physical materials over time, ultimately relieved overall pressure on flora and fauna in advanced economies. …

Philosopher of science Maarten Boudry summarized this pithily: “The right way to look at anthropogenic climate change is as an unexpected side-effect of something that, by and large, proved an immense blessing to humanity. Sure, if we had left all those fossilized remains of ancient animals and plants under the ground, we would not now be stuck with rising global temperatures. But then our lives would also have remained solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short, as they had been for the better part of world history until around 1800.”[76]

Unfortunately, neo-Malthusians are giving humanity no room to maneuver. By discounting our drive to innovate and our ability to use the existing technological infrastructure, including the near-zero carbon emission boon of nuclear energy, they are relegating us to the tenuous life as one of nature’s other animals. Future flourishing, both for the Earth and for most living beings on it, demands that we tap into the extraordinary potential of creative individuals made increasingly more prosperous by ever more trade, collaboration, and opportunities to (re)combine existing things in new ways.”    read whole article here   16/3/2021    From Carbon To Metals: the Renewable Energy Transition   By Frances Coppola

The world is transitioning from a carbon-intensive to a metals-intensive economy. Low-carbon technologies use much larger amounts of metal than traditional fossil fuel-based systems. Demand for metals is thus rising exponentially, fuelling a boom in mining and production.

But this creates an environmental challenge. Metals extraction and processing is a significant contributor to global warming and a major pollutant. Unless more environmentally-friendly ways of generating energy from renewable sources can be found, saving the planet from carbon emissions may prove extremely costly for our fellow creatures and even for ourselves.

Queen’s PhD_Thesis   2017  Towards a Critical Theory of the Anthropocene and a Life-affirming Politics – A Post-Anthropocentric, Post-Growth, Post-(neo)Liberal Green Republican Analysis Anne FREMAUX  Supervisor: Prof. John BARRY

FT 2019 Capital Rethinking Growth

EEB 2019  Decoupling Debunked.   Evidence and arguments against green growth as a sole strategy for sustainability  by Joachim H Spangenberg, Christian Kerschner, Alejo Kraus-Polk      Decoupling or Degrowth?    2018    Why “Peak Stuff” May Not Be As Dire As You’ve Heard     by  Linus Blomqvist

“Does humanity’s growing use of materials mean that decoupling is impossible? In a word, no, and attempts to reduce all resource and environmental problems to our material footprint won’t help us solve problems of resource scarcity or environmental impacts.  In a recent article … Jason Hickel claims  that humanity can only consume 50 billion tons of “stuff” each year (compared to current consumption levels at about 80 billion tons). And according to several papers that Hickel cites, that can’t be achieved in the foreseeable future, given growing populations and economies. The only solution, according to Hickel, is to ditch our addiction to GDP growth.  Hickel is challenging the concept of “green growth,” which he describes as “absolute decoupling of GDP from material use.” But before talking about evidence for or against decoupling, it’s important to ask: decoupling of what? ”     Degrowth:  Solving the Impasse by Magical Thinking  23/2/2021   Branko Milanovic outlines the ideological divides and rhetorical tactics distinguishing degrowers and growers.

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, 2009  by Barry Schwartz   2020   Happier with less? Members of European environmental grassroots initiatives reconcile lower carbon footprints with higher life satisfaction and income increases  –  GLAMURS (Green Lifestyles, Alternative Models and Up-scaling Regional Sustainability) –  Gibran Vita, Diana Ivanova, Adina Dumitru, Ricardo Garcia-Mira

Scientists and policymakers recognize the need to address consumption and lifestyles in order to reconcile environmental and development agendas. Sustainability-oriented grassroots initiatives emerge bottom-up to create opportunities for sustainable lifestyles; yet no prior assessment has ascertained the efficacy of their members to reduce carbon footprints (CF) and enhance well-being. We compare the CF of non-members and members of grassroots initiatives in the domains of food, clothing, housing and transport. We further compare the groups by testing the influence of socio-economic variables that are typically associated with both footprint and well-being. Here we show that grassroots initiative members have 16% lower total carbon footprint, and 43% and 86% lower carbon footprints for food and clothing respectively, compared to their “non-member” regional socio- demographic counterparts. We find a higher adoption of some energy-saving behaviors for initiative members such as greater active travel distance and lower indoor temperatures in the winter, yet no significant differences in the CF of housing and transport. Interestingly, increases in income are not associated with increases in the total CF of members, while the influence of income is confirmed for the CF of the total sample. Instead, factors such as age, household size, and gender better explain the variation in the domain-specific CFs of initiative members. Finally, members show higher life satisfaction compared to non-members and are 11–13% more likely to evaluate their life positively. Our results suggest that initiative members uncover lifestyle features that not only enable lower emissions, but also reconcile emissions with income and well-being. 

