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Is more economic growth the solution? Will it deliver prosperity and well-being for a global population projected to reach nine billion? In this explosive book, Tim Jackson - a top sustainability adviser to the UK government - makes a compelling case against continued economic growth in developed nations. No one denies that development is essential for poorer nations. But i Is more economic growth the solution? Will it deliver prosperity and well-being for a global population projected to reach nine billion? In this explosive book, Tim Jackson - a top sustainability adviser to the UK government - makes a compelling case against continued economic growth in developed nations. No one denies that development is essential for poorer nations. But in the advanced economies there is mounting evidence that ever-increasing consumption adds little to human happiness and may even impede it. More urgently, it is now clear that the ecosystems that sustain our economies are collapsing under the impacts of rising consumption. Unless we can radically lower the environmental impact of economic activity - and there is no evidence to suggest that we can - we will have to devise a path to prosperity that does not rely on continued growth. Economic heresy? Or an opportunity to improve the sources of well-being, creativity and lasting prosperity that lie outside the realm of the market? Tim Jackson provides a credible vision of how human society can flourish �1/2 within the ecological limits of a finite planet. Fulfilling this vision is simply the most urgent task of our times. This book is a substantially revised and updated version of Jackson's controversial study for the Sustainable Development Commission, an advisory body to the UK Government. The study rapidly became the most downloaded report in the Commission's nine year history when it was launched earlier this year.


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Is more economic growth the solution? Will it deliver prosperity and well-being for a global population projected to reach nine billion? In this explosive book, Tim Jackson - a top sustainability adviser to the UK government - makes a compelling case against continued economic growth in developed nations. No one denies that development is essential for poorer nations. But i Is more economic growth the solution? Will it deliver prosperity and well-being for a global population projected to reach nine billion? In this explosive book, Tim Jackson - a top sustainability adviser to the UK government - makes a compelling case against continued economic growth in developed nations. No one denies that development is essential for poorer nations. But in the advanced economies there is mounting evidence that ever-increasing consumption adds little to human happiness and may even impede it. More urgently, it is now clear that the ecosystems that sustain our economies are collapsing under the impacts of rising consumption. Unless we can radically lower the environmental impact of economic activity - and there is no evidence to suggest that we can - we will have to devise a path to prosperity that does not rely on continued growth. Economic heresy? Or an opportunity to improve the sources of well-being, creativity and lasting prosperity that lie outside the realm of the market? Tim Jackson provides a credible vision of how human society can flourish �1/2 within the ecological limits of a finite planet. Fulfilling this vision is simply the most urgent task of our times. This book is a substantially revised and updated version of Jackson's controversial study for the Sustainable Development Commission, an advisory body to the UK Government. The study rapidly became the most downloaded report in the Commission's nine year history when it was launched earlier this year.

30 review for Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Although, as a longtime environmentalist, I'm a member of the choir that this author is preaching to, I found myself resisting much of what he was saying, and I certainly could not imagine that a gung-ho, pro-growth, climate-change skeptic would be moved by the arguments presented in this book. My main takeaway was the realization of just how far apart people can be who are supposedly on the same team. For one thing I had problems with the style and presentation of the book. The heavy use of sent Although, as a longtime environmentalist, I'm a member of the choir that this author is preaching to, I found myself resisting much of what he was saying, and I certainly could not imagine that a gung-ho, pro-growth, climate-change skeptic would be moved by the arguments presented in this book. My main takeaway was the realization of just how far apart people can be who are supposedly on the same team. For one thing I had problems with the style and presentation of the book. The heavy use of sentence fragments made me feel I was reading an expanded PowerPoint presentation, and the pervasive presence of weasel-words like clearly is a sign of the weakness of the supporting arguments. I was frustrated with the author's fence-sitting. I was expecting to find, at a minimum, a clear alternative definition of prosperity, but this I did not get--at least, not that I can recall. Instead there were repeated statements to the effect that "our future idea of prosperity will have to include such things as . . ." But the author felt that coming down too definitely on exactly what should be done, or how, was beyond the scope of what one book--his book, anyway--could do. Much of the book is concerned with providing suggestive evidence that alternative ways of measuring our economic activity and success are feasible. But too often, for my taste, this evidence consisted of the tentative findings of various social scientists, based on mushy things like opinion surveys. To me this is not "science" in any useful sense, for I have little doubt that, like expert witnesses in court cases, other soft scientists could be found to offer "evidence" supporting different or even contradictory conclusions. Only hard science--physics and chemistry--carry conviction, and there's very little of that in this book. What was most troubling to me was the author's faith in government as the solution to our global ecological-economic crisis. My alarm bells first started ringing early on when the author says that although the bailouts of financial firms in the crisis of 2008 were used to fund multimillion-dollar bonuses for those firms' executives, "politicians had no choice but to intervene in the protection of the banking sector." This reader, for one, believes that politicians did have a choice. Can we possibly believe that there was no choice but to borrow billions of dollars in my name, and use it to reward their cronies for losing such stupendous sums of money? The bold, visionary change needed to bring a new world economy into being will never arise from such feckless and fatalistic acceptance of government as it is currently practiced. As far as I can tell, governments are more responsible than anyone for the ecological harm that has been wrought on planet Earth. It is governments, after all, who subsidize Big Oil and pay people to destroy fisheries and mow down rainforests. Private interests, of course, could still accomplish these things, but not so quickly or so completely as when they receive government handouts to do so. Canada would still have a cod fishery if its government had not paid people to extirpate it. The idea that the Stephen Harper government in Canada might lead us toward a more ecologically responsible economics would make me laugh if it didn't fill me with such bleak hopelessness. Our governments rule us; they don't lead us. Our leaders--that is, the people we spontaneously wish to follow--will have to come from the grass roots. This book was at its best and most interesting when the author was at his most wonkish. He spends time discussing GDP and the equations with which it's calculated. But although I found this interesting and informative, I don't think that a bold new "prosperity"-based economics can emerge from such technical futzing. "Maybe if we can tweak these equations a bit . . ." My overall impression is that, although the author talks about vision, he sees and treats the question of changing the economic basis of our society as a technical one, to be solved ultimately by academics and bureaucrats. Even the attitudes of us consumers, which, according to the author, must fundamentally change, are really the responsibility of those same bureaucrats, who must construct the institutions and incentives that will cause the livestock, oops, citizens, to behave in the right way. Mr. Jackson sees a more thoroughly socialist society--one in which the evils of "capitalism", with its promotion of "consumerism" via an unpleasant thing called "novelty", have been overcome--as the most likely means of getting to the sustainable Earth we need to live on. In this view, a benign dictator or a benign oligarchy will shepherd us to the Promised Land of a prosperous, sustainable, socially leveled Earth. Of course the author does not say that--not in so many words. But to me it is the necessary implication of a world in which the state is even bigger than it is today. As though our real problem were a lack of right-thinking technocrats. And if people won't stop their neurotic pursuit of "novelty", they will have to be forced--won't they? Our future and our prosperity are not technical questions. They are questions of principle, of ideas; they are philosophical questions, and they need to be discussed at this level. We do need a new idea of prosperity, but that idea needs to be clear and definite, and it needs to be communicated with passion and conviction by men of vision and integrity--our future leaders, whoever and wherever they are. That was never the mission of this book, but this book could have been and should have been a stone for the sling of one of those leaders, and I'm afraid it just isn't.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    “And I am a weapon of massive consumption / And it’s not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function,” “The Fear,” Lily Allen NB: I have taken advantage of the “spoiler” tag to append notes and asides that don’t directly bear on this review. The reader may open them or not as he or she pleases. Coming as it does on the heels of Derrick Jensen’s Endgame: Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization and Herman Daly’s Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development, reading Tim Jackson’s Prosperity “And I am a weapon of massive consumption / And it’s not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function,” “The Fear,” Lily Allen NB: I have taken advantage of the “spoiler” tag to append notes and asides that don’t directly bear on this review. The reader may open them or not as he or she pleases. Coming as it does on the heels of Derrick Jensen’s Endgame: Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization and Herman Daly’s Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development, reading Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth does little to encourage optimism about the future. The short-term future, at any rate. We have gone far beyond this planet’s carrying capacity, and the current economic model – capitalist and growth fixated – only exacerbates the problem. Even if tomorrow morning everyone were to wake up and wholeheartedly embrace the zero-growth, sustainable economy discussed in these works, many areas of the world would still face ecological collapse, and it will be centuries if not millennia before a full recovery. And even then.... Even then we would still be impoverished to the extent that many natural resources are exhausted and irrecoverable outside of the passing of a geological age. Jackson provides a sobering example of the magnitude and intractability of the problem early in the book. One measure of our impact on the environment is the Ehrlich equation: I (impact) = P (population) x A (affluence) x T (technological intensity). Affluence here is roughly measured as GDP/capita in $, and technological intensity is measured as carbon-use intensity per $. In 1990, T equaled 860gCO2/$ and the equation produced a figure of 21.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions generated that year. Since then efficiencies have brought T down to 760gCO2/$ but P and A have grown faster than technical progress and carbon emissions stood at 30.0 billion tons in 2007. The number of people using products and the amount of resources used in making them have overwhelmed whatever gains we’ve made in carbon-use efficiency. The numbers are staggering. Just to meet a carbon dioxide level of 450 ppm, the IPCC’s target for 2050 (which is probably too high considering what a current level of c.380 ppm is doing to the climate), the world has to reduce carbon use 130-fold, and that’s keeping population and affluence steady. Hardly a likely scenario.(view spoiler)[ For God’s sake, I live in a country where a “serious” presidential candidate doesn’t believe in climate change, sex ed or evolution, and even the incumbent continues to kow-tow to the most carbon-use-intensive industries; e.g., it’s almost a certainty that Obama will OK the Alberta tar-sands oil pipeline. (hide spoiler)] Though Jackson spends the first few chapters of the book laying out the scope of the problem he shies away from the obvious conclusion – it’s unrealistic to expect 9 billion people to alter their lifestyles, expectations and assumptions to the extent necessary to maintain a reasonably affluent lifestyle for everyone. It’s unrealistic to even believe that’s possible. Jackson is a bureaucrat and his solutions – such as they are – are bureaucratic ones: We need to impose the policies that will resolve our dilemmas and keep and spread the lifestyle to which the developed world has become accustomed to everyone. But his own words belie that Panglossian conclusion: “By the end of the century, our children and grandchildren will face a hostile climate, depleted resources, the destruction of habitats, the decimation of species, food scarcities, mass migrations and almost inevitably war.” (p. 203) [emphasis mine] (view spoiler)[I don’t know why he qualifies the last item: The trajectory of recent history argues that we’ve already entered a period of endemic wars to control ever dwindling natural wealth. (hide spoiler)] What optimism I can generate looks to the long-term survival of humanity. Between 70,000 and 80,000 years ago, our species was reduced to a few thousand individuals struggling to outlast the catastrophic climate changes brought about by super-volcano eruptions that threw tremendous amounts of ash into the atmosphere. (view spoiler)[The resulting population bottleneck probably resulted in the evolution of the modern mind as it’s after this period that we first find evidence of cultures. (hide spoiler)] It was a close run thing but we came through it better able to cope with the world; though, ironically, those coping mechanisms now threaten to destroy us in turn. Perhaps, the humans who emerge into the post-industrial world will be better adapted. Having read Daly, I was already familiar with the premises of the steady-state economy so much of Prosperity Without Growth covered old ground. There were, however, some interesting data that enlarged upon Daly’s argument. The first is simply Jackson’s ability to update the numbers; we have over 15 years of additional data to shore up Daly’s contention that the growth-oriented, mass-consumption economy is insupportable. As the example mentioned above illustrates, technical advances lag behind population and resource exploitation, worsening our environmental impact. The second is that Jackson devotes a good deal of ink trying to get a handle on what “prosperity” means. In a growth economy, prosperity is an ever accumulating amount of material goods. There is evidence that material abundance bears a relationship to life satisfaction, but only up to a point – satisfaction of basic needs with enough left over for a modest enjoyment of relative ones. This linkage weakens considerably beyond that point. Jackson draws the moral that growth makes a real difference in quality of life in poorer countries and shouldn’t be abandoned until everyone can meet basic needs plus a bit extra; the developed countries (really: the overdeveloped countries) need to pursue no-growth policies and restrict their consumption. It’s easy enough to dismiss Jackson’s vision of a society that promotes “human flourishing” as a New Age, self-actualization utopian fantasy because he can’t concretize it: What would an average day-in-the-life of a post-industrial citizen look like? It’s impossible to say. The changes required to bring it about are so fundamental that 21st century observers would think they’re looking at an alien civilization. You’re better off reading SF from the pens of Ursula K. Le Guin or Edgar Pangborn to get an idea of the possibilities. I’m getting to the point where I’d seriously devote myself to living a sustainable – at least, more sustainable – lifestyle but it’s scary and I have responsibilities at the moment to nine dependents (view spoiler)[They’re my cats and they may not weigh as much in the balance as a lover or children would but I do love them and want to provide as comfortable – as prosperous – a life as I can for them. (hide spoiler)] and I feel overwhelmed, much as I did after finishing Endgame: Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization. I write this review comfortably ensconced in an air-conditioned apartment deep in the urbanized bowels of Los Angeles, using a criminal amount of resources to live better than many humans – living and dead – could possibly imagine and ask how we can, in good conscience, deny or severely restrict the material benefits of modern life to our children or to the billions in the developing world? We can’t. But we can find the wisdom and moral rectitude to live a sustainable life here and devote our collective energies to creating technologies that make the transition to a no-growth future easier.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Helio

