Who’s afraid of economic growth?

Behind today's trendy arguments about environmentalism, ethical living and happiness, there lurks a deep disdain for material progress.

Daniel Ben-Ami

Topics Books

We live in a world in which there is an unprecedented degree of cynicism about the benefits of economic growth.

Even though increasing affluence is still generally accepted as a worthwhile goal in principle, it is typically subject to numerous caveats. Among other things it is accused of damaging the environment, leading to inequality and failing to make people happy. Rapid economic growth is said to be unsustainable and, in any case, allegedly fails to raise our real standard of living. Will Hutton, a columnist on the London Observer, was right when he recently argued that ‘the allegedly futile and empty materialist culture [is] deplored by conservative, liberal and religious fundamentalist alike’ (1).

How did this situation come about? From an objective perspective it should be clear that economic growth has brought enormous social benefits and could bring many more in the future. Increasing affluence has enabled us to live longer and healthier lives than ever before. It has generally allowed a shortening of working hours and therefore more time for individuals to spend on leisure. Economic growth is also closely related to the development of science and culture. It is not growth itself that has gone wrong.

The aim of this essay is to examine how cynicism about growth has become a central element of contemporary anti-humanism. It will examine the indirect forms that growth scepticism takes while pointing out its link to environmentalism. It will then consider how anti-growth thinking has moved from being an elite middle-class phenomenon to an idea widely held throughout society. A key factor in this shift was the capitulation of the left to environmentalist and anti-growth thinking from the 1970s onwards. The slowdown in economic growth over the same period, which in turn helped undermine the legitimacy of the market, was also important.

What is growth scepticism?

It is necessary to start with a clarification of what is meant by ‘growth scepticism’ or ‘anti-growth thinking’. It is used here to mean sets of ideas which question the benefits of economic growth. The term growth scepticism, used by Geoff Mulgan, a former senior government policy adviser in Britain, is perhaps a more accurate term than ‘anti-growth thinking’ as it captures the combination of formal support and questioning (2). Arguably better still would be ‘growth cynicism’, as that implies that negative views towards growth are part of a more general cynicism that pervades society.

It is important to recognise that direct attacks on economic growth have always been rare. The ‘deep green’ perspective, to use contemporary terminology, is relatively marginal. Few growth sceptics argue consistently for an end to economic growth, let alone for the economy to shrink. Instead, both historically and more recently, growth is typically linked to negative effects or qualified in some other way.

UK prime minister Tony Blair gave a typical example of growth scepticism in his speech to the G8 climate change conference on 2 November 2005. For him it is necessary to support economic growth while at the same time respecting the environment. He posed this approach in terms of a dilemma: ‘How do we combine the need, not just for developed economies to grow, but in particular for the developing world to grow, and the need for people through economic growth to lift themselves out of poverty, to improve their living standards, with a proper responsible attitude to the environment?’ (3)

Similarly the doctrine of ‘sustainable development’, the mainstream conception of development for over two decades, both supports economic growth and calls for limits. For example, the Brundtland Report of 1987, a key official report on sustainability commissioned by the United Nations, at some points emphasises the need for growth and at others stresses environmental limits. Its favoured formula for reconciling the two is to call for the need for development, ‘to ensure it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (4).

In other words, mainstream politicians and thinkers have maintained a formal attachment to economic growth despite any reservations they may express. A direct attack on growth would be almost unthinkable. If they argued explicitly for a levelling off of living standards, let alone their decline, it is hard to see how they could maintain popular support. This tension – between formal support for growth while expressing doubts about its benefits – is particularly worth exploring. It provides an opening for a restatement of the need for economic growth as part of a broader development of a new humanism.

How growth is attacked

There are many ways in which apparent support for economic growth can be reconciled with calls for limits. To spell them all out in any detail would require considerable space. But there are a few common approaches favoured by the growth sceptics, which, in reality, tend to be variants of one another:

Linking growth to undesirable outcomes such as environmental damage, inequality and unhappiness. Advocates of this view can claim to support growth in principle while warning of the environmental degradation it allegedly causes. Or they may argue that economic growth widens inequality and fails to make people happy (5). Sometimes the two themes are combined. For instance, by the argument that, once basic needs are met, it is people’s relative position in society that makes them happy rather than their absolute position. From such a perspective it seems clear that growth cannot make everyone happy since, by definition, only a few people can be at the front of a queue. Another variant of the argument, popularised by John Kenneth Galbraith, the leading American economist and social critic who died this week, is that growth can lead to an unhealthy combination of private affluence and public squalor. Although some people may become rich as a result of economic growth they are surrounded by poverty and an impoverished social environment (6).

Implying that low growth or no growth will lead to positive outcomes. This argument is most clear in the contemporary obsession with happiness. The growth sceptics contend that people in the developed world have not become happier as a result of economic growth in recent decades. By implication a society that does not prioritise economic growth is therefore a precondition for individuals to be happy.

