Designing Sustainable Economies

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course


The starting point of this paper is that the main cause of climate change and the growing global ecological crisis is economic growth, or more specifically orthodox, GDP measured, undifferentiated growth as a permanent objective of the economy. That is, while economic growth can and has improved the lives of people, it has now, at least in advanced industrial societies, reached the threshold beyond which it can be viewed as ‘uneconomic growth’ (Herman Daly). The paper outlines the ideological dimensions of economic growth, outlining the dynamics of how growth is a modern form of ‘groupthink’ and ‘common-sense’, such that, as Tim Jackson put it, ‘Questioning growth is deemed to be the act of lunatics, idealists and revolutionaries. But question it we must’. Here the paper addresses the reasons why despite the mounting scientific evidence that it is biophysically impossible for a carbon-based economic growth model to be sustainable, economic growth is pursued by both political and economic elites and supported by most populations. Recent arguments for ‘green growth’ and ‘low carbon growth’ are outlined and critically interrogated as forms of greening ‘business as usual’. While there is a large body of critical knowledge (scientific and social scientific) demonstrating the biophysical unsustainability and socially disruptive consequences of undifferentiated economic growth after a threshold, which would suggest going beyond economic growth, the dominance of economic growth within culture, political, policy and economic discourse and practice remains remarkably resilient. This paper is motivated in large part as a ‘ground-clearing’ or diagnostic exercise in more fully understanding the multi-faceted nuanced and cultural-affective dimensions of economic growth, so as to better propose ways of moving beyond growth. It concludes with some suggestions as to how we might, on the basis of this preliminary ‘cultural political economy’ analysis, begin to both think and act beyond orthodox economic growth as a permanent feature of the economy. Here it examines ‘post-growth’ and degrowth/decrossiance political economic ideas, including the obstacles and opportunities of such radical ideas displacing the dominant myth of permanent economic growth. The paper concludes discusses the reasons why moving beyond economic growth is both ecologically necessary and also desirable from the perspectives of human flourishing/wellbeing and lowering socio-economic inequalities.
Period27 Jul 201628 Jul 2016
Event typeConference
LocationSheffield , United KingdomShow on map


  • sustainability
  • green economics
  • green economy
  • sustainable economy
  • sustainable development