Prosperity without Growth : Economics for a Finite Planet, Paperback

Prosperity without Growth : Economics for a Finite Planet Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


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 i'1/2 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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages, Maps, figures, tables, graphs, bibliography, index
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Economic growth
  • ISBN: 9781849713238



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Review by

We are already at or near the ecological limits to growth of our magnificent planet. At the same time the economies of affluent nations, as presently conceived, require continuous growth to avoid collapse into recession and high unemployment. Tim Jackson’s book Prosperity without Growth, examines this paradox in detail and presents a path toward its resolution.A first step is to examine our definitions of prosperity. A shift away from prosperity pursued as opulence — constantly acquiring new material satisfactions — and toward prosperity enjoyed as flourishing — deep and enduring satisfaction and well-being — allows us to consume less while we enjoy life more. A graph of happiness as a function of average annual income reaches a plateau as essential material needs are met. A graph of life expectancy as a function of GDP per capita reaches a similar plateau. This insight helps us recognize that paths toward increased happiness do not require more material goods.In the economies of affluent nations, competition stimulates technology improvements that increase labor productivity to reduce costs. As labor becomes more productive, fewer people are required to produce the same goods. This would lead to unemployment unless demand grows at the same rate as labor becomes more productive. If growth stops, unemployment increases, household income drops, demand drops and the system collapses toward recession.This presents the dilemma of growth:+ Growth in its present form is unsustainable — unbounded resource consumption is exceeding environmental capacity, and+ De-growth under present conditions is unstable — reduced consumer demand leads to increased unemployment and the spiral of recession.A solution to this dilemma is essential for future prosperity.We can begin to see a solution in the “Green new deal”. People need jobs and the world needs to manage a transition to sustainable energy. These two goals can be met simultaneously by directing investments away from opulent consumer goods and toward low-carbon systems that reduce climate change and increase energy security. In addition investments in natural infrastructure including sustainable agriculture and ecosystem protection provide long-term benefits. The engine of growth becomes creation and operation of non-polluting energy sources and selling non-material services. In addition, delivering the benefits of labor productivity to the workers would allow them more leisure and less stress as they enjoy a shorter work week. The book describes quantitative models to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach.The many elements of such a transformation are described, including:Establishing limits:+ Establishing resource extraction and emissions caps, including reduction targets,+ Reforming financial systems to support sustainability, and+ Supporting ecological transitions in developing countries.Fixing the economic model:+ Developing a new macro-economic model based on ecological constraints,+ Investing in jobs, assets and infrastructures,+ Increasing financial and fiscal prudence,+ Revising the national accounts such as GDP to include the value of ecological services and the costs of pollution and destructive activities.Changing the social logic:+ Adjusting working time policy to allow shorter or longer work weeks to suit the preferences of the workers and share the work to be done,+ Reducing systemic inequalities,+ Measuring capabilities and well-being,+ Strengthening social capital, and+ Dismantling the culture of consumerism.This is an immensely difficult transformation; however it is essential for a lasting prosperity.

Review by

This may be one of the most important books out there right now. This work goes a long way in trying to reconcile our economy with the environment. How do we protect and create jobs, be productive and "thrive" in a frame that recognizes and emphasizes ecological limits? This book answers these questions and more. The transition is not about sacrifice but towards a lifestyle that is more meaningful. Which means a renewal of our communities, our sense of belonging and an orientation towards providing service and value rather than: profit, money and status competition (which drives consumerism). I will probably re-read this sometime in the future, highly recommended.