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Kep points I got out of the book: Page 50 - disposable incomes are increasingly dedicated to different ends: leisure, social interaction, experience. Clearly though, this hasn't diminshed our appetite for material consumption. Have we been genetically programmed with an "instinct for acquisition"? What is it about consumer goods that continues to entrance us beyond the point of usefulness? Graph on page 59 shows Russia't and South Africa's life expectancy has declined since 1990. Page 104 - a 'gree Kep points I got out of the book: Page 50 - disposable incomes are increasingly dedicated to different ends: leisure, social interaction, experience. Clearly though, this hasn't diminshed our appetite for material consumption. Have we been genetically programmed with an "instinct for acquisition"? What is it about consumer goods that continues to entrance us beyond the point of usefulness? Graph on page 59 shows Russia't and South Africa's life expectancy has declined since 1990. Page 104 - a 'green stimulus' has the potential to secure jobs and economic recovery in the short term, to provide energy security and technological innovation in the medium-term and to ensure a sustainable future for our children in the long-term. Page 119 - A different kind of economic structure is needed for an ecologically constrained world. Pages 144-145 - in British society incomes doubled on average over a thirty year period, but the loneliness index increased in every single region measured. Even the weakest communties in 1971 were stronger than any community now. Page 149- some people even accepted a lower income so they could: garden, walk, enjoy music or read. Page 153 - we need to dismantle the perverse incentives for unsustainable status competitionand must establish new structures that provide capabilities for people to flourish... in less materialistic ways. Page 161 - Richard Dawkins has concluded, sustainability just doesn't come naturally to us. There are a bunch of motherhood statements and pontificating about what must be done but not how to do it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is an important, serious but ultimately disappointing book. Important because it grapples with the vital task of how to redefine economics in a world of limited resources and an ever more damaged climate. Serious, because it approaches the task stage by stage, confronting some of the important issues which any change of this magnitude must face. But disappointing, because it still leaves us dangling, wondering exactly what a society which adopted this completely different set of objectives This is an important, serious but ultimately disappointing book. Important because it grapples with the vital task of how to redefine economics in a world of limited resources and an ever more damaged climate. Serious, because it approaches the task stage by stage, confronting some of the important issues which any change of this magnitude must face. But disappointing, because it still leaves us dangling, wondering exactly what a society which adopted this completely different set of objectives would look like and how it would work. As a result, its prescribed path for reaching the objective seems only thinly described. There is almost nothing in the book with which I could disagree, but this isn't enough. We are daily confronted with greed and materialistic ambition that seems to get worse and worse - just look at the unbelievable arrogance of Goldman Sachs spending billions on salaries when it was was one of the agents of our recent crisis. At a more mundane level, we see the clamour for the latest Apple product or even the most recent fashionable shoes. How do we change this? How do we change ourselves, even those of us who would willingly sign up to a vision of the kind described by Jackson? I don't know, and for all that he has written a necessary book I don't think Tim Jackson really knows either.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    An important and much cited book on sustainability circles. However, it covers little new ground. Much is based on the Club of Rome's [i]Limits to Growth[/i], some of the modeling is based on Herman Daly's [i]Steady State Economy[/i], both 40 years old. Sure, he introduces new data and confirms that the same disturbing trends continue. There are a few relevant studies cited that show material wealth is not the same as happiness, and his summary of what really matters to people more than money dr An important and much cited book on sustainability circles. However, it covers little new ground. Much is based on the Club of Rome's [i]Limits to Growth[/i], some of the modeling is based on Herman Daly's [i]Steady State Economy[/i], both 40 years old. Sure, he introduces new data and confirms that the same disturbing trends continue. There are a few relevant studies cited that show material wealth is not the same as happiness, and his summary of what really matters to people more than money drives his point home. The political critique has a lot of bark and not much bite. Clearly he rejects anarcho-primitivism and revolution and bringing about a 'New Barbarism.' However, he fails to make a compelling case about how to overcome the political gridlock he identifies. As someone who has worked as an editor, I am more sensitive to editing errors. Parts of the book read like copypasta and there appear to be omitted words in places that make the meaning obscure. An important book should not distract the reader with what appear to be copy editing errors. In parts it reads like a committee wrote it, and he acknowledges many contributors from the Sustainable Development Commission and workshops as the source material. I am not saying he plagiarized, but it looks like he did not polish his notes or carry the analysis further in places. The policy recommendations are fairly standard and predictable: reforms in national income accounting, cap & trade on carbon emissions that are ratcheted down over time, public and private debt reduction, a tax to curb foreign currency speculation, investment in education and 'dismantling of the culture of consumerism.' I'm not opposed to any of the proposed reforms, but I think he does not go far enough. I would like to see taxation used as a policy tool. . In addition to a Tobin tax, I would like to see a carbon tax and a tax on pollutants, such as pesticides. However, I have no better path to overcome the political opposition to taxes as a way to restore fiscal sanity and correct market failures. He declares where he wants to go is not Utopia. However, he fails to provide a guide of how to overcome the political opposition to the reforms that he acknowledges to be the problem. In short, the book has a limited vision and can't even provide a good way to get there. Still, no bookshelf on current sustainability topics is complete without this book. The challenge is to come up with something better.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    In these post-2008 times of perpetual recession and economic uncertainty, governments around the world remain obsessed with maintaining economic growth. Never again must we anger our free-market gods, and their fickle invisible hand, they say. But why is this? Why do our market economies require perpetual growth to be healthy? And why does our society assume greater wealth will bring us greater well-being? These are two fundamental questions Tim Jackson sets out to address in his popular-economi In these post-2008 times of perpetual recession and economic uncertainty, governments around the world remain obsessed with maintaining economic growth. Never again must we anger our free-market gods, and their fickle invisible hand, they say. But why is this? Why do our market economies require perpetual growth to be healthy? And why does our society assume greater wealth will bring us greater well-being? These are two fundamental questions Tim Jackson sets out to address in his popular-economic work Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet (2009). Acknowledging the dire implications of material growth for perpetuating ongoing ecological crisis, Jackson proposes we retrofit capitalism in drastic ways, and fundamentally challenges the assumption that perpetual growth is necessary for enjoying a lasting prosperity. Interestingly, despite the book’s potentially subversive prescriptions, the endorsements of significant mainstream figures can be seen plastered across the cover and beginning pages. His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, offers one among five forewords, and the book’s opening pages are filled with those punchy, sound-bite reviews which often introduce mass market paperbacks. A dry academic work this is not; Jackson is out to sway the masses. So what is the catch? How does a proposal to radically reorganize society along ecologically conscious lines draw conventional endorsement? Ecological crisis is increasingly hard to ignore, and Jackson’s reasonable prescriptions for transition are the key to his popularity. Unfortunately, while these suggestions weave a desirable path to sustainability, I would argue they address only a partial truth. Indeed, its accessible, reformist critique of capitalism might be both the book’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Jackson’s is a noble goal, and contributes to a long tradition of alternative economists attempting to answer a big question: How do we organize society to maximize the common good while maintaining, social and environmental, health and stability? Considering our current circumstances, Jackson argues that our ability to formulate solutions is contingent on adequately deconstructing the ‘common sense’ of both perpetual growth and consumerism. Jackson acknowledges that growth is central to competitive, consumer oriented liberal economies, but insists that ‘capitalism isn’t a single homogenous entity”. He points to examples of authoritarian and coordinated market economic models whose industries are primarily privately owned but tend towards stagnation rather than growth. A commonly held moral evaluation of growth as ‘good’ and stagnation as ‘bad’ has us dismiss the potentialities of stagnation based, steady-state economies. He describes a modern capitalism entrenched in an ‘iron cage of consumerism’ whose dialectic of profit imperative and consumerism drives the engine of growth. In a competitive market, the profit imperative motivates firms to produce better, cheaper, products and services, driving a perpetual process of innovation and ‘creative destruction’. Complementary to this is a consumer demand based in a complex social logic, equating greater wealth with greater status and prosperity. However, growth stems from an important contradiction. Firms achieve efficiency by gradually replacing human labour with technological innovation. In order to maintain a consumer market to which products and services can be sold, new sites of investment must be tapped, and new jobs created, expanding both production and consumption ad infinitum. Jackson proposes there is a way around this. He argues that while the profit/consumer dialectic is impossible to decouple from material production it is nonetheless an unnecessary feature of a market economy. Alternatively his ecological macro-economics proposes to halt growth in three important ways: 1) respond to the replacement of labour with technology by reducing the working week and sharing the remaining hours across society; 2) diminishing the importance of consumerism as a driver of growth in favour of a new focus on investment in restorative, renewable, social practices; and 3) transition human labour practices based in material production to labour practices based in services. However, he also acknowledges that these transitions will need to rely on state interventions: reducing inequality through progressive taxation and basic incomes; curbing consumer culture, for example, by banning advertising to children; protecting key resources and ecologies by nationalizing productive industries; fostering public spaces and spheres; and reducing the mobility of capital and labour through a Tobin tax, and localized incentives. It becomes clear that Jackson has a very interesting understanding of capitalism. He describes his model as ‘less capitalistic’ rather than socialist (a word which never appears in his text), and here we see the strategy of his work. Prosperity Without Growth is a convincing argument for socialism couched in capitalist terms. Indeed, Jackson’s main divergence from conventional socialism perhaps lies in his transitional model. He envisions a reformist transition to capitalism-lite inspired by changing cultural values and ecological necessity. As reasonable as these reforms sound, I argue it leaves some problematic realities unsaid. A report produced at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, states that the world’s 85 richest people control as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population (Shin, 2014). Faith in the reform model puts a disproportionate onus on those with power to initiate changes. Processes of mass production and the financial systems which mediate these activities are massively profitable, outpacing any to be gleaned from Jackson’s socialist vision. Furthermore, the state structures we might rely on to initiate Jackson’s interventionist project are the same whose democratic mandate is increasingly called into question, and which presently derive immense tax profits from consumers and firms alike. Indeed, the notion of redistributing the immense wealth of 85 persons to world’s poorest 3.5 billion can only suggest revolution on a scale unprecedented in history. Even if Jackson's changes could be initiated within the bounds of a single Western nation state, it is hard to believe they would be initiated at the corporate or state level. Wal-Mart’s incentive to take on Jackson’s reforms in one nation appears unviable in the context of globalized capital, where profits can be found elsewhere. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the only state interested in committing to these widespread reforms would be one animated by a popular democratic movement whose clear economic vision stemmed from a shared solidarity and capacity for peace never before demonstrated in history. Perhaps there is a place in our future for these positive changes but wishful thinking is not an adequate replacement for the sort of strategic vision required to confront our ecological crisis. That being said, Jackson’s appeal to the masses is well thought out and arguably important. There is no doubt that the language of yesterday’s failed socialist projects can hamper, more than help, its objectives, and mass exposure to more humane economic models, whatever they are labelled, can only be positive. I am unconvinced that reform will be the full story, the endgame, of a truly ecological society, but there is no doubt that it has a role to play in foreshadowing peaceful revolution. Nonetheless, to varying degrees, I think we can all agree that less capitalism is in order.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris Jensen

