Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet (Anglais) Broché – 18 mars 2011
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'One of the best books of the year' --Financial Times
'On a planet with finite resources, perpetual growth is not only impossible, but it is endangering the survival of present and future generations. I urge everyone to read Tim Jackson's brilliant and visionary book. He offers a detailed critique of the existing economic paradigm, and makes compelling suggestions for a shared and lasting prosperity.' ***** Read more reviews at http://www.earthscan.co.uk/?tabid=102863#dnn_ctr288528_ViewProductInfo_fragment3 --Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation; Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador; Member of the Executive Director's Leadership Council, Amnesty International, USA; Trustee, Amazon Charitable Trust
Présentation de l'éditeur
Is more economic growth the solution? Will it deliver prosperity and well-being for a global population projected to reach nine billion? In this explosive book, Tim Jackson - a top sustainability adviser to the UK government - makes a compelling case against continued economic growth in developed nations.
No one denies that development is essential for poorer nations. But in the advanced economies there is mounting evidence that ever-increasing consumption adds little to human happiness and may even impede it. More urgently, it is now clear that the ecosystems that sustain our economies are collapsing under the impacts of rising consumption. Unless we can radically lower the environmental impact of economic activity - and there is no evidence to suggest that we can - we will have to devise a path to prosperity that does not rely on continued growth.
Economic heresy? Or an opportunity to improve the sources of well-being, creativity and lasting prosperity that lie outside the realm of the market? Tim Jackson provides a credible vision of how human society can flourish ï¿½ within the ecological limits of a finite planet. Fulfilling this vision is simply the most urgent task of our times.
This book is a substantially revised and updated version of Jackson's controversial study for the Sustainable Development Commission, an advisory body to the UK Government. The study rapidly became the most downloaded report in the Commission's nine year history when it was launched earlier this year.
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Jackson is thorough in documenting our overuse of important materials such as copper, bauxite and iron ore, which he points out, if the rest of the world used like we do, world supplies would be exhausted within 20 years. He is also quick to note that not only are we exhausting the planet's physical storehouse and storage capacity for things like carbon, we are at the same time driving a large wedge between the haves and have-nots of the world. And more wealth won't solve these inequities: per capita income in the US is some $42,000 per year, yet the US has the largest income stratification of any rich nation.
He blames much of our problem on "novelty"--the pursuit of the new thing. This creates a throwaway society as product after product is "up-graded" for the next model; it also creates persistent anxiety among and between citizens as they strive for acceptance and supremacy via things. He feels that the goal of society should be to create a world that is environmentally sustainable and that focuses on helping people flourish--neither of which can be accomplished in a highly competitive capitalistic society whose mantra is "more." He calls for both local and national initiatives to redefine life, rewarding behaviors that promote the goals mentioned above.
Pithy quote: "Prosperity for the few founded on ecological destruction and persistent social injustice is no foundation for a civilized society."
Hazel Henderson, author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy and co-creator and author of the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators
Anyway, it is a book worth reading.
(1) The subtitle should become the title
(2) The title should NOT become the new subtitle. It is inconsistent for the author to request the development of an ecologically-aware macroeconomics and simultaneously imply that he already has such a macroeconomics in hand. We don't know whether 'prosperity without growth' is our best option - maybe we need generations of economic and population contraction (rather than mere stasis) to get us out of the horrible jam we've gotten ourselves into.
(3) All references to the financial crisis of 2008 should to be removed. The crisis of 2008 is not (and will never be) viewed as suggesting that there is a systemic flaw in the capitalist model. Instead, the crisis is viewed as an acute illness brought on by the development and deployment of a fatally flawed mortgage securitization pipeline by thoroughly corrupt and unprincipled financiers.
(4) In order to convince someone to do something, you can use a carrot or a stick. The carrot that the author dangles here is not particularly appealing (flourishing without growth), and the stick is practically non-existent, except for one meagre sentence toward the end of the book: "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, and almost inevitably war." (p. 203) In the second edition, 'the stick' needs to be much more developed, or we humans will just continue on our present path.
(5) The powerful entrenched interests who will fight to the death to prevent the development and deployment of an ecologically aware macroeconomics should be described, along with the tools at their disposal and their manner of use. We can't vanquish an enemy we can't see.
(6) The population growth topic needs to be addressed more fully. A growing population appears to be fundamentally incompatible with a static or contracting economy. It's not sufficient to shrug our shoulders and claim the population growth problem is unsolvable, or depends only upon improved female education. There are things a society can do to encourage small or non-existent families - these policy options should be described and discussed.
