Book review: The Post-Growth Project
– Green House Publishing, 2014
Edited by John Blewitt & Ray Cunningham
This book in eight chapters covers aspects of the need for rethinking ‘growth’ and how to pursue the changes needed to allow congenial survival into the distant future within ‘one-planet living’ restraints on resource-use. Its first and last chapters are written by Rupert Read; both question the conventional meaning of ‘growth’ – limiting it to ‘Economic growth’ as measured by ‘GDP’ – and in the last chapter he stresses the need to reframe the debate about the ‘economy’, stressing its subordinate position within the ‘global commons’ and the real ‘common sense’ of the ‘commons sense’ that we are all part of the commons of nature, and must aim to preserve this commons into the future.
Brian Heatley discusses the theoretical views of possible futures as based on orthodox economics but ignores the basic problem of debt-generation by the current financial system and the possible effects of introducing Basic Incomes. This is followed by the first of two chapters by Molly Scott Cato. The first, ‘The Paradox of Green Keynesianism’, focuses on the link between energy and growth and the need for a fundamental re-think: quality instead of quantity; stability and sustainability instead of growth.
This is followed by a chapter by Jonathan Essex, focusing on localizing and individual responsibility, and on ‘downsizing’, before Molly’s next chapter, ‘Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!’ which addresses the myth of austerity and the issues of ‘odious debt’ and the failure of ‘Green investment’. Here she notes the growth of debt and the power of finance to drive wealth up to the ‘1%’ as the result of the banks’ power to create the money they loan into circulation and charge interest on it. This not only drives wealth up to the ‘1%’; it is also the prime cause of the ongoing ‘need’ for an ever-growing money supply and ‘economic growth’.
Andrew Pearman and Brian Heatley then discuss ‘Smaller but Better? Post-Growth Public Services’, concentrating on health and education as typical, and contrasting public v. private; care and collaborate v. profit and compete; formal v. community-based; and paid v. voluntary. They discuss the pros and cons, successes and failures of each, but overall, favour a mix of reduced public services complemented by increased community support.
Andrew Dobson then discusses ‘The Politics of Post-Growth’. He emphasizes the importance of bearing in mind the history behind the present conditions when considering future possibilities, as well as the imminent physical limits to continued ‘growth’. For a convivial future, we need ‘the politics of enough’: the need for greater equality, ‘contraction and convergence’ not only in fossil-fuel energy but in all the ‘commons’ of Nature, and planned sharing and localism, recognizing our place as part of and dependent on nature.
Overall, this book offers much food for thought on possible futures and what needs to be done if we aim for one which promises congenial ‘one-planet living’ into the distant future for all humanity and other species.
— Brian Leslie