Beyond GDP lies Economic Degrowth

Friday, 13 July 2012 16:38
Beyond GDP lies Economic Degrowth
By Joan Martinez-Alier

The expression Beyond GDP, is in fashion in Brussels among some European civil servants and politicians, 40 years after Commission President Sicco Mansholt had already criticized GDP, and had proposed an end to economic growth in rich countries. The slogan in Brussels is “the greening of the economy: beyond GDP”.[/B]

But there is no official acceptance of “Economic Degrowth leading to a Steady-State Economy” if not (yet) as a plausible political programme at least as an interesting field for research. GDP growth goes together with increasing pressure on biodiversity, climate change, and the destruction of human livelihoods at the “commodity frontiers”.

Environmental activists are comforted by the academic critiques of GDP. Actually, feminist activists and academics (Waring, 1988) made a convincing argument a long time ago against GDP accounting because it “forgot” not only to count nature’s services but also unpaid domestic work. Moreover, another type of critique against GDP accounting is now surfacing socially, the so-called Easterlin Paradox as updated by work by social psychologists (with Nobel Prizes in economics).

Going beyond GDP accounting in Europe should mean something different from “greening the GDP” or, at the other extreme, genuflecting before one single environmental index such as the EF. It should mean going into a multicriteria assessment of the economy, working with eight, ten, twelve indicators of social, cultural, economic and environmental performance…

Degrowth is not based on iconic writings. It is a social movement born from experiences of co-housing, squatting, neo-ruralism, reclaiming the streets, alternative energies, waste prevention and recycling. It is a new slogan, a new movement, and very soon now a new research programme.

Read the article

See also “What is Degrowth?

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