Citizen Action Monitor

Jackson alleges that today’s growth-driven economy unjustly oppresses human flourishing

If we are to create a prosperity without growth, we must envision a different kind of economy.

No 2150 Posted by fw, January 22, 2018

To access all other synopses from Prosperity without Growth, click on the Tab titled “Prosperity without Growth” — Links to All Posts in the top left margin of the Home page.

In Section 3, Chapter 11, ecological economist Tim Jackson shared his thoughts on how to help citizens recover a sense of common citizenship, a sense of a shared life, thus enabling them “to think meaningfully of one another as citizens in a shared venture.

In his opening paragraph of Section 4, Chapter 11, he picks up on this theme, alleging that “The loss of meaning and the decline in common endeavour are both an inevitable consequence of economies that feed, almost literally, on privatizing our lives and commercializing our identities.

If we are to create a different kind prosperity, he asserts, we must envision a different kind of economy.

In this, Section 4, Jackson sketches a profile of what an economy built for prosperity should look like?

Regarding the meaning of Jackson’s title for this section, “Cinderella at the ball?” (note the question mark), in a July 2012 article, The Cinderella economy: an answer to unsustainable growth?, Jackson refers to the “Cinderella economy” as one “where people trade crafts and services … as a model for a more sustainable financial system.”

Unlike Jackson’s “Cinderella economy” article, the meaning of his Cinderella at the ball? title is not implied implicitly or explicitly. The reader is left to infer a meaning, which is problematic given the countless versions of this fairy tale. To parallel Jackson’s promise of good things to come from his “Cinderella economy” article, here’s my interpretation of his title is this section: Cinderella’s attendance at the Ball could be a inferred as a promising first step leading to her release from an oppressive life of drudgery with her cruel stepmother and stepsisters – symbolically reflecting one of our necessary steps in transitioning from an oppressive consumer-driven growth economy for the few to a post-growth economy built for prosperity for all.

Tim Jackson is a British ecological economist and professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey.

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Cinderella at the ball?, a synopsis, from Chapter 11, “A Lasting Prosperity” of Tim Jackson’s book, Prosperity without Growth, Routledge, 2nd edition, 2016-17

In Section 3, Chapter 11 ecological economist Tim Jackson shared his thoughts on how to help citizens recover a sense of common citizenship, a sense of a shared life, thus enabling citizens “to think meaningfully of one another as citizens in a shared venture.

In his opening paragraph to Section 4, Chapter 11, he picks up on this theme, alleging that “The loss of meaning and the decline in common endeavour are both an inevitable consequence of economies that feed, almost literally, on privatizing our lives and commercializing our identities.

If we are to create a different kind prosperity, we must configure a different kind of economy.

What should an economy built for prosperity look like?

It should include “a few obvious things” —

  • Capabilities for flourishing;
  • Means to a livelihood;
  • Participation in society;
  • Security;
  • A sense of belonging;
  • Ability to share in a common endeavour; and
  • Ability to pursue our potential as individual human beings.

What other things do we know that matter? –

  • Resilience, the ability to rebound from a severe systemic shock or disruption;
  • Equality matters; inequality undermines personal wellbeing and a sense of belonging to a community; and
  • Work matters, not just as a means to a livelihood but a part of finding one’s place in a community.

What do we know about the specific nature of economic output activities in a society for a positive contribution to flourishing? 

  • Delivery of services should take precedence over throughput of stuff;
  • Activities should offer “decent” livelihoods; and
  • Economic activities should have lower material and energy throughput.

Besides output activities, the “form and organization of our systems of provision” are important –

  • Economic organization must contribute to “the long-term social good, rather than against it.” For example, rather than transforming work through “processes of robotization, digitalization and the ‘internet of things’”, Jackson envisions “Community-centred enterprise engaged in delivering local services, such as nutrition, education, care, maintenance and repair, recreation, craft, creativity, culture: these activities contribute to flourishing and are embedded in the community. They have the potential for low carbon footprints and they provide meaningful work.”

Traditional economic sectors will continue to play a role in an economy configured for prosperity but they may be modified or diminished —

  • Resource extraction will be downsized as more materials are recycled
  • Manufacturing, construction, food and agriculture, retail, communication and financial intermediation will still be important though modified: “agriculture will pay more attention to the integrity of the land and the welfare of livestock; manufacturing will pay more attention to durability and reparability; construction must prioritize refurbishment of existing buildings and the design of new sustainable and repairable infrastructures.”
  • Investment will facilitate the transformation from the old to the new economy by gearing portfolios “towards energy and resource productivity, low carbon infrastructure, and protection of social and ecological assets

The progressive state will have a vital role to play as a change agent in terms of “supporting both collective and individual endeavour

  • It is past time to shift our focus, says Jackson –

“In a growth-obsessed world we end up overlooking the parts of our economy that matter most. By concentrating instead on what matters, we are drawn inevitably to the features that must define the economy of tomorrow, the enterprise of tomorrow, the investment of tomorrow. A simple shift of focus opens out wide new horizons of possibility.”

  • It’s time for a progressive state to engage “creatively and imaginatively in change” —

Following the 2008 financial crisis, new ideas are receiving increasing attention: “universal basic income, sovereign money, capital taxation, pension restructuring, fiduciary reform, and financial prudence.

Jackson has outlined a bold and ambitious change program. He warns us to expect pushback from “the incumbent priests”:

“So we must expect the incumbent priests to confront us with a flurry of impossibility theorems. Economies must grow to survive. People are addicted to consumerism. Governments are powerless to intervene.”

Confronted with these enemies of social change, we must hold fast to the conviction that “People can flourish without endlessly accumulating more stuff. Another world is possible.”

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