Jason Hickel

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Jason Hickel
Born1982 (age 39–40)
OccupationAcademic, Author

Jason Edward Hickel[1] (born 1982) is an economic anthropologist whose research focuses on ecological economics, global inequality, imperialism and political economy.[2] He is known for his books The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions (2017) and Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World (2020). He is a Professor at the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, a Visiting Senior Fellow at the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics,[2] and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.


Hickel was born and raised in Swaziland (now Eswatini) where his parents were doctors at the height of the AIDS crisis.[3] He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from Wheaton College, USA (2004).[4] He worked in the non-profit sector in Nagaland, India and in Swaziland,[5] and received his PhD in anthropology from the University of Virginia in August 2011.[6][7] His doctoral thesis was entitled Democracy and Sabotage: Moral Order and Political Conflict in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.[1] He taught at the London School of Economics from 2011 to 2017, where he held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, and at Goldsmiths, University of London, from 2017 to 2021.

He served on the U.K. Labour Party task force on international development in 2017-2019.[8][9] As of 2020 he serves on the Harvard-Lancet Commission on Reparations and Redistributive Justice,[10] on the Statistical Advisory Panel for the UN Human Development Report,[11] and on the advisory board for the Green New Deal for Europe.[12]


International development[edit]

In The Divide, Hickel argued that the dominant narrative of "progress" in international development is overstated, and that poverty remains a widespread and persistent feature of the global economy, reproduced by power imbalances between the Global North and Global South.[13][14][15] Hickel points out that the poverty line used to underwrite the progress narrative, US$1.90 per day (2011 PPP), has no empirical grounding in actual human needs, and is inadequate to achieve basic nutrition and health.[citation needed] Hickel draws on empirical studies to show that closer to US$7.40 per day is required for nutrition and health, and that the number of people living under this threshold has increased from 3.2 billion in 1981 to 4.2 billion in 2015, according to World Bank data.[16][17][18] The vast majority of gains against poverty have been achieved by China and East Asian countries that were not subjected to structural adjustment schemes. Elsewhere, increases in income among the poor have been very small, and mostly inadequate to lift people out of poverty.[citation needed]

On his blog, Hickel has criticised claims by Hans Rosling and others that global inequality has been decreasing and the gap between poor countries and rich countries has disappeared. This narrative relies on relative metrics (such as the "elephant graph"), which Hickel says obscure the fact that absolute inequality has worsened considerably over the past decades: the real per capita income gap between the Global North and Global South has quadrupled since 1960,[19] and the incomes of the richest one percent have increased by one hundred times more than the incomes of the poorest 60% of humanity over the period 1980 to 2016.[20] On his blog, Hickel has argued that absolute metrics are the appropriate measure for assessing inequality trends in the world economy.[21][22]

According to Hickel, the focus on aid as a tool for international development depoliticises poverty and misleads people into believing that rich countries are benevolent toward poorer countries. In reality, he says, financial flows from rich countries to poor countries are outstripped by flows that go in the opposite direction, including external debt service, tax evasion by multinational companies, patent licensing fees and other outflows resulting from structural features of neoliberal globalisation.[23] Moreover, Hickel argues that poor countries suffer significant losses due to international trade and finance rules (such as under structural adjustment programmes, free trade agreements, and the WTO framework) which depress their potential export revenues and prevent them from using protective tariffs, subsidies, and capital controls as tools for national economic development.[24] According to Hickel, global poverty is ultimately an artefact of these structural imbalances. Focusing on aid distracts from the substantive reforms that would be necessary to address these problems.[citation needed]

Climate change and ecological economics[edit]

In 2020, Hickel published research in The Lancet Planetary Health asserting that a small number of high-income countries are responsible for the overwhelming majority of historical CO2 emissions in excess of the planetary boundary (350 ppm). His analysis asserts that the US is responsible for 40%, the EU is responsible for 29%, and the Global North as a group is responsible for 92%.[25] He has also argued that high-income nations are disproportionately responsible for other forms of global ecological breakdown, given their high levels of resource use.[26]

In a review paper written with the ecological economist Giorgos Kallis, Hickel argues that narratives about "green growth" have little empirical validity. They point to evidence showing that it is not feasible for high-income nations to achieve absolute reductions in resource use, or to reduce emissions to zero fast enough stay within the carbon budget for 2 °C if they continue to pursue GDP growth at historical rates.[27] Hickel and his colleagues argue that high-income nations need to scale down excess energy and resource use (i.e., "degrowth") in order to achieve a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy and reverse ecological breakdown.[28] He has argued that high-income nations do not need economic growth in order to achieve social goals; they can reduce excess resource and energy use while at the same time improving human well-being, by distributing income more fairly, expanding universal public goods, shortening the working week, and introducing a public job guarantee.[29]

In 2020, Hickel proposed a Sustainable Development Index, which adjusts the Human Development Index by accounting for nations' ecological impact, in terms of per capita emissions and resource use.[30][31]

South Africa[edit]

Hickel's ethnographic research in South Africa explored the political conflict between migrant workers from rural Zululand and the African National Congress (ANC). His book Democracy as Death (2015) showed that rural migrants rejected many of the liberal values and policies of the ANC's platform, which they saw as undermining the kinship arrangements that rural communities consider to be important to collective well-being. In this book, and in a collection edited with Meghan Healy-Clancy, Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal, he argued that visions of kinship and domestic space in South Africa have been sources of political struggle from the colonial era to today. Later research on finance in South Africa explored conflicts over monetary and economic policy between the South African Reserve Bank and the labour movement.[citation needed]