    When I made the move from engineering to acting, I was fortunate to find a teacher early in my training that translated what can be a very airy-fairy touchy-feely language that often pervade acting technique into a clear and structured approach to acting training. I have found the same in my experience with environmental and community groups issues. "You can't pursue infinite growth on a finite planet", "consumerism and materialism are undermining our community and humanity", these are all things When I made the move from engineering to acting, I was fortunate to find a teacher early in my training that translated what can be a very airy-fairy touchy-feely language that often pervade acting technique into a clear and structured approach to acting training. I have found the same in my experience with environmental and community groups issues. "You can't pursue infinite growth on a finite planet", "consumerism and materialism are undermining our community and humanity", these are all things we in these fields believe strongly, but a clear, well reasoned argument backing these beliefs is not often well articulated. Just as with acting, when you've been in the field for long enough, these things seem self evident, but explaining them to others can be challenging. Tim Jackson deftly navigates some very dense and heavy topics yet manages to keep it engaging and bring together the evidence on subjects from ecology, to economics, to social issues to make a very clear and well reasoned argument. The book calls for a rethink on the association of economic growth with prosperity, and a refocus on what true happiness and prosperity for society would like, and how we go about achieving it. If you've had that feeling that the system is fundamentally flawed in many areas, but are hard pressed to explain the interconnections between all those broken parts, this book is a must read. Or, if you like a very scientific, mathematically sound explanation for the world, and sometimes wonder what all these hippies in the green movement are on about, then this book is for you.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    Tim Jackson tackles the problem of persuading us to take the obvious conclusion that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible seriously, by sending up the myth of decoupling - the decarbonisation of economic activity can't happen fast enough to prevent ecological disaster unless population and affluence stop increasing too. Inequality has to be addressed, both globally and within societies suffering from affluenza... We need immense structural changes and a redefinition of prosperity; an Tim Jackson tackles the problem of persuading us to take the obvious conclusion that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible seriously, by sending up the myth of decoupling - the decarbonisation of economic activity can't happen fast enough to prevent ecological disaster unless population and affluence stop increasing too. Inequality has to be addressed, both globally and within societies suffering from affluenza... We need immense structural changes and a redefinition of prosperity; an escape from the social logic of consumerism and ecological macro-economics. Working hours regulation, and an end to design obsolescence are key suggestions. Rebalancing between self-enhancement/transcendence and between novelty and tradition are also prescribed. Jackson sees a large role for the state, and a less capitalistic system.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Dahlhausen