download PDF at 2019 People who significantly lower their carbon footprint report greater life satisfaction, study finds – Overall, the environmental activists in the study had a carbon footprint that was 16 percent lower, on average, than a comparable group of non-activists. by Susan Perry

The_Sustainable_Development_Goals_ GM PDF here  2020   The Sustainable Development Goals prioritize economic growth over sustainable resource use: a critical reflection from a socio‑ecological perspective     Nina Eisenmenger · Melanie Pichler · Nora Krenmayr · Dominik Noll · Barbara Plank · Ekaterina Schalmann · Marie‑Theres Wandl · Simone Gingrich

Abstract :  The sustainable development goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015, succeeding the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the MDGs focused on improving well-being in the developing world, the 17 SDGs address all countries and aim at reconciling economic and social with ecological goals. We adopt a social ecology perspective and critically reflect on the SDGs’ potential for monitoring, supporting, and bringing about a transformation towards sustainability. Starting from a literature review on the SDGs, we link empirical findings from social ecology with analyses of SDG targets and indicators.

First, we find that the SDGs fail to monitor absolute trends in resource use and thus prioritize economic growth over ecological integrity.

Second, we discuss the contradictions between economic growth and sustainable resource use in early and late stages of industrialization processes and show that they are responsible for important trade-offs among SDG targets.

Third, we analyze the transformative potential of the SDGs with a focus on the actors and institutions addressed to bring about transformative change. We find that the SDGs rely mainly on those institutions responsible for unsustainable resource use, and partly propose measures that even reinforce current trends towards less sustainability. Despite ascertaining limited transformative potential to the SDGs from an analytical perspective, we conclude by stressing the strategic relevance of the SDGs for visions, research, and practices of statt towards transformative change towards sustainability.

Jason Nickel  2018  The contradiction of the sustainable development goals:  Growth versus ecology on a finite planet

There are two sides to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which appear at risk of contradiction. One calls for humanity to achieve “harmony with nature”… The other calls for continued global economic growth equivalent to 3% per year … The SDGs assume that efficiency improvements will suffice to reconcile the tension between growth and ecological sustainability. This paper draws on empirical data to test whether this assumption is valid, paying particular attention to two key ecological indicators: resource use and CO2 emissions.  The results show that global growth of 3% per year renders it empirically infeasible to achieve … (rapid enough) … reductions in aggregate.  … The paper presents alternative pathways for realizing human development objectives that rely on reducing inequality … rather than aggregate growth.   2019   Connecting global emissions to fundamental human needs and their satisfaction  by Gibran Vita, Edgar G Hertwich, Konstantin Stadler  and Richard Wood  –  © Environmental Research LettersVolume 14Number 1     DownloadArticle PDF     DownloadArticle ePub

While quality of life (QOL) is the result of satisfying human needs, our current provision strategies result in global environmental degradation. To ensure sustainable QOL, we need to understand the environmental impact of human needs satisfaction. In this paper we deconstruct QOL, and apply the fundamental human needs framework developed by Max-Neef et al to calculate the carbon and energy footprints of subsistence, protection, creation, freedom, leisure, identity, understanding and participation. We find that half of global carbon emissions are driven by subsistence and protection. A similar amount are due to freedom, identity, creation and leisure together, whereas understanding and participation jointly account for less than 4% of global emissions. We use 35 objective and subjective indicators to evaluate human needs satisfaction and their associated carbon footprints across nations. We find that the relationship between QOL and environmental impact is more complex than previously identified through aggregated or single indicators. Satisfying needs such as protection, identity and leisure is generally not correlated with their corresponding footprints. In contrast, the likelihood of satisfying needs for understanding, creation, participation and freedom, increases steeply when moving from low to moderate emissions, and then stagnates. Most objective indicators show a threshold trend with respect to footprints, but most subjective indicators show no relationship, except for freedom and creation. Our study signals the importance of considering both subjective and objective satisfaction to assess QOL-impact relationships at the needs level. In this way, resources could be strategically invested where they strongly relate to social outcomes, and spared where non-consumption satisfiers could be more effective. Through this approach, decoupling human needs satisfaction from environmental damage becomes more attainable.

