No 2045 Posted by fw, September 6, 2017
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To recap, I am in the process of writing a series of synopses of every chapter, section by section, of the 2nd edition of Tim Jackson’s thought-provoking book, Prosperity Without Growth, (Routledge, 2016-17).
Today’s post is a synopsis of Section 1, Introduction to Chapter 3, titled “Redefining Prosperity.”
“The prevailing vision of prosperity as a continually expanding material paradise has come unravelled. … if it was ever fully fit for purpose, it certainly isn’t now.”
So begins Tim Jackson’s introduction to Chapter 3.
Contributing to the unravelling of this ruling vision of prosperity, Jackson includes: climate change, loss of biodiversity, resource scarcity, failing financial markets, and inequality.
Quick fixes, including jump-starting economic growth, were tried, failed and gave way to punishing austerity.
What’s needed now, declares Jackson, is a bold new vision of prosperity, a vision that is no longer a slave to growth based primarily on material consumption.
Jackson’s aim in this chapter is to envision a prosperity that nurtures human flourishing, advances social cohesion, promotes wellbeing but not at the cost of environmental degradation, makes time and space for fun, fun with less stuff — for beyond the overindulgent consumer paradise are, Jackson reminds us, “competing visions of the good life.”
Jackson recognizes that material security has its rightful place in his vision of prosperity. But, as well, “prosperity has vital social and psychological dimensions. … To do well is in part about the ability to give and receive love, to enjoy the respect of your peers, to contribute useful work, and to have a sense of belonging and trust in the community.”
Jackson turns to the “wisdom traditions” as a source of inspiration for a revisioning of prosperity and finds affirmation for: obligations and responsibilities to others; compassion and caring for others’ wellbeing; health, family, friendships and work fulfilment; discovering life’s purpose and meaning, including those derived from religious and spiritual belief systems.
But can these wisdom-based value systems compete with a culture that values wealth and fame, where “How much we have is more important than what kind of person we are.”?
Surely, Jackson argues, “The story of our lives … will not be a record of all the stuff we momentarily enjoyed and ultimately threw away. Nor even of the wealth we managed to accumulate…”
The author concludes his introduction:
“Rather, the good life is something in which we must invest … both at the personal and at the societal level. … the wisdom of ages has always recognized that deeper instincts drive the human psyche and occasionally draw out what might legitimately be called the best in us.”