    Underwhelming. Significant gaps. Tim Jackson, with the UK Sustainable Development Commission, published 'Prosperity without Growth' to summarize the commission's findings for the general public. The intent of the work is to raise awareness for alternative economic models in the wake of the financial collapse. The book reads as a summary report with moderate depth and extensive references. The book does a good job of describing why alternative economic models are necessary. The first reason are ec Underwhelming. Significant gaps. Tim Jackson, with the UK Sustainable Development Commission, published 'Prosperity without Growth' to summarize the commission's findings for the general public. The intent of the work is to raise awareness for alternative economic models in the wake of the financial collapse. The book reads as a summary report with moderate depth and extensive references. The book does a good job of describing why alternative economic models are necessary. The first reason are ecological limits (see Turner et al., "Perspectives on the ‘Environmental Limits’ Concept," 2007., and Robert Ayres, "Sustainability Economics: Where do We Stand?", Ecological Economics 2008.) The second reason is that growth is no longer meeting social goals. Tim's career research focuses on this point, where he deftly shows how consumption habits are unfulfilling and detrimental to prosperity. The central conundrum is that economic growth is unsustainable and degrowth or steady-state is unstable. The rest of the book is spent trying to understand a way out of this trap. Further growth with less resource intensity is not viable, as described in the chapter on the myth of decoupling. There are no current models for a stable degrowth or steady-state economy, and the complexity of the transition makes it harder. There needs to be enough alternatives investment to have them ready in time, but too much investment could crash the economy through over-spending and lack of financial return. He makes a few policy recommendations for an alternative economic model, or to at least expand the time frame for solutions: Keynesian green spending plans, ecosystem services investment, emphasizing employment in human service sectors, and more equitable sharing of reduced working hours. This is where the book is weakest, and many important points that jeopardize a less-intensive, steady-state economy, are left unexplored. The issues are many: - In response to the Stern review, he mentions that the transition and mitigation costs for climate are underestimated, but doesn't go into how are why they are underestimated. (Stern recently has increased his estimate for mitigation costs since the book was published). The mitigation costs come from top-down economic models which assume substitutability between factors of production, which the book showed is an incorrect assumption. This was an obvious point that was missed. - He suggests that limits on resource consumption be set, but leaves it to others to determine those limits. This is problematic, because setting limits is an inherently value-laden process with implications on transition possibilities, so he should have at least attempted an answer. - He explains how decoupling isn't likely to work, even referring to attempts at shifting to a human service-sector based economy as a "Cinderella economy", yet goes on to suggest just that as a key policy option. This ignores his own evidence of the lack of financial importance of the 'Cinderella economy', how little room there is in the long-term to achieve de-coupling by reducing labor hours, and how commoditizing public or private social goods can work against the sense of shared prosperity that curbs consumerism. - He advocates for the voluntary simplicity movement, and does acknowledge that many who do it are older and have the financial resources to stop working, but fails to see how that seriously weakens the case that it is a psychologically viable alternative to the novelty and status-seeking of consumerism. - He repeats the popularized statement of ecological tax reform, 'tax bads like pollution, not goods like income', right after describing how inequality is a driver of consumption. - He repeats the popularized "green-frogging" idea of having poor countries advance countries immediately to the best green technologies. This ignores the reality that tech industries are poor choices for economic development in the poorest countries, because the capital and educational requirements are so high, as explained in E.F. Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful". - The book ignores the question of political economy and targeted manipulation by powerful industry interests, who have halted progress on climate action in both the U.S. and the U.K.. These oversights made the book underwhelming, and left several important questions unanswered: - Is the voluntary simplicity movement a viable replacement to the consumerist mindset? - What are minimum viable economic sectors and activities for prosperity in a contraction / collapse scenario? - What are prior examples of differing substitutability of key material and energy resources? - What is a coherent theory of change for encouraging action at the individual and social level? How significant can such a change be, and what are the key limitations? - For the economies mentioned that prospered through recession because of good social institutions, what were the institutions, and how resilient could they be made to be in a longer recession? Overall, 'Prosperity without Growth' is a decent summary of the economic problem of ecological limits and counter-productive growth. The writing could be more concise, so I suggest skimming the first 3 chapters and the last chapter. Much of the book is underwhelming, but the reference list is excellent, providing depth and rigor on the subject.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Zeck

    Too many big words strung together to form too many over long sentences. But that said, the authors make a couple of really good points. First, growth-based capitalism is like running on an ever accelerating treadmill. It's an inherently chaotic system we can't keep up with. Second, growth-based capitalism requires significant resource consumption, which is becoming problematic given the world's population and desire to emulate Western-lifestyles. Third, growth-based economics forces us to sacri Too many big words strung together to form too many over long sentences. But that said, the authors make a couple of really good points. First, growth-based capitalism is like running on an ever accelerating treadmill. It's an inherently chaotic system we can't keep up with. Second, growth-based capitalism requires significant resource consumption, which is becoming problematic given the world's population and desire to emulate Western-lifestyles. Third, growth-based economics forces us to sacrifice social commitments in pursuit of the economy (the last twenty-years is a testament to that). Fourth and finally, if we expect the innovation attendant growth-based economics (through the mechanism of designing systems and processes to reduce labor and resource costs) to save us from resource constraints (including carbon pollution), we are in for a big surprise. Current estimates from leading governmental agencies estimate that such innovation needs to provide a 21 fold increase in efficiency now (mainly in resource consumption) if we are to preserve the current ecological conditions on earth.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eustacia Tan

