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Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet Paperback – Mar 18 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Reprint edition (June 27 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849713235
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849713238
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 1.7 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #128,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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'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.' - 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

'In a world of massive inequality and limited resources, Tim Jackson asks the fundamental questions of what prosperity really is and how we can invest not just in material goods but in each other. This is an outstandingly intelligent and creative contribution to debate.' - The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

'Tim Jackson offers a penetrating insight into our current state of affairs, and a thought-provoking pathway towards redesigning our future.' - Dame Ellen MacArthur

'The question of whether progressives should abandon growth or continue a champion it remains unresolved. But attempts to short-circuit that debate by dismissing de-growth as 'pie-in-the-sky' now face the demanding task of refuting this impressive work. I look forward to Tim Jackson's further elaboration of it.' - David Choat, Policy Progress blog

'One of the most outstanding pieces of environmental economics literature in recent years' - Le Monde

'A new movement seems to be emerging, and this superbly written book should be the first stop for anyone wanting a manifesto... In terms of a worldview for the new decade and beyond, this could well be the most important book you will read.' - The Guardian

'One of the best books of 2009' - Financial Times

'Bold and provocative...' - The New York Times

'In the teeth of the economic crisis, Jackson has written the most important book that could possibly be written now.' - James Gustave Speth, author of The Bridge at the Edge of the World

'This might well become as important for sustainable development as the Brundtland Report.' - Paul-Marie Boulanger, Director of IDD

'Prosperity without Growth's hugely encouraging and thrilling theme is that humanity can prosper without growth.In fact there is no other way left to us.' - Dr Robert Goodland, former Adviser to the World Bank Group, winner of World Conservation Union's Coolidge Medal of Honor, 2008

'Tim Jackson's book simply resets the agenda for Western society.' - Bernie Bulkin, SDC commissioner for Climate Change, Energy and Transport

'A must-read for anyone concerned with issues of climate change and sustainability - bold, original and comprehensive. We have to define prosperity and welfare differently from the past and separate them from economic growth measured as GDP: this work shows how we should set about the task.' - Anthony Giddens, Emeritus Professor, London School of Economics

'Jackson's cutting edge research has already begun to re-define the debate about how to achieve a future of human and planetary well-being. A must-read.' - Juliet Schor, author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth, and Professor of Sociology, Boston College

'Jackson goes after the complacency and dishonesty at the heart of contemporary politics, and provides a brilliant and compelling account of the crucial importance of the growth debate.' - Jonathon Porritt, former chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission

 'The best account of the financial crises and the state of society I have read in a long time. . . The beauty is that the change that is needed will make us happier.' - Clare Short, MP

'Zero growth is not only necessary, it is inevitable and will supercede Selfish Capitalism. In this brilliant analysis, Tim Jackson lays bare a system in crisis and lights the way forward.' - Oliver James, Author of Affluenza

'Tim Jackson provides a convincing case as to why conventional economic growth has not and cannot deliver prosperity. By showing why this is the case, we have the tools to start to build an economy based on sustainable development.' - Jan Bebbington, Professor of Accounting and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews

'A vital, much-needed, and timely work that deserves to be widely read, this is more than a brilliant treatise on the difficulties of developing a truly sustainable economy. It is also an important contribution to the increasingly urgent debate over the nature of the good life and the good society.' - Professor Colin Campbell, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of York

'Economic growth is both unsustainable on a finite planet and undesirable in its failure to continue to improve real welfare. What we need is true prosperity without growth. Why we must have this and how it can be achieved are compellingly explained in this essential work. It is not sacrifice to adopt the measures advocated. It is a sacrifice of our current and future well-being not to.' - Robert Costanza, Portland State University Professor of Sustainability and Director, Institute for Sustainable Solutions

'Provokes official thought on the unthinkable. No small accomplishment! I hope this gets the serious attention it deserves.' - Professor Herman Daly, author of Steady-State Economics and recipient of the Honorary Right Livelihood Award (Sweden's alternative to the Nobel Prize)

'What makes it unthinkable to stop growth even though it is killing us? Tim Jackson boldly confronts the structural Catch-22 that drives this madness and proposes in this lucid, persuasive, and blessedly readable book how we might begin to get off the fast track to self-destruction. Don't miss it!' - Dianne Dumanoski, author of The End of the Long Summer and co-author of Our Stolen Future

'Tim Jackson cuts through the official cant and wishful thinking to tell us what we have refused to admit we cannot preserve a habitable planet and pursue endless economic growth at the same time. In an era when all ideologies have failed, this book lays out the basis for the only viable political philosophy for the 21st century.' - Clive Hamilton, Author of Growth Fetish and Professor of Public Ethics, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Australia (Forthcoming Earthscan title: Requiem for a Species)