Play Video Download video Download transcript   2018   The Environmental Impacts of HumanNeeds and Lifestyles:  Connecting the global economy, naturalresources and human well-being   Gibran Vita

Preface :  The field of Industrial Ecology (IE) proposes a systems perspective on sustainability issues. It relies on apowerful set of analytical tools to understand human-nature relationships beyond the disjointedapproaches of disciplinary silos. In practice, the field has focused on accounting tools to describe socio-economic metabolism and technical systems, while the role of human well-being and social systemsremains beyond the boundaries of IE work.Indeed, IE tools have been essential to mapping interlinkages between economic development andenvironmental problems. However, most IE solutions remain in the technological sphere or within thestatus-quo. Without losing its roots, IE has the potential to embed a stronger social perspective bydrawing on the narratives and methods of social sciences. This is a natural step if industrial ecology is toshed light on sustainability pathways that are socially, technically and environmentally sound.Sustainability science is inherently political. The research question, methodological approach and resultinterpretation are susceptible to the values and world views of the researcher. In my view, our role asscientists is to expand human consciousness into perceiving, understanding and assimilating thecomplexity and inter-connectedness of the worlds needs and resources beyond the apparent. In this PhD, I make an effort towards holistic research while staying true to the roots of industrial ecology, without forgetting my own roots. My hope is to be of service to human and non-human life. In this case, my goal is to contribute to illuminating pathways towards more harmonious and flourishing life for all creation.             read or download here       >DEGROWTH,


The premise of this book is that economic growth has made life considerably worse for people in Britain since 1955 and that, even if growth were beneficial at one stage in human history ,it is now damaging. The book presents evidence of social and environmental damage caused by growth and several reasons for a persistence of growth in the face of this damage. It is proposed that the real reason growth has not been stopped is that economic systems would collapse if it did. The book looks at the effects of a policy of growth before and after the 1950s, how growth has effected national health and damaged family and community life, and the effects of growth on the environment (see especially chapter 11:”Growth in the Greenhouse”). Included is an examination of how the need for growth forces companies to adopt new technologies before their impact on the environment can be assessed, how politicians are more concerned about maintaining conditions in which economic growth is possible than holding the world’s climate unchanged, the myth of sustainable growth, and a lack of morality governing the direction of economic change. A solution is proposed that involves adjusting the capitalist system.(LZ)

The Growth Illusion   Richard Douthwaite  1992       read or dowload PDF here

Fictions of Sustainability: The Politics of Growth and Post-Capitalist Futures     By Boris Frankel

This book discusses the growing political contest between conservative and reform-orientated defenders of capitalist societies on the one side, and the policies and imagined futures advanced by green and socialist critics on the other. All are subjected to detailed scrutiny. Is ‘green growth’ innovation able to resolve deep-seated global inequality and other socio-political and environmental problems? Can new technology sustain capitalist production and high consumption by decoupling economic growth from the limits of nature? How feasible or utopian are ‘post-work’ or post-capitalist societies based on full automation and a universal basic income? What are the political economic strengths and weaknesses of green post-growth or degrowth proposals? These and other crucial issues are analysed by the author in a challenging and thought-provoking book covering an extensive range of policy reports, social theories, environmental proposals and political practices across the world.        read or download PDF here

tandfonline.comGM PDF here 2016 Growth Critique in the 1970s Crisis and Today: Malthusianism, Social Mechanics, and Labor Discipline    Maria Markantonatou   Department of Sociology, University of the Aegean, Lesvos, Greece

ABSTRACT : This article examines the perspective on labor in two critiques of “growth” as elaborated in the context of two capitalist crises: the Keynesian model of industrial development in the 1970s, and the neoliberal finance capitalist growth model of today. A landmark event for the first critique was the publication of the “Limits to Growth” report, and for the second the emergence of the “degrowth” theoretical current. Both critiques have a Malthusian point of departure, and their view on overpopulation is accordingly discussed. Comparison between them shows that despite their ecological and supposedly socially and politically neutral point of departure, both bodies of critique examined here—that of the 1970s and the contemporary one—prescribe for labor the obligation of social discipline and acceptance of labor-market insecurity, along with the undermining of welfare rights. First, I argue that there is no such thing as an ahistorical critique of growth, but only critiques of different, casespecific models of growth in each particular instance. Second, I argue that the idea of a steady-state economy that predominates in growth critical programs is incompatible with the process of expansion and continual enlargement inherent to capitalism. Finally, I argue that, in the framework of two different crises, both critiques of growth promoted a vision of social pacification and, on the basis of ecological arguments, justified the preservation of capitalist power relations               download GM PDF here