    I don’t normally see the National Reading Movement SG account share economic books so when it talked about Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson, I made a note to borrow it. It’s been some time since I read a serious economics book and I wanted to challenge my brain a little. In Prosperity Without Growth, Tim Jackson makes the argument that the perpetual growth model that countries are following are not sustainable. What we need, he argues, is a redefinition of the term “prosperity”, divorcing I don’t normally see the National Reading Movement SG account share economic books so when it talked about Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson, I made a note to borrow it. It’s been some time since I read a serious economics book and I wanted to challenge my brain a little. In Prosperity Without Growth, Tim Jackson makes the argument that the perpetual growth model that countries are following are not sustainable. What we need, he argues, is a redefinition of the term “prosperity”, divorcing it from the idea of continual growth, and commitment to this new idea of prosperity without growth on the part of developed nations, so that developing nations can continue to grow without overtaxing our planet. From the book, I liked the chapter on the myth of decoupling (that we can continue to grow without harming the planet if we reduce the economic impact per output) by clarifying the difference between absolute and relative decoupling, and how relative decoupling will not be enough to save our planet. I also liked the chapter that discussed Keynesianism and the ‘Green New Deal’. It was interesting to read the forces driving the green new deal, their thinking, and pitfalls of it. Combined with the chapter on the myth of decoupling, the book makes a persuasive case that we cannot afford to keep growing the economies without thinking of the environment. Where the book falls short, regretfully, is in its definitions and recommendations. Firstly, the redefinition for ‘prosperity’ is never concretely finalised. Appendix 1 does talk about the SDC Redefining Prosperity Project, but you don’t get a concrete definition. It seems like the book would like its readers to make their own definitions, but given the urgency of the task to recalibrate the world’s economies, a stronger and clearer definition would be more useful. Secondly, while the book does talk about transitioning to a sustainable economy (measures include increasing financial and fiscal prudence, investing in jobs, assets, and infrastructures, tackling system inequality, etc), these measures don’t actually address what the economy will look like without growth. Apart from the suggestion to dismantle the culture of consumerism, most of the measures look like things governments take for long term economic growth or restructuring. And while I appreciated the discussion on the different models of capitalism, I don’t think the book went far enough in considering alternatives to capitalism. I’m definitely not a communist or a socialist when it comes to economics, but this is where Marxist and socialist economics viewpoints may provide illumination on the ways we could go. Given that the author talks about strengthening social capital and greater investment in public goods, should there be more government intervention? Limits on the sizes of companies? What are the wildest ideas and could we learn from any of them? I would think that a book asking us to redefine our idea of economic prosperity would be the one that shows us the full range of possibilities – after all, I’m not asking the book to recommend everything that it mentions. Although Prosperity Without Growth was published in 2009, it feels relevant in 2020 as we prepare to enter what will probably a global economic slowdown. This would be the time for governments, especially governments of developed countries, around the world to reassess its economic priorities and plan their stimulus accordingly. I’m glad I read this because I’ll be keeping this in mind as I read the news. This review was first posted at Eustea Reads

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jens Honnen

    Jackson forwards an idea that is at the core of the challenges of our day and age: We live under an economic system that has come off track in the pursuit of human prosperity. Sure, the history of capitalism has been accompanied by a general rise in living standards: people are less poor, better nourished, better educated and so on. But at the same time, our societies are shockingly unequal and our ecosystems increasingly degraded. At the state of current rate of growth, the global economy doubl Jackson forwards an idea that is at the core of the challenges of our day and age: We live under an economic system that has come off track in the pursuit of human prosperity. Sure, the history of capitalism has been accompanied by a general rise in living standards: people are less poor, better nourished, better educated and so on. But at the same time, our societies are shockingly unequal and our ecosystems increasingly degraded. At the state of current rate of growth, the global economy doubles every 20 years. The planet and the resources that nourish the economy, on the other hand, stay fixed. The predicament is obvious. Anyone that is paying attention should realise, then, that our economic order would benefit from certain adjustments. Jackson helps with this by exposing the myth of decoupling economic growth from material and resource input and pointing to alternative ideas. Regarding the latter, unfortunately, he remains a little bit vague. Although he proposes a general vision of a post-growth society, it is not really clear how it would look in detail and in practice. I am left convinced of the significance of his message and confused about the way to go forward.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Here is the review of the book that made me want to read it: Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet by Tim Jackson Jeremy Leggett, The Guardian, Friday 22 January 2010 "Tim Jackson states the challenge starkly: "Questioning growth is deemed to be the act of lunatics, idealists and revolutionaries. But question it we must." And that is the core mission of this perfectly timed book. Had he published it before the financial crisis, he would probably have been dismissed as another gre Here is the review of the book that made me want to read it: Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet by Tim Jackson Jeremy Leggett, The Guardian, Friday 22 January 2010 "Tim Jackson states the challenge starkly: "Questioning growth is deemed to be the act of lunatics, idealists and revolutionaries. But question it we must." And that is the core mission of this perfectly timed book. Had he published it before the financial crisis, he would probably have been dismissed as another green idealist, at best. But in the wake of the crisis, more people are questioning the primacy of growth at all costs. President Sarkozy, the Nobel-prizewinning economist Joseph Stiglitz and elements of the Financial Times's commentariat are among those now arguing that prosperity is possible without GNP growth, and indeed that prosperity will soon become impossible because of GNP growth. A new movement seems to be emerging, and this superbly written book should be the first stop for anyone wanting a manifesto. Jackson, who is economics commissioner on the UK government's Sustainable Development Commission, skillfully makes the relevant economic arguments understandable to the lay reader. He is not slow to simplify where that is warranted: "The idea of a non-growing economy may be an anathema to an economist. But the idea of a continually growing economy is an anathema to an ecologist." Tim Jackson is Professor of Sustainable Development in the Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES) at the University of Surrey, UK. He is also the Economics Commissioner at the Sustainable Development Commission, the UK government's independent, official sustainability advisor. His most telling thoughts for me were about the psychological reasons behind overconsumption by the wealthy. Chapter 6 is titled "The Iron Cage of Consumerism". Jackson points to the "empty self" in a way I hadn't considered before: "The restless desire of the 'empty self' is the perfect complement for the restless innovation of the entrepreneur. The production of novelty through creative destruction drives (and is driven by) the appetite for novelty in consumers. Taken together these two self- reinforcing processes are exactly what is needed to drive growth forwards. As the ecological economist Douglas Booth remarks: The novelty and status seeking consumer and the monopoly-seeking entrepreneur blend together to form the underpinning of long-run economic growth." So his final plea--that we MUST find ways for people to define themselves WITHOUT this cycle of consuming--is a powerful one. Sadly, I'm not sure how that will be accomplished. But for the first time, he gave me a sense of the underlying human emptiness at the root of overconsumption.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Guy

    Uninspiring. The goal is worthy, of course. In a finite world nothing can grow larger for ever... neither lemming nor human population numbers, neither global oil production nor GDP. In our case the end of growth seems likely to come sooner rather than later, given that we are already in ecological overshoot, about to be confronted with peak fossil fuels, and with catastrophic climate change a few decades away if we continue with Business As Usual. So, we can either think about what growth is su Uninspiring. The goal is worthy, of course. In a finite world nothing can grow larger for ever... neither lemming nor human population numbers, neither global oil production nor GDP. In our case the end of growth seems likely to come sooner rather than later, given that we are already in ecological overshoot, about to be confronted with peak fossil fuels, and with catastrophic climate change a few decades away if we continue with Business As Usual. So, we can either think about what growth is supposed to be good for, find ways to achieve the same ends by other means, and voluntarily and in a controlled manner stop growing, or we can charge blindly ahead until we drown, starve, or go over a cliff into steep decline. I bought this book because I hoped it would provide some insight into what a world without growth would look like and how to manage the transition. And it sort of does, but not well. For a start, it reads like a report rather than a popular science book or a manifesto... it's a little dull. Secondly, although it does a reasonable job of identifying where the problems are today, it mostly fails to lay out clear and useful solutions to these problems, and those that it does provide tend, more often than not, to suffer from the same hybris as communism... to whit, that state bureaucracies can effectively micro-manage their economies and people. Indeed there is more than a whiff of Marxism here, with advocacy of state enterprises and dark hints of the necessity of "revisit the concepts of... asset ownership and control over the distribution of surpluses." I'm not a radical free-marketeer, but neither do I think that communism has any useful answers. I'm basically a socialist, who believes that the role of government is to define the rules of the game and then to let market capitalism come up with optimal solutions. In order to transition to a sustainable future we need inspiring visions and pragmatic advice as to how to craft new green and sustainable rules to play by. Neither are easy to find in this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    This is a worthy addition to the roster of post-crisis "trade" economics books (see also Nouriel Roubini, Paul Mason, John Lanchester and others), concentrating as it does on the very concept that fostered economics as a discipline in the first place - that of resource scarcity. There is now a considerable literature that argues for an alternative to Gross Domestic and Gross National Product as measures of wellbeing and this goes all the way back to Victor Anderson's Alternative Economics Indica This is a worthy addition to the roster of post-crisis "trade" economics books (see also Nouriel Roubini, Paul Mason, John Lanchester and others), concentrating as it does on the very concept that fostered economics as a discipline in the first place - that of resource scarcity. There is now a considerable literature that argues for an alternative to Gross Domestic and Gross National Product as measures of wellbeing and this goes all the way back to Victor Anderson's Alternative Economics Indicators , published 20 years ago now. Informed by the thinking of Anderson, ecological economists such as Bob Costanza and Herman Daly, public intellectuals such as Jonathan Porritt, and the capability approach of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Jackson makes a convincing argument for the hand break to be applied to the growth process, advocating decreased consumerism, job sharing and the incorporation of environmental factors into assessments of societal progress. Jackson stops short of calling for capitalism itself to be dismantled and merely calls for a halt to growth rather than backing the "de-growth" literature that is now becoming something of a torrent on the academic left. His is a practical, achievable brief in the main and all couched in language that any intelligent human being could follow. My one query would concern the endorsements - the combined incomes and annual expenditures of those called upon to pass comment, not least the Prince of Wales himself, would probably be equivalent to the GDP of a mid sized European Union country.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Routledge Economics

