Ecological economist Tim Jackson is one of the few serious scholars trying to imagine what a post-growth world might look like. Over the past thirty years, this specialty – largely ignored by mainstream economics – has become ever-more relevant to contemporary life. It is becoming clear that growth is not the panacea for what afflicts modern societies.
In the 1990s, Jackson pioneered the idea of “preventative environmental management,” showing how preventing pollution in the first place could improve profits and quality of life. But his journey into post-growth thinking surged forward when he was appointed Economics Commissioner for the UK Sustainable Development Commission in 2004. Improbably, UK politicians wanted a professional, an indepth assessment of the idea of a no-growth economy.
The result – a controversial 2009 report to the UK government – was published as the book Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. (A substantially revised and rewritten edition was published in 2017). This book, now translated into 17 languages, examines the problems of growth and consumerism and the prospects for a new “ecological macro-economics” and a redefinition of prosperity. More is not always better; we need to focus on what helps us flourish as human beings and helps us lead a satisfying “good life.”
More than a decade later, Jackson’s thinking about this topic has evolved in some new and unexpected ways. He has just published a new book, Post Growth: Life After Capitalism (Polity Press), which doesn’t offer economic charts and policy proposals. It is, instead, a philosophical, cultural, and personal exploration of how we might pursue a vision of post-growth.