PROJECTS + IDEAS + COURSES that test conventional wisdom
This site is dedicated to exploring a question: under what circumstances can institutions improve wellbeing without needing to "grow"— without rooting social and economic objectives in growth? Growth in work, debt, materials use, energy use, and waste? How can societies cope with low/no growth as populations decline? For my part, I've undertaken a number of projects to test the primacy of wellbeing over growth. Some have had longevity and impact; all of them have revealed how difficult it is to achieve in practice.
At best, some societies might improve wellbeing in a seamless fashion: Finland, Iceland, Scotland, New Zealand, and Wales recently announced their commitment to this direction. At worst, the hypothesis will be debunked, become bound up in fanciful ideology, and compromise the best of what industrial society has to offer. The reality likely lies somewhere in between.
WHAT IS "POST-GROWTH THINKING?"
The term "post-growth" is an umbrella for various approaches that emphasize growth in wellbeing rather than income. Various discourses have attempted to provide context and warrants for the idea: including ecological economics (including degrowth and steady-state economics) and political ecology, among others. Each of these approaches is an attempt to animate sustainability and social-ecological resilience, however there remain some conceptual pitfalls to this approach. Many good ideas have been tested and proven. Others are radical and seen through a more ideological lens. Still others will age poorly as time passes and are proven difficult to enact without increasing levels of bureaucratic and political control.
Ecological economics is a transdisciplinary field that acts as a bridge across not only ecology and economics but also psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and history. The field considers how economics is embedded in the broader ecosystem that supports all human activity. The limits to economic growth are considered as an opportunity to improve the wellbeing of all living beings: human and non-human alike.
A post-growth lens presents the opportunity to critically consider the following.
Responsible business practices, policies, and technological change will all serve to address contemporary constraints.
PhD researcher (McGill University) and Professor (Canadian Mennonite University).