    This is a worthy addition to the roster of post-crisis "trade" economics books (see also Nouriel Roubini, Paul Mason, John Lanchester and others), concentrating as it does on the very concept that fostered economics as a discipline in the first place - that of resource scarcity. There is now a considerable literature that argues for an alternative to Gross Domestic and Gross National Product as measures of wellbeing and this goes all the way back to Victor Anderson's Alternative Economics Indica This is a worthy addition to the roster of post-crisis "trade" economics books (see also Nouriel Roubini, Paul Mason, John Lanchester and others), concentrating as it does on the very concept that fostered economics as a discipline in the first place - that of resource scarcity. There is now a considerable literature that argues for an alternative to Gross Domestic and Gross National Product as measures of wellbeing and this goes all the way back to Victor Anderson's Alternative Economics Indicators , published 20 years ago now. Informed by the thinking of Anderson, ecological economists such as Bob Costanza and Herman Daly, public intellectuals such as Jonathan Porritt, and the capability approach of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Jackson makes a convincing argument for the hand break to be applied to the growth process, advocating decreased consumerism, job sharing and the incorporation of environmental factors into assessments of societal progress. Jackson stops short of calling for capitalism itself to be dismantled and merely calls for a halt to growth rather than backing the "de-growth" literature that is now becoming something of a torrent on the academic left. His is a practical, achievable brief in the main and all couched in language that any intelligent human being could follow. My one query would concern the endorsements - the combined incomes and annual expenditures of those called upon to pass comment, not least the Prince of Wales himself, would probably be equivalent to the GDP of a mid sized European Union country.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Todd Wheeler

    A challenging book and one not easily accessible as a casual read. The premise is stated early on: "The possibility that humans can flourish, achieve greater social cohesion, find higher levels of well-being, and still reduce their material impact on the environment is an intriguing one." p.47 Yes indeed. However, it takes most of the book to get to that point. The author spends a great deal of time debunking the current model of capitalistic growth used in many Western developed countries as well A challenging book and one not easily accessible as a casual read. The premise is stated early on: "The possibility that humans can flourish, achieve greater social cohesion, find higher levels of well-being, and still reduce their material impact on the environment is an intriguing one." p.47 Yes indeed. However, it takes most of the book to get to that point. The author spends a great deal of time debunking the current model of capitalistic growth used in many Western developed countries as well as rather pie-in-the-sky alternatives that try to ignore the very real resource limitations of the planet. And once arriving at the final chapters, the possibility of change seems daunting. Not only will business as usual have to change but also living as usual, culture as usual, socializing and community as usual, all have to change. It is hard to share the authors hope that achieving these changes is possible in the near term. We may have to accept that life on earth is going to be much worse for a long time before it starts to get better.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dylan

    I really, really, urge anybody with an interest in actuality and global developments to read this book. Being a book that paves the way for a 'new world' economy and society, it carefully avoids the pitfalls of being ideological and dogmatic by carefully examination of current affairs and affluent use of existing literature and data. In this way, Tim Jackson examines the current economic system and consumerist society, it's trends and limits. Without becoming fully academic, the writer manages t I really, really, urge anybody with an interest in actuality and global developments to read this book. Being a book that paves the way for a 'new world' economy and society, it carefully avoids the pitfalls of being ideological and dogmatic by carefully examination of current affairs and affluent use of existing literature and data. In this way, Tim Jackson examines the current economic system and consumerist society, it's trends and limits. Without becoming fully academic, the writer manages to provide a holistic view by integrating economic, ecologic, social and psychological perspectives. For example, consumerist society is not dismissed with a wave of the hand (as more dogmatic books would), but investigated as the social communication channel that it is. Finally, this careful and multi-faceted investigation culminates towards truly implementable and pragmatic policy (and personal) interventions to re-adjust our society towards a more sustainable future. For me personally, this book answers questions about economy & society that I've had for years.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Krzysztof

    Reading this now. Exciting to find a book which addresses the single most important problem facing our civilization! Now, I want to recommend this to my (skeptical) friends, so I need to be prepared for their criticisms. 1. Foreword by Pavan Sukhdev. He throws a bunch of numbers around with no references. I'm a bit skeptical from the get-go (35% of Earth's surface is used for agriculture? Does he mean, Earth's surface excluding water, or what?), and then he drops the following number as the popu Reading this now. Exciting to find a book which addresses the single most important problem facing our civilization! Now, I want to recommend this to my (skeptical) friends, so I need to be prepared for their criticisms. 1. Foreword by Pavan Sukhdev. He throws a bunch of numbers around with no references. I'm a bit skeptical from the get-go (35% of Earth's surface is used for agriculture? Does he mean, Earth's surface excluding water, or what?), and then he drops the following number as the population of Ethiopia: 28 million. Oops. This book came out in 2009. The population of Ethiopia in 2010 was 83 million. Already in 1970 it was more than 28 million. They should be pickier about who they choose to write their forewords, methinks.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Koh

    Bad: Long sentences. Not a captivating writer. Took me 4months to finish this, though the book is quite short. (Imagine doing the driest paper for a university module) Good: - clear policy recommendations - incisive commentary on why we seek growth despite the inability to keep up w it ecologically Would recommend to ppl interested in left-wing, socialist “fluffy” ideas but trying to figure out the language to convince “rational”, “solution-oriented”, “non-political”, “pragmatic” ppl of the proble Bad: Long sentences. Not a captivating writer. Took me 4months to finish this, though the book is quite short. (Imagine doing the driest paper for a university module) Good: - clear policy recommendations - incisive commentary on why we seek growth despite the inability to keep up w it ecologically Would recommend to ppl interested in left-wing, socialist “fluffy” ideas but trying to figure out the language to convince “rational”, “solution-oriented”, “non-political”, “pragmatic” ppl of the problems w the current state of capitalism. P/s I am a capitalist. I love globalisation. But again, like the book suggests, balance is needed. All in all, agreed w most points brought up by the author.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    If you've ever heard that the planet has more people on it than it can support, we are running out of global resources, or that the problems of poverty and climate change cannot both be solved at once, this is an excellent book to read. It quantitatively shows how we cannot rely on some factors some economists use to dismiss the issues, such as productivity and efficiency improvements, or carbon decoupling. If you've ever heard that the planet has more people on it than it can support, we are running out of global resources, or that the problems of poverty and climate change cannot both be solved at once, this is an excellent book to read. It quantitatively shows how we cannot rely on some factors some economists use to dismiss the issues, such as productivity and efficiency improvements, or carbon decoupling.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Yong Feng