KW – uneven development     The two China policies  By Scott Sumner   The Economist has an article showing a dramatic difference in economic growth between northern and southern China:   The Economist provides a number of explanations for this gap, but barely even alludes to the most important; southern China is considerably more capitalist than northern China. 1-2021 China’s regional gap is worsening – While entrepreneurship flourishes in the south, a rust-belt malaise deepens in the north 3-2021 China’s rural revolution: the architects rescuing its villages from oblivion – After 20 years of frantic city-building, rustic China is in a death spiral. Now architects are helping to reverse the exodus – with inspirational tofu factories, rice wine distilleries and lotus tea plants – by Oliver Wainwright

KW: architecture, development, design, rural production, planning 1-2021 Right now, it feels like anything can derail everything, so are theories of change still useful? –
by Thomas Dunmore-RodriguezApplying a theory of change approach is hard, and in the current context just got a whole lot harder. Theories of change tend to be abstract, intangible, and largely hypothetical, so given the unpredictability of the COVID-affected world, are they still useful for activists seeking to strategize for positive social change? Recently a group of us, weathered theory of change practitioners and facilitators that we are, put our heads together to share challenges and begin to try to answer this question.

It seems the best theories of change emerge from face-to-face workshop settings, where the ins and outs of socio-political context can be thrashed out. The end result can often remain a fairly sketchy story of change, with lots of untested assumptions, but the beauty is often in the process itself. I remember a complex theory of change mapped across the concentric circles of a socio-ecological model that emerged from a workshop in Brazil (see below). Whilst the diagram itself was largely indecipherable to anyone else, for those of us in the workshop it represented three days of intense conversations around the deep structures underlying discrimination against young black people living in the favelas. …”…

KW change, development, transition 2020 Facilitating Conversations Across Academic Silos Through Design Thinking Methodologies – by Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness

KW change, development, epistemic, interdisciplinary, methodologies, transition   Different  Economics Theories of Growth?  1.Classical Growth Theory    2.Neoclassical Growth Model   3.Endogenous Growth Theory     Greener Growth is a community interest company that takes neglected areas and makes them food-producing and biodiversity-enhancing.

KW farming, food 10-2019  Economist Ashoka Mody & Greta ThunbergGdP growth, green growth, degrowth

Last Saturday, in the middle of the night, I was listening to Business Matters on the BBC World Service. At 18.30 minutes into the programme, there is a piece on the Greta Thunberg’s speech to the UN. She said:

“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.”

Professor Mody thought Greta’s speech was a very important statement, “cutting out a political path on which economists must now travel”.

However…   read article on here 2019 Greta Thunberg Is Right. Fairy Tales of Endless Growth Will Destroy Us Growth is driving climate change. But news media ignore the clear connection. by Jennifer Ellen Good

… “There are many reasons why people are still talking about Thunberg’s speech … at the United Nations Climate Action Summit. She spoke with knowledge, clarity and passion well beyond her years.

What I find especially significant about the talk is her inclusion of a critique of economic growth in the climate change story frame. … Scholars and activists share Thunberg’s concerns about the current system of endless economic growth. For example …  read more 2019 Don’t pursue economic growth at expense of environment – Europe’s environmental watchdog gives warning as climate crisis continues – report by Fiona Harvey

“Pursuing economic growth at the expense of the environment is no longer an option as Europe faces “unprecedented” challenges from climate chaos, pollution, biodiversity loss and the overconsumption of natural resources, according to a report from Europe’s environmental watchdog.”   read more 12-2019 What cost economic growth? Examining the consequences of Malta’s decade of plenty

“…. there are 83,000 people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Malta, 2,000 more compared with 10 years before. The increase goes against the EU as a whole …. can this growth continue or at least stabilise for the next 10 years? … The advice from economists is that …  Malta requires a return to sustainable growth which is focused more on achieving a balance and direct approach towards the quality of growth, rather than the quantity of growth ….” Fully Grown -Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success -By Dietrich Vollrath

Vollrath challenges our long-held assumption that growth is the best indicator of an economy’s health.


Is low economic growth a sign of success?  Yes, says Dietrich Vollrath, an economics professor, in a new book reviewed by The Economist

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