'If you want to understand why current growth centric economics is not fit for purpose then read this book. This is the clearest and most important contribution to proving it's time to rethink growth economics in order to live the low carbon, poverty free and one planet life we all need and want.' - Alan Knight, Founder of Singleplanetliving

'Endless growth on a finite planet, or endless misery-spreading recession, both represent impossible futures. Here are some very powerful steps towards a possible, indeed a very hopeful, alternate outcome!' - Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

'We were delighted when Professor Jackson spoke at our July Meeting at Lloyds Banking HQ in London. He endorsed the feelings of many in the BCSD-UK that business as usual is not an option. His clear and concise challenge of what is considered convention is timely and highly appropriate.' - David Middleton, CEO, Business Council for Sustainable Development UK

'Prosperity without Growth says it all: informatively, clearly, inspiringly, critically and constructively, starting from the very troubled, unsustainable and unsatisfying economy we have today and providing a robust combination of suggestions for going toward a sustainable economy and fulfilling lives.' - Richard Norgaard, University of California, Berkeley

'Rising consumption may not be sustainable, due to climate change, energy shortfalls, and to social and psychological harms. In this compelling argument, Tim Jackson shows how urgent it is to think of what might replace it, and what to aim for.' - Avner Offer, Professor of Economic History at Oxford, author of Challenge of Affluence

'Stimulating and timely. This is the best attempt I've seen to build a trans-disciplinary critique of economic growth, with prescriptions based in economic theory.' - Ronan Palmer, Chief Economist, The Environment Agency

'Tim Jackson's book is a powerful intellectual challenge to an economic orthodoxy out of touch with the real world of physical limits, global warming and peaking oil reserves. It is refreshingly rigorous, honest and hopeful.' - Ann Pettifor, Fellow of the new economics foundation and co-author of the Green New Deal

'When it comes to resolving the tension between the environment and the economy the watchword should be 'less is more'. If you want to find out how we could all be healthier, wealthier and a lot wiser you should read this book.' - Molly Scott Cato, Reader in Green Economics, Cardiff School of Management and Economics Speaker for the Green Party

'We live in a finite world but with infinite demands. Human wants, political convenience and intellectual inertia trump planetary limits. Tim Jackson makes headway in setting signposts towards a more sustainable future.' - Camilla Toulmin, Director of the International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED)

'This is one of the most brilliant analyses I've seen. It is a thoughtful and action-oriented masterpiece, with an eye open to how to overcome resistance to the task ahead.' - Arnold Tukker, Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research

'Tim Jackson's book clearly demonstrates how our passion for consumption drives unsustainable results and it opens up the potential for a new model of consumerism that delivers a more sustainable world.' - Chris Tuppen, Chief Sustainability Officer, British Telecom

'This is an important work, well worth reading.' - Darcy Hitchcock, author of The Business Guide to Sustainability

'It's easy to lament the unsustainable nature of growth economics. It's slightly harder to re-imagine it on the other side. Hardest of all is to detail the transition, how you get from growth to a steady state without breaking the economy. That's the missing piece, and Tim Jackson has boldly stepped into the breach with a book that is clear, balanced and free of political bias. This isn't a blueprint for such a transition, but it does show that it is possible. For that, Prosperity Without Growth has got to be one of the most important books of the year.' -

'[Tim Jackson] has done us a tremendous service in putting the debate into practical and comprehensible language, deferring some of the derivations and details to endnotes and appendices, and organizing his message into short self-contained chapters with well researched and documented source material. This book will be a widely read and influential basis for practical exposition of many of our underlying concerns and ideas for their solution to the broader public.' - Ecological Economics

'Jackson's analysis is truly unique in meticulously disentangling the interdependencies between the economic logic of production, the social logic of consumption, and the conflicting position of the state that keeps the unsustainable machinery of growth moving. Jackson also provides an original perspective that identifies leverage points for change that hold the prospect of eventual effectiveness. I have not encountered such a bright and insightful analysis since the path-breaking work of the Donella and Dennis Meadows and Herman Daly.' - Journal of Industrial Ecology

'Budget cuts remind us of our unsustainable current financial system, but the crisis also creates space to consider alternatives. GDP is still king, but in a recent lecture Prof Jackson described how senior civil servants are beginning to debate his alternatives. I think this book can provide us with a language to develop these long overdue debates ourselves.' - Rob Couch, Environmental Health News.