    An updated version of the original 2009 report commissioned by the UK government, this book argues that in order to avert the climate crisis, we must move to a system where growth is no longer the key driver of progress. The improvements in green technologies and energy efficiency will never be enough to attain absolute decoupling from our resource consumption, especially if the latter is not kept in check. Case in point: even the estimated 5.5% emissions reduction from the lockdowns due to the An updated version of the original 2009 report commissioned by the UK government, this book argues that in order to avert the climate crisis, we must move to a system where growth is no longer the key driver of progress. The improvements in green technologies and energy efficiency will never be enough to attain absolute decoupling from our resource consumption, especially if the latter is not kept in check. Case in point: even the estimated 5.5% emissions reduction from the lockdowns due to the current pandemic are still insufficient to meet the 7.6% yearly reductions needed to achieve the IPCC’s recommended targets for keeping global warming to 1.5ºC. The real problem is an economy that relies on ever-growing consumption for stability, even though many examples have shown that beyond a certain level of material wealth, there are marginal or no improvements to human wellbeing. The second half of the book tries to sketch out the framework for what a world beyond growth would look like: shifting to an economy centred on low-carbon, human service jobs with a focus on care and maintenance; higher investment in civic and natural infrastructure; and reducing inequality through progressive policies to ensure that no one is left behind even with a lowered GDP. Jackson argues that all this will allow us to “flourish: physically, psychologically and socially”, and that “beyond sheer subsistence or survival, prosperity hangs on our ability to participate meaningfully in the life of society.” He also quotes Zia Sardar in saying that “prosperity can only be conceived as a condition that includes obligations and responsibilities to others.” These suggestions all make sense, and Jackson admits that more work and research is needed to sort out the details. However, the question left unspoken is how all this will be achieved. Given the interconnectedness of the global economy, such a revolutionary change would likely have to be achieved simultaneously by many countries for a fighting chance of success. A few countries are already moving towards more ambitious climate action, but few are likely to want to be the first to take their foot off the pedal of growth. Without coordinated government action, how else can prosperity without growth be achieved?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Erin Crane

    This book suffers from me reading it after I read Doughnut Economics. A lot of it was not new information to me. I’m learning that I don’t necessarily need to go back and read older books on a topic that I am just trying to get a handle on, not master. I wonder if the doughnut model is the kind of model Jackson was looking for? I still don’t know enough to be able to say it is. 😉 He mentions some of the same things as Doughnut Economics - GDP is not a good measure, we need to not need growth, we This book suffers from me reading it after I read Doughnut Economics. A lot of it was not new information to me. I’m learning that I don’t necessarily need to go back and read older books on a topic that I am just trying to get a handle on, not master. I wonder if the doughnut model is the kind of model Jackson was looking for? I still don’t know enough to be able to say it is. 😉 He mentions some of the same things as Doughnut Economics - GDP is not a good measure, we need to not need growth, we should tax differently to encourage the behavior we want, etc. I do think this book had a broader focus than Doughnut Economics has. Jackson brings in more sociology, and talks about materialism and wellbeing. And the need to shift our social values. I was surprised (shouldn’t be?) at how much was already being talked about 10 years ago. Here I am thinking the recent Green New Deal was a new thing! I just wasn’t paying attention at the time, or there truly is more coverage of these ideas now. I hope they are increasingly getting into the mainstream discussion.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Cute. And toxic. Economics from someone who could understand only a few pages from the first year University Curricula. It is not that the resources are finite. For what humans can consume they can be infinite. The point was to know that something that is in ample supply for free (ex. air) won't sell very well, because people would rather spend their money on something that is in short supply. This way, the air and water are finite, yet for the consumption of humans are so abundant one barely ca Cute. And toxic. Economics from someone who could understand only a few pages from the first year University Curricula. It is not that the resources are finite. For what humans can consume they can be infinite. The point was to know that something that is in ample supply for free (ex. air) won't sell very well, because people would rather spend their money on something that is in short supply. This way, the air and water are finite, yet for the consumption of humans are so abundant one barely cares to pay for the pumping. And a Play Station 5 can be manufactured in trillions of copies, enough to get 1000 for each person living on the planet, yet when they were launched some people were willing to pay extra (time, money, or both) to have one. There were pages when I was thinking Jackson can't be that stupid, he is only selling the products of his fear factory.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Keith Akers

    I read the book Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources before reading this and saw a generous reference to "Prosperity Without Growth," and decided to take a look. The two books have a lot in common with each other, and share the same basic viewpoint, but both talk about the subject in different ways. Tim Jackson, like Dietz and O'Neill, has gotten an impressive array of endorsements, such as Bill McKibben, Herman Daly (who wrote forewords for both books) I read the book Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources before reading this and saw a generous reference to "Prosperity Without Growth," and decided to take a look. The two books have a lot in common with each other, and share the same basic viewpoint, but both talk about the subject in different ways. Tim Jackson, like Dietz and O'Neill, has gotten an impressive array of endorsements, such as Bill McKibben, Herman Daly (who wrote forewords for both books), and Juliet Schor. An earlier version of this book was released as a report by the UK's Sustainable Development Commission (SDC). As far as I can see, the basic conclusions, most of the text, and many of the graphs and charts are all unchanged, but I would recommend the slightly revised book in preference to the download, unless expense or convenience is a problem, in which case the download from the SDC is free. See this link: http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/data/... wth_report.pdf This is a book which is not strictly speaking academic -- for academic, try Daly and Farley's textbook Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications which really is academic. Jackson's book is not for the faint of heart, but it's not technical. However, the language and style seem to be strangely relaxed for such an urgent topic. We are not exhorting people from the barricades; we are instructing them in the classroom. Most people that I see these days come to ecological economics from the peak oil community or the climate change movement, expecting some sort of climate change or resource shortage disaster in the not-to-distant future. They look to ecological economics for some sort of framework to explain why this is happening and how it can be avoided in the future. But Jackson's audience seems to be largely oblivious to all this. He knows there are limits to growth, but there doesn't seem to be any special sense of urgency. Is this the famous British stiff upper lip, or what? While he seems to be aware that we may face a collapse of society and even obliquely refers to this possibility (see p. 137), it is almost a footnote. The book only briefly addresses the question of what a steady-state economy would look like, in terms of the number of people who could inhabit the planet and the kinds of lives they would lead. The book has another minor annoying feature -- the occasional use of incomplete sentences. Sentences without verbs. Like this one. And finally, my pet peeve -- there is scarcely any mention of food issues or veganism. (The item "food" occurs once in the index. There it is -- page 10! The downloadable report shows some other trivial occurrences of the word.) Once you get beyond all this, though, you have an excellent and thoroughly done book on ecological economics. He has really summarized and organized a lot of the issues in a much more readable way than a textbook, for which we should be grateful. Indeed, the book offers an interesting contrast even to Enough is Enough, and people who "want more" after reading Enough is Enough (which is generally more approachable, and conveys more of the needed sense of urgency) might go here. The material is covered in a rather different way, with different things emphasized. I liked chapter 11, which seemed to summarize the whole ecological economics project rather well. I also liked chapter 5 on "The Myth of Decoupling," and it may be useful when talking to your less-enlightened friends. But I rolled my eyes when I first glanced at it -- most enlightened people are more worried about the collapse of civilization. What about peak oil, resource shortages, and climate change? Won't near-term peak oil, and intermediate-term climate change, settle this whole issue? How are you going to "decouple" from that? But this chapter is useful in talking to people who cite, for example, the Stern report as evidence that we can "decouple" the economy. The Stern report is generally regarded as happy news among environmentalists, but is it good news for economic growth?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Łukasz

    Impressive work.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marc Buckley

    “It’s about finding the balance between having too little and too much; it’s about the balance between self and other; it’s about the balance between continually innovating and being bedded in tradition,” Tim Jackson I really like the way Tim writes and how easily he reach out to me as a reader and learner. There are better economic models out there and cooperation and not competition is the way forward. I had the pleasure to have Tim on the podcast Inside Ideas. We had a wonderful conversation ab “It’s about finding the balance between having too little and too much; it’s about the balance between self and other; it’s about the balance between continually innovating and being bedded in tradition,” Tim Jackson I really like the way Tim writes and how easily he reach out to me as a reader and learner. There are better economic models out there and cooperation and not competition is the way forward. I had the pleasure to have Tim on the podcast Inside Ideas. We had a wonderful conversation about his books. You can find episode 129 here: https://youtu.be/DnUV2Ncxj5A Or check out any of the links below: https://www.innovatorsmag.com/weekend... https://www.innovatorsmag.com/what-sh...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Duncan