His work has been funded by Fulbright, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Charlotte Newcombe Foundation, and the Leverhulme Trust.[citation needed]


Hickel writes on global development and political economy, and has contributed to The Guardian, Foreign Policy and Al Jazeera, as well as Jacobin and other media outlets.[32]



  • Hickel, Jason (2020). Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World. Penguin Random House. ISBN 9781785152498.
  • Hickel, Jason (2017). The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions. Random House. ISBN 978-1-4735-3927-3.
  • Hickel, Jason; Haynes, Naomi (2018). Hierarchy and Value: Comparative Perspectives on Moral Order. Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-78533-998-1.
  • Hickel, Jason (2016). "Neoliberalism and the End of Democracy". In Springer, Simon; Birch, Kean; MacLeavy, Julie (eds.). The Handbook of Neoliberalism. Routledge. ISBN 978-1138844001.
  • Hickel, Jason (2015). Democracy as Death: The Moral Order of Anti-Liberal Politics in South Africa. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-95986-6.
  • Healy-Clancy, Meghan; Hickel, Jason (2014). Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal. University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. ISBN 978-1-86914-254-4.


  1. ^ a b One Hundred and Eighty-Third Final Exercises (PDF). University of Virginia. 20 May 2012. p. 24. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b Science, London School of Economics and Political. "Jason Hickel". London School of Economics and Political Science. Retrieved 2021-10-05.
  3. ^ "The Divide". Renegade Inc. 2017-09-29. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  4. ^ "UVA Graduate Student Receives Newcombe Fellowship". UVA Today. 2010-05-05. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  5. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: JASON HICKEL on NGOs and Bill Gates. YouTube.
  6. ^ Disk 1690-000, Diss.Anthrop 2011.H53, XX(5587297.3) University of Virginia Library
  7. ^ "New ACLS Faculty Fellow: Jason Hickel | Department of Anthropology". anthropology.virginia.edu. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  8. ^ "Dr Jason Hickel". lse.ac.uk. Retrieved December 25, 2019.
  9. ^ "Jason Hickel". unitedagents.co.uk. Retrieved December 25, 2019.
  10. ^ "Biographies | Lancet Commission on Reparations and Redistributive Justice". projects.iq.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  11. ^ "Virtual Consultation on the 2020 Human Development Report" (PDF).
  12. ^ "About us". Green New Deal for Europe. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  13. ^ "Book Review: The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions by Jason Hickel". LSE Review of Books. 2017-08-03. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  14. ^ "Bill Gates says poverty is decreasing. He couldn't be more wrong | Jason Hickel". the Guardian. 2019-01-29. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  15. ^ "A letter to Steven Pinker (and Bill Gates, for that matter) about global poverty". Jason Hickel. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  16. ^ "Progress and its discontents". New Internationalist. 2019-08-12. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  17. ^ Hickel, Jason (2016-05-03), "The true extent of global poverty and hunger: questioning the good news narrative of the Millennium Development Goals journal", Third World Quarterly, 37 (5): 749–767, doi:10.1080/01436597.2015.1109439, ISSN 0143-6597, S2CID 155669076
  18. ^ Hickel, Jason. The Divide. pp. Chapter 2.
  19. ^ "Global inequality: Do we really live in a one-hump world?". Jason Hickel. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  20. ^ "How bad is global inequality, really?". Jason Hickel. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  21. ^ "How not to measure inequality". Jason Hickel. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  22. ^ "Inequality metrics and the question of power". Jason Hickel. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  23. ^ "Aid in reverse: how poor countries develop rich countries | Jason Hickel". the Guardian. 2017-01-14. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  24. ^ "The Development Delusion: Foreign Aid and Inequality". American Affairs Journal. 2017-08-16. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  25. ^ Hickel, Jason (2020-09-01). "Quantifying national responsibility for climate breakdown: an equality-based attribution approach for carbon dioxide emissions in excess of the planetary boundary". The Lancet Planetary Health. 4 (9): e399–e404. doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(20)30196-0. ISSN 2542-5196. PMID 32918885.
  26. ^ Hickel, Jason (2020). Less Is More. pp. 106 ff.
  27. ^ Hickel, Jason; Kallis, Giorgos (2020-06-06). "Is Green Growth Possible?". New Political Economy. 25 (4): 469–486. doi:10.1080/13563467.2019.1598964. ISSN 1356-3467. S2CID 159148524.
  28. ^ Mastini, Riccardo; Kallis, Giorgos; Hickel, Jason (2021-01-01). "A Green New Deal without growth?". Ecological Economics. 179: 106832. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106832. ISSN 0921-8009. S2CID 225007846.
  29. ^ Hickel, Jason (2020). Less Is More. pp. Chapters 4 and 5.
  30. ^ Hickel, Jason (2020-01-01). "The sustainable development index: Measuring the ecological efficiency of human development in the anthropocene". Ecological Economics. 167: 106331. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.05.011. ISSN 0921-8009.
  31. ^ http://www.sustainabledevelopmentindex.org
  32. ^ "Jason Hickel".
  33. ^ "About ASA - Teaching and Lecturing prize". www.theasa.org. Retrieved 2021-12-08.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

External video
video icon Doha Debates w/ Jason Hickel, Anand Giridharadas, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim on YouTube