'A hard read but rewarding if you can stay the course.' - Judy Kirby, The Friend

'It is clear that the current pattern of economic growth is simply unsustainable. Jackson in Prosperity without Growth makes the case very clearly and convincingly.' - Fran Baum, Australian Options

'Presents a case against continued economic growth in developed nations and considers how human society can flourish within the ecological limits of a finite planet by reducing emphasis on growth' - Journal of Economic Literature, June 2010

'He recognises that to avoid enormous social disruption, it will take committed governance to manage these changes. I have no idea what critical mass of citizens will be needed to bring such governance. All I can do is to sign up with renewed faith.' - Phil Kingston, Renew

'Prosperity without Growth gets my 'twice read' honour...the book reads something like a novel...Finally, I asked my wife Angie to read the book and summarise it for me. Her conclusion? 'This is a good book that will change your life. Read it' - Vinod Bhatia, JIE

'The form is good - and so is the content. This innovative book is recommended to readers seeking insight into the governance and policy challenges of spreading prosperity while safeguarding the environment.' - getAbstract

'I thought the book was splendid. Jackson's writing is lucid and well organised. He has a gift for the telling sentence.' - Bryan Walker, Hot Topic

About the Author

Tim Jackson is Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey and Director of RESOLVE. He also directs the follow-on project: the Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group (SLRG).


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Format: Hardcover
When I started reading this book I was reminded of the concepts that Ehrenfeld advanced in his "Sustainability by Design". But then the more I read the more data, models, current initiatives I found that Ehrenfeld's book lacked seriously. Jackson's Prosperity Without Growth is a book that grew out of a report by the UK Sustainable Development Commission into the relationship between sustainability and economic growth. Jackson demonstrates convincingly how coupling continued growth and sustainability does not appear feasible based on the records of the past decades. Regardless, Jackson shows that society does not need growth to "placeholder for whatever each human being considers his/her goal in life". The 204 pages also list and recommend policy measures, such increasing investment in ecological capacity/renewal and boosting jobs in labour-intensive activities, which fly in the face of conventional economics that do not even include depletable ecological resources in its equations and that holds increase in productivity as one of the major goals of business. One of the most basic premises of this book is that GDP is inadequate in gauging overall well-being of human beings. a more extensive discourse on this can be gleaned from the book "Mis-measuring Our Lives" by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. In all, this is a comprehensive look at sustainability and economic growth that anyone who is in charge of setting policy for economic activity should have.
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Format: Paperback
I was very impressed the the completeness of the analysis. This is not one of these straw-man books where they ignore the difficult questions. The author anticipates the best defense of standard model macro-economics and systematically disassemble the points. He also provides counter arguments and alternatives.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The information and ideas contained within this book seem so obvious once they are elucidated. It may not be a 'fun' read for everyone but I found it captivating and probably life-changing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa688ac6c) out of 5 stars 44 reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa66f39c0) out of 5 stars Can't have our cake and eat it too... Aug. 12 2010
By David Radcliff - Published on
Format: Hardcover
We can't have our cake and eat it too, according to Tim Jackson. While many (or even most) people are convinced that "technology" and ever-increasing efficiencies will allow humankind, and especially us Rich World folks, to live green and still live large, this books demonstrates in well-documented detail the fallacy of this way of thinking. For instance, while we are getting more production for any carbon we emit into the atmosphere (25 percent more efficient globally in the past 40 years), our actual carbon output is up by 80 percent, as more people are finding more ways to burn fossil fuels--in effect overwhelming any impact from being more efficient.

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."
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa78cb1ec) out of 5 stars useful restatement of many good arguments April 19 2010
By Hazel Henderson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A useful re-statement of all the good arguments made over the past 40 years for transforming public policy beyond erroneous economic models. Summarizes the debate and the conclusions on the need to move to low-entropy models based on better understanding of real human needs and goals of equitable, ecologically sustainable prosperity. Some strange omissions, including E. F. Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful (1973) in its heavily focused British literature and the ascribing of the European Commission and the European Parliaments Beyond GDP conferences in 2007 ([...]) to the OECD. A good introduction for those unfamiliar with this 40-year old debate.

Hazel Henderson, author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy and co-creator and author of the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators
35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6191708) out of 5 stars It was going well but.... Aug. 25 2010
By Erminio Di Lodovico - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a good book, well written. The first part, where the author makes the case for the unsustainablility of the "growth model" of the economy was very well written. It cannot be said the same about the second part of the book, which was how will be possible the revert and fix the problem. I understand perfectly that it was the most difficult part of the book, and that such a complex matter cannot be fully covered in one book, but I was expecting something more than wishful thinking.
Anyway, it is a book worth reading.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa619172c) out of 5 stars In government we trust Feb. 6 2014
By Paul Vitols - Published on
Format: Paperback
Although, as a longtime environmentalist, I’m a member of the choir that this author is preaching to, I found myself resisting much of what he was saying, and I certainly could not imagine that a gung-ho, pro-growth, climate-change skeptic would be moved by the arguments presented in this book. My main takeaway was the realization of just how far apart people can be who are supposedly on the same team.

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.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6191bac) out of 5 stars Flourishing without opulence July 6 2011
By Simply Curious - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.