    In this book, Tim Jackson discusses the complete unsustainability of the current economic paradigm and the kind of changes that could put us back on track towards sustainability. We live on a planet with finite resources. Known reserves of many fossil fuels, metals and minerals are running low - and our use of these resources is increasing quickly as the human population shoots up towards 9 billion and many of those people aspire to levels of affluence similar to those found in the Western world In this book, Tim Jackson discusses the complete unsustainability of the current economic paradigm and the kind of changes that could put us back on track towards sustainability. We live on a planet with finite resources. Known reserves of many fossil fuels, metals and minerals are running low - and our use of these resources is increasing quickly as the human population shoots up towards 9 billion and many of those people aspire to levels of affluence similar to those found in the Western world. Those aren't the only problems though: atmospheric CO2 levels are rising to dangerous levels, the world's forests are being decimated, global fish stocks are collapsing, etc. Jackson picks apart the delusional arguments from neoclassical economists about the likelihood of us being able to decouple economic growth from increases in the use of natural resources. He shows that increases in the efficiency with which we create wealth are extremely unlikely to be able to sufficiently counterbalance the rising global population and increasing affluence in the developing world, which are both rapidly pushing up the rate at which we are using the planet's supply of natural resources. All of this demonstrates that our economic system is fundamentally unsustainable. Of course, many of us were already convinced of this idea. Where this book adds to the discussion is that the arguments and evidence are explained in detail. Laypeople like myself will benefit from this opportunity to take their understanding of the issue to a much deeper level. One of the great strengths of this book is that it explains the relevant economic concepts and arguments in simple terms. For example, what exactly is GDP and how is it calculated? I didn't know before reading this book. And why is GDP growth taken by governments everywhere to be so crucial? The answer is that, under our current economic system, growth is required to maintain economic and social stability. On top of this, there is a third problem: the power of the consumerist mindset, which sees people searching for social identity and competing for status by buying things they don't need. As it turns out, this mentality fails to serve our psychological needs adequately, and yet we are pushed to keep consuming because the economy depends on it. So we have three key factors here: the growth-obsessed economy (along with rapidly growing global population) and consumption-obsessed consumer combine to guarantee that we are not living sustainably within our finite ecology. Towards the end, we start moving towards specific suggestions about how we might deal with all of this. The author makes some brief suggestions for keeping our economic activity within ecological limits, for maintaining stability in an economy without growth, and for moving away from consumerism. This is comfortably the weakest part of the book, though. It is clear that a great deal more research needs to be done on all three of these points. We are given a good deal of detail supporting the idea that many of us already know intuitively - i.e. that we are living unsustainably - but far less about how to move forward. How big an impact would Jackson's suggestions make? What would society look like? What would the impact be on our level of affluence? We don't know. Still, it is an interesting and informative read for anyone interested in an economically-literate account of the major issues our global economy is facing. This book has left me feeling deeply worried about our future on this planet, but also sanguine that there may be a navigable middle road between proclaiming Armageddon and just ignoring it all in the hope that some amazing technological breakthrough will eventually come along to save us.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leland Beaumont

    We are already at or near the ecological limits to growth of our magnificent planet. At the same time the economies of affluent nations, as presently conceived, require continuous growth to avoid collapse into recession and high unemployment. Tim Jackson’s book Prosperity without Growth, examines this paradox in detail and presents a path toward its resolution. A first step is to examine our definitions of prosperity. A shift away from prosperity pursued as opulence — constantly acquiring new mat We are already at or near the ecological limits to growth of our magnificent planet. At the same time the economies of affluent nations, as presently conceived, require continuous growth to avoid collapse into recession and high unemployment. Tim Jackson’s book Prosperity without Growth, examines this paradox in detail and presents a path toward its resolution. A first step is to examine our definitions of prosperity. A shift away from prosperity pursued as opulence — constantly acquiring new material satisfactions — and toward prosperity enjoyed as flourishing — deep and enduring satisfaction and well-being — allows us to consume less while we enjoy life more. A graph of happiness as a function of average annual income reaches a plateau as essential material needs are met. A graph of life expectancy as a function of GDP per capita reaches a similar plateau. This insight helps us recognize that paths toward increased happiness do not require more material goods. In the economies of affluent nations, competition stimulates technology improvements that increase labor productivity to reduce costs. As labor becomes more productive, fewer people are required to produce the same goods. This would lead to unemployment unless demand grows at the same rate as labor becomes more productive. If growth stops, unemployment increases, household income drops, demand drops and the system collapses toward recession. This presents the dilemma of growth: + Growth in its present form is unsustainable — unbounded resource consumption is exceeding environmental capacity, and + De-growth under present conditions is unstable — reduced consumer demand leads to increased unemployment and the spiral of recession. A solution to this dilemma is essential for future prosperity. We can begin to see a solution in the “Green new deal”. People need jobs and the world needs to manage a transition to sustainable energy. These two goals can be met simultaneously by directing investments away from opulent consumer goods and toward low-carbon systems that reduce climate change and increase energy security. In addition investments in natural infrastructure including sustainable agriculture and ecosystem protection provide long-term benefits. The engine of growth becomes creation and operation of non-polluting energy sources and selling non-material services. In addition, delivering the benefits of labor productivity to the workers would allow them more leisure and less stress as they enjoy a shorter work week. The book describes quantitative models to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach. The many elements of such a transformation are described, including: Establishing limits: + Establishing resource extraction and emissions caps, including reduction targets, + Reforming financial systems to support + Supporting ecological transitions in developing countries. Fixing the economic model: + Developing a new macro-economic model based on ecological constraints, + Investing in jobs, assets and infrastructures, + Increasing financial and fiscal prudence, + Revising the national accounts such as GDP to include the value of ecological services and the costs of pollution and destructive activities. Changing the social logic: + Adjusting working time policy to allow shorter or longer work weeks to suit the preferences of the workers and share the work to be done, + Reducing systemic inequalities, + Measuring capabilities and well-being, + Strengthening social capital, and + Dismantling the culture of consumerism. This is an immensely difficult transformation; however it is essential for a lasting prosperity.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    The disclaimer first: this was a free copy received through a Goodreads Giveaway. And very pleased I was too as I had the first edition on my radar too get around to at some point. Not having read the original I can't say what has been updated, but there is a significant influence from, and commentary on, the recent financial crisis. Overall I really liked this. I think many people would suspect that this would be some kind of anti-capitalist rant: let's all grow our own food, live in yurts, knit The disclaimer first: this was a free copy received through a Goodreads Giveaway. And very pleased I was too as I had the first edition on my radar too get around to at some point. Not having read the original I can't say what has been updated, but there is a significant influence from, and commentary on, the recent financial crisis. Overall I really liked this. I think many people would suspect that this would be some kind of anti-capitalist rant: let's all grow our own food, live in yurts, knit our own clothes and live in communes. In a world (particularly in the US, if I can over-generalise) where you are either fully behind laissez-faire, free market ideology or you're a goddamn commie there will be some people who will refuse to read this - and they are perhaps the people who should. For this is not a green manifesto - though it does clearly seek to address the problems of finite resources. For me the most eye-opening part was a discussion of Baumol's cost disease, which I hadn't hear d of before. Detail of that is not necessary for this review, look it up on Wikipedia, or read this book! But in the current context of a squeeze on the (UK) public sector, it is interesting that over the long-term we should expect those sectors most dependent on labour to become a bigger "drainb" on the state. So, despite pushes for efficiency gains, the natural position is for health, educationn etc to consume more of GDP not less over time. This overlooks gains from technology and medicine (eg shorter stays, post-op, in hospital), as well as the massive increase in costs of that technology (scanners etc), before we get to longevity and the ratio of workers to pensioners. I think the ideas on quality of life (he references The Spirit Level) also resonate. As a starting point for a more detailed discussion this merits reading. It does offer some ideas and solutions, but I just can't see them being taken seriously until the problems of finite resources become more acute. I think that the possibilities of much cheaper energy (fusion?), transportable via better batteries, coupled to efficiency gains could mean that some of the issues anticipated may not come to pass. But the sensible approach would be to have some contingency plans in place. My sense is that this will be received in the way that warnings about smoking would have been back in the early 20th century. When govenerments gave soldiers cigarettes, parents shared a first smoke with their kids and anyone who suggested a problem was clearly out of touch with the mood of the people, their desires, and neither the powers that be, or big business, had any incentive to admit a problem (of course this extended past the point where the scientific evidence became clear). I sense that we are near (or beyond maybe) the equivalent p oint where we know what the science says and we need to address it. But the vested interests have too much at stake. And the people are so consumed by consumerism that they are blinded to the long view. A bit like people who defend their right to smoke. Except here, the rampant consumerism is having an effect on us all. A really good read, thoroughly recommended. I repeat, even if you think that any limitations on your personal choice to consume would be outrageous, read this measured and intelligent analysis

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