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The Dilemma of Growth

Tim Jackson of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) explains the Dilemma of Growth

Here we hear from Professor Tim Jackson, one of the pioneers of the prosperity conversation and a key contributor to this course. He wrote Prosperity without Growth, initially published in 2009, and then updated in 2016.

In the video, Tim introduces the concept of the “dilemma of growth”, or the fact that “a continually growing economy is unsustainable” while “a declining economy is unstable”. This is the main challenge for any government when it comes to shifting emphasis away from growth. Lack of growth leads to instability, meaning many governments are stuck chasing it, despite its questionable impact on well-being, and its catastrophic impact on the environment. He also states that this dilemma of growth increases the need for a more intelligent conversation about prosperity. If we can’t deliver prosperity simply by expanding the economy, and “having more stuff,” what should we do instead?

In a consumer society, we try and deliver non-material components of prosperity, such as social or psychological welfare, with material goods, but this doesn’t work. Now that we have a greater understanding of this, it opens up the space for a new conversation about prosperity that avoids the dilemma of growth, and doesn’t pitch human wellbeing and our environmental limits against each other.

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Global Prosperity Beyond GDP

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