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Humanity's economic system viewed as a
subsystem of the global environment
Post-growth is a global futures approach to the limits-to-growth dilemma — the perception that, on a planet of finite resources, economies and populations cannot grow infinitely. The term "post-growth" acknowledges that economic growth can generate beneficial effects up to a point, but beyond that point (cited as $25,000 GDP/capita by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book The Spirit Level) it is necessary to look for other indicators and techniques to increase human wellbeing.
Post-growth can be distinguished from similar concepts and movements (such as degrowth and steady-state economy) in that it seeks to identify and build on what is already working, rather than focusing on what is not. Post-growth advocates try to encourage, connect and further develop already existing ideas, concepts, technologies, systems, initiatives, and actions. In this way, "post-growth" does not specify the answer to the limits-to-growth challenge, as "steady state economics" and "degrowth" attempt to do, but rather, seeks to understand and address this challenge from an evolving complex systems perspective. With this perspective, post-growth deals with all aspects of self and society (such as psychology, human nature, human evolution, cultures, social systems and economies) and the interrelation of all of these aspects. Accordingly, the post-growth concept also advocates solutions that are appropriate with regards to place, time, resource and cultural factors. Therefore, post-growth initiatives take shape in very different ways under different circumstances.
Post-growth can be considered an asset-based approach to community development — applied not only to community development but across a wide range of categories — in response to limits-to-growth challenges, as it seeks to identify and build on cultural and technological assets to facilitate the emergence of post-growth futures. In his landmark work Prosperity Without Growth (Routledge, 2017), the economist Tim Jackson demonstrates that building a ‘post-growth’ economy is indeed a "precise, definable and meaningful task". Starting from clear first principles, he sets out the dimensions of that task: the nature of enterprise; the quality of our working lives; the structure of investment; and the role of the money supply.
The foundational points that connect "post-growth" perspectives are:
- Acknowledging limits to economic and population growth.
- Recognising that, due to these limits, it is necessary to embrace shifting beyond economic growth as a goal.
- Shifting focus from current metrics of success such as GDP to new ones such as Gross national happiness (GNH), the Happy Planet Index, and/or other well-being indices.
- Using wisdom gained in the growth-based economic era (and before it) in order to transcend to sustainable futures.
- Thinking and acting according to values of cooperation, sharing, social justice and ecological stewardship, on local as well as global levels.
A main concept present in the post-growth movement is that there is not one post-growth future, but a diverse range of post-growth futures that can unfold simultaneously.
Just as there are many ways of living now in a growth-oriented society, a multitude of post growth futures are possible and many ways of living post growth already exist today. What these futures hold in common is a desire to separate good growth from bad, and to develop human potential and happiness within, and in relation to, a physically finite earth. A post growth economy puts life and everything needed to maintain it at the center of economic and social activity as opposed to the never-ending accumulation of money, and the pursuit of growth of all kinds without regard for its consequences.— Post Growth Institute, their website
There is an increasing number of post-growth-oriented initiatives that are emerging in order to create prosperity in locally resilient, self-sufficient ways. Often these initiatives have come about as a response to sustainability issues. One example of a post-growth initiative is the Transition Movement, which seeks to create local resiliency in the context of peak oil and climate change (Transition Network). Voluntary simplicity (also known as simple living) and downshifting are also growing trends that can be considered post-growth. Tiny homes, ecovillages, and Quakers are good examples of how voluntary simplicity can be put into practice (see the Testimony of Simplicity). Post-growth ideas and actions are gaining international attention in the mainstream media, as The Guardian and Treehugger both featured articles about the post-growth movement in 2012.
Free Money Day is an annual, global post-growth event, in which people give away money to strangers as a way of sparking dialogues and critical thinking about money, peoples' relationships with money, and the value of economics based on sharing.
In 2012, the Post Growth Institute released the (En)Rich List, a parody of the Forbes List of Billionaires that aimed to highlight influential post-growth thinkers “whose collective contributions enrich paths to sustainable futures”.
There are many organizations worldwide that are dealing explicitly with ideas about how to move beyond the growth-centered paradigm. These include: the Post Growth Institute; the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy; the Center for a New American Dream; Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), the Danish Degrowth Network; Degrowth Vancouver; the Donella Meadows Institute; Feasta: The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, Growthbusters; Gund Institute for Ecological Economics; the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society; the International Society for Ecological Economics; Mouvement Quebecois pour une Decroissance Conviviale; New Economics Foundation; New Economics Institute; the Population Institute; Population Media Center; the Post Carbon Institute; Research and Degrowth; the Simplicity Institute; the Transition Culture (Transition Towns); The Zeitgeist Movement; and Via Campesina.
- Participatory economics
- Universal Basic Income
- Ecological economics
- Club of Rome
- Genuine progress indicator
- The Limits to Growth
- Prosperity Without Growth
- Steady-state economy
- Political ecology
- Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World
- Deep ecology
- Slow Movement
- Tim Jackson (economist)
- Traditional trades
- Uneconomic growth
- The Path to Degrowth in Overdeveloped Countries
- Post Growth Institute. "About Post Growth". Post Growth Institute Website. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- Daly, Herman (1996). Beyond Growth: the economics of sustainable development. Washington D.C.: Beacon Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780807047088.
- Jackson, Tim (2009). Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. Sustainable Development Commission. pp. 3–11. ISBN 9781844078943.
- Wilkinson, Richard; Kate Pickett (2010). The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. London: Penguin Books. p. 8. ISBN 9781846140396.
- Hinton, Jennifer; Maclurcan, Donnie. "A Post Growth Event: Free Money Day - What is the difference between post-growth and degrowth?". degrowth.de. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- Maclurcan, Donnie (9 July 2012). "Post Growth Futures Are Already Here". Treehugger. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- "Prosperity Without Growth". Rutledge. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
- "How to kick the growth addiction". Great Transition Initiative. Archived from the original on 2017-04-25. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
- "An economy that works". Tim Jackson Blog on CUSP website. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
- Jackson, Tim (13 May 2018). "The Post-Growth Challenge—Secular Stagnation, Inequality and the Limits to Growth". CUSP. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
- Jacobs, Sherelle (19 September 2012). "Germany's 'post growth' movement". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
- New, Catherine (14 September 2012). "Free Money Day: On Lehman Brothers' Death Anniversary, Activists Pay It Forward". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- Post Growth Institute. "The (En)Rich List". The (En)Rich List. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- "CUSP". Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
- "The Zeitgeist Movement - FAQ". Archived from the original on 29 May 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- Post Growth Institute. "Forums and Groups". Post Growth Institute Website. Archived from the original on 13 April 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2013.