Citizen Action Monitor

The vision for an economy of tomorrow is not utopian. It’s not a Western post-materialist fantasy

The vision is about taking simple steps towards an economics fit for a meaningful prosperity on a finite planet.

No 2152 Posted by fw, January 27, 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.

Tim Jackson

In this, Section 6, Chapter 11, the final section of the final chapter of his book, Prosperity without Growth, Tim Jackson concludes:

“Our only real choice is to transform the structures and institutions that shape the social world, to articulate a more credible vision for a lasting prosperity.”

In this context, Jackson highlights the four principal dimensions of that transformative task —

  • We must establish the ecological bounds on human activity.
  • We must tackle the systemic inequalities which undermine social progress.
  • We must fix the illiterate economics of relentless growth.
  • We must transform the damaging social logic of consumerism.

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

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Not Utopia, a synopsis, from Chapter 11, “A Lasting Prosperity” of Tim Jackson’s book, Prosperity without Growth, Routledge, 2nd edition, 2016-17

Reflecting on the production and consumption of novelty as a driver of the growth economy, Tim Jackson recognizes that his book has magnified novelty’s “disruptive power.” In hindsight, he cautions —  rejecting novelty, while embracing economic conservatism, its opposite, would be risky business.

Rather, he advocates a “proper balance between these vital dimensions of what it means to be human.” It is innovation — the breeding ground of novelty — that “allows us to respond flexibly to a changing environment.”  In a similar manner, it is conservation and tradition that enables societies to “build security and establish a meaningful sense of posterity.

Regrettably, this balance has been lost in our lives, our institutions and our economy.

The same point applies to concerns over the tendency for people to act in highly individual ways, disregarding their civic responsibilities. To emphasize the importance of community participation is not to discredit individual pursuits or personal ambitions. “The point,” says Jackson, “is to redress the balance between self and society – in a way that re-establishes the importance of public goods in working for the benefit of us all.

A culture that rewards individualism at the expense of society, and supports innovation at the expense of tradition, distorts what it means to be human. Citizens who are counting on a cultural ideology of individualism and innovation to deliver a materialistic fantasy land have not been paying attention:

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.”

Cast aside false promises. Heed instead the informed counsel of ecological economist Tim Jackson as prescribed in the closing paragraphs of the final section of his book, Prosperity without Growth:

“Our only real choice is to transform the structures and institutions that shape the social world, to articulate a more credible vision for a lasting prosperity.”

This book has highlighted the principal dimensions of that task —

  • We must establish the ecological bounds on human activity.
  • We must tackle the systemic inequalities which undermine social progress.
  • We must fix the illiterate economics of relentless growth.
  • We must transform the damaging social logic of consumerism.

We’ve seen how a faulty economics drives and is driven by a distorted social logic. But we’ve also seen that a different economics is achievable. A better and fairer social logic lies within our grasp.

This is not about overthrowing society. It’s not about changing human nature. It’s about taking simple steps towards the economy of tomorrow. Towards an economics fit for purpose. Towards a meaningful prosperity on a finite planet. At the heart of that economics we must place a more robust and a more realistic vision of what it means to be human.

That vision is not utopian. It’s not a Western post-materialist fantasy. It’s a vision based on a better scientific understanding of who we really are, more consistent with a deeper reality.

An African philosopher wrote to me following the publication of the first edition of this book, pointing out its similarities to the traditional African philosophy of Ubuntu, which celebrates our connectedness to each other and to the world. I am because we are, says Ubuntu.

Prosperity is a shared endeavour. The roots of this idea are broad and deep. And its foundations already exist. Inside each of us.”

END OF CHAPTER ~ END OF BOOK

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