(7) It's not clear that the authors are thinking sufficiently 'out of the box'. For example, the authors appear wedded to the traditional notion of 'work' as the foundation of a healthy society, but its not at all clear whether this notion can survive in its present form in an ecologically-aware macroeconomics.
(8) Existing work on this topic needs to be better described. Renegade economists (and others) have been thinking about this topic for decades (and even centuries - consider Malthus).
Get to work!! I'm waiting for the second edition!!
For one thing I had problems with the style and presentation of the book. The heavy use of sentence fragments made me feel I was reading an expanded PowerPoint presentation, and the pervasive presence of weasel-words like clearly is a sign of the weakness of the supporting arguments.
I was frustrated with the author’s fence-sitting. I was expecting to find, at a minimum, a clear alternative definition of prosperity, but this I did not get–at least, not that I can recall. Instead there were repeated statements to the effect that “our future idea of prosperity will have to include such things as . . .” But the author felt that coming down too definitely on exactly what should be done, or how, was beyond the scope of what one book–his book, anyway–could do.
Much of the book is concerned with providing suggestive evidence that alternative ways of measuring our economic activity and success are feasible. But too often, for my taste, this evidence consisted of the tentative findings of various social scientists, based on mushy things like opinion surveys. To me this is not “science” in any useful sense, for I have little doubt that, like expert witnesses in court cases, other soft scientists could be found to offer “evidence” supporting different or even contradictory conclusions. Only hard sciences–physics and chemistry–carry conviction, and there’s very little of that in this book.
What was most troubling to me was the author’s faith in government as the solution to our global ecological-economic crisis. My alarm bells first started ringing early on when the author says that although the bailouts of financial firms in the crisis of 2008 were used to fund multimillion-dollar bonuses for those firms’ executives, “politicians had no choice but to intervene in the protection of the banking sector.” This reader, for one, believes that politicians did have a choice. Can we possibly believe that there was no choice but to borrow billions of dollars in my name, and use it to reward their cronies for losing such stupendous sums of money?
The bold, visionary change needed to bring a new world economy into being will never arise from such feckless and fatalistic acceptance of government as it is currently practiced. As far as I can tell, governments are more responsible than anyone for the ecological harm that has been wrought on planet Earth. It is governments, after all, who subsidize Big Oil and pay people to destroy fisheries and mow down rainforests. Private interests, of course, could still accomplish these things, but not so quickly or so completely as when they receive government handouts to do so. Canada would still have a cod fishery if its government had not paid people to extirpate it. The idea that the Stephen Harper government in Canada might lead us toward a more ecologically responsible economics would make me laugh if it didn’t fill me with such bleak hopelessness. Our governments rule us; they don’t lead us. Our leaders–that is, the people we spontaneously wish to follow–will have to come from the grass roots.
This book was at its best and most interesting when the author was at his most wonkish. He spends time discussing GDP and the equations with which it’s calculated. But although I found this interesting and informative, I don’t think that a bold new “prosperity”-based economics can emerge from such technical futzing. “Maybe if we can tweak these equations a bit . . .”
My overall impression is that, although the author talks about vision, he sees and treats the question of changing the economic basis of our society as a technical one, to be solved ultimately by academics and bureaucrats. Even the attitudes of us consumers, which, according to the author, must fundamentally change, are really the responsibility of those same bureaucrats, who must construct the institutions and incentives that will cause the livestock, oops, citizens, to behave in the right way. Mr. Jackson sees a more thoroughly socialist society–one in which the evils of “capitalism”, with its promotion of “consumerism” via an unpleasant thing called “novelty”, have been overcome–as the most likely means of getting to the sustainable Earth we need to live on. In this view, a benign dictator or a benign oligarchy will shepherd us to the Promised Land of a prosperous, sustainable, socially leveled Earth.
Of course the author does not say that–not in so many words. But to me it is the necessary implication of a world in which the state is even bigger than it is today. As though our real problem were a lack of right-thinking technocrats. And if people won’t stop their neurotic pursuit of “novelty”, they will have to be forced–won’t they?
Our future and our prosperity are not technical questions. They are questions of principle, of ideas; they are philosophical questions, and they need to be discussed at this level. We do need a new idea of prosperity, but that idea needs to be clear and definite, and it needs to be communicated with passion and conviction by men of vision and integrity–our future leaders, whoever and wherever they are. That was never the mission of this book, but this book could have been and should have been a stone for the sling of one of those leaders, and I’m afraid it just isn’t.