A vivid account of the past, present, and future of economic growth, showing how and why we must continue to pursue it while responding to the challenges it creates.
Over the past two centuries, economic growth has freed billions from the struggle for subsistence and made our lives far healthier and longer. Yet prosperity has come at a price: environmental destruction, desolation of local cultures, the rise of vast inequalities and destabilizing technologies. Faced with such damage, many now claim that the only way forward is through “degrowth,” deliberately shrinking our economic footprint. But to abandon humanity’s progress would be folly. Instead, Daniel Susskind argues, we must keep growth but redirect it, making it better reflect what we truly value.
In a sweeping analysis full of historical insight, Susskind shows how policymaking came to revolve around a single-minded quest for greater GDP. This is a surprisingly recent development: economic growth was barely discussed until the second half of the twentieth century. And our understanding of what drives it is more recent still. Only lately have we come to see how humankind emerged from its millennia of stagnation: through the sustained discovery of powerful and productive new ideas.
This insight undermines the mantra that “we cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet,” for the world of ideas is infinitely vast. Yet growth’s critics are right to insist that we can no longer focus on its upsides alone. We must confront the tradeoffs, Susskind contends: sometimes, societies will have to deliberately pursue less growth for the sake of other goals. These will be moral decisions, not simply economic ones, demanding the engagement not just of politicians and experts but of all citizens.
Daniel Susskind is a compelling, insightful thinker on the largest and most fundamental economic topics. At a time when traditional notions of growth are increasingly being questioned, this book is profoundly important. Agree or disagree, anyone who wants to engage with the broad direction of economic policy needs to reckon with Susskind’s views.
What type of economic growth we should pursue, how much of it, and for whose benefit will be crucial questions in the years to come, especially if current trends—more and more inequality, and an increasing concentration of power among the select few companies shaping the future of technology—continue. This well-written, thought-provoking book is essential reading for anybody interested in these epochal debates.
For two centuries, economic growth has meant longer lives, better health, and material comfort. But has growth now come to an end? What can be done to restart the engine? Or should we halt growth deliberately, given its environmental costs? This panoramic book addresses the most fundamental economic questions from a deeply ethical perspective.
- 304 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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