Asserting the need for limits to growth. The argument for limits can itself take many forms. At its simplest it can hold that there are physical limits as the Earth risks running out of natural resources (7). Alternatively the limits can be projected further into the future – for example, economic development threatens to raise global temperatures and destabilise the climate. Such critics emphasise the need for a precautionary approach to development (8). Others have emphasised the importance of social rather than physical limits. They tend to argue that some types of goods can only be gained at the expense of others. For example, since the supply of natural scenery is fixed it is relative rather than absolute wealth and income that counts (9). Another argument is that as society becomes wealthier, individuals come under increasing time pressure. More time is needed for consumption and additional income is needed for individuals to maintain their relative positions in society (10).

Arguing that the quality of growth – sometimes referred to by terms such as ‘wellbeing’ – is more important than the quantity. (11) Advocates of this approach often attack measures of economic output such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on the grounds that it is a poor measure of welfare (12). Generally they end up, at least implicitly, arguing for lower consumption for the mass of the population. They typically argue that economic growth may have had benefits in the past, but as economies become more developed there are diminishing returns.

Redefining development to downgrade the importance of economic growth. An influential example of this approach can be found in Amartya Sen’s Development As Freedom (1999). Sen, a Nobel laureate and key adviser to multilateral institutions, redefined development to embody five elements: political freedoms, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees and protective security (13). In effect, this approach amounts to a relativisation of growth. By upgrading the importance of other factors he downgraded the importance of economic growth in the development process.

On a more personal level it has become increasingly common to attack affluence by asserting the need for ‘ethics’ or ‘socially responsible’ behaviour. (14) Often ethics relates to the sphere of consumption. Sometimes literally, in relation to what people eat, sometimes in relation to such things as energy use or the type of cars people drive. What is rarely stated explicitly is that ethical consumption is generally taken to mean consuming less. What used to be called austerity is now often thought of as behaving in an ethically correct manner. Even if people are generally reluctant to limit their consumption overall they will often choose particular goods or areas to demonstrate their ethical credentials.

Before considering what is wrong with such arguments in themselves, it is important to examine the assumptions underlying them. The character of growth scepticism means that such premises are often implicit rather than overt. Yet it is only when they are brought out into the open that the full implications of what is being argued can be understood.

First, attacks on the alleged effects of economic growth – such as environmental degradation or inequality – frequently act as a proxy for the rejection of growth as a whole. Often the critic will be cynical about growth in general, but prefer to express his criticisms in relation to one or two particular areas. Even those who start off being in favour of growth in principle often become increasingly cynical as a result of becoming preoccupied with one particular area. Specific limited attacks, which may have some truth in particular instances, tend to grow into more general critiques.

Second, growth scepticism is part of a broader disaffection with the more general idea of social progress. It is no longer widely accepted as given that the future should be better than the past. Instead a sense of social decay and foreboding has become strong. Whereas people used to imagine utopian futures full of possibilities, it has become increasingly common to fear a dystopian future (15).

In addition, since economic growth is central to progress the two concepts cannot be easily untangled (16). As Benjamin Friedman, a professor of economics at Harvard, recently argued, for thinkers in the tradition of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment: ‘although their starting point was the role of knowledge and their ultimate concern was the character of society in the broadest terms, the fulcrum of their theory of progress was economic arrangements.’ (17) He goes on to quote Auguste Comte, a nineteenth-century French philosopher who followed the Enlightenment tradition in this respect, who argued that ‘all human progress, political, moral or intellectual, is inseparable from material progression’ (18).

The link between economic growth and social progress tends to work both ways. Those who are in favour of progress generally see increasing affluence as playing a key role in advancing society. In contrast, those who doubt or even reject the possibility of progress tend also to be cynical about economic growth.

Finally, the assault on growth represents an implicit attack on the destabilising tendencies inherent in the market. The very element of capitalism that has been historically progressive – its ability to raise the productive forces – has come to be seen as problematic. No systematic alternative is offered – only the imposition of restraint on the market system. In this sense, the attacks on growth have a nihilistic element. In contrast, earlier critiques of capitalism, certainly those from the left, criticised the market on the grounds that it created barriers to the raising of productivity. Often the explicit conclusion was the need for a shift to a more productive form of society such as socialism.

Some of the most sophisticated growth sceptics do discuss what they see as the problem with the operation of the market. For example, Daniel Bell, one of America’s most prominent sociologists, talks about a ‘cultural contradiction’ between asceticism and acquisitiveness. In the early days of the market system, he argues, a Protestant ethic kept the unrestrained economic impulse of capitalism in check. But over time, with the help of economic growth and easy credit, a corrosive individualism takes hold. ‘In the world of capitalist enterprise, the nominal ethos in the spheres of production and organisation is still one of work, delayed gratification, career orientation, devotion to the enterprise. Yet, on the marketing side, the sale of goods, packaged in the glossy images of glamour and sex, promotes a hedonistic way of life whose promise is the voluptuous gratification of the lineaments of desire.’ (19)

Fred Hirsch similarly warns of the dangers of the ‘individualistic ethos’ of the market system (20). His conclusion is that a ‘social ethic’ is needed. In other words, not just legal restrictions but restraints on behaviour ‘derived from morals, religion, custom, and education’ (21).

So the likes of Bell and Hirsch attack the market for its ‘individualistic ethos’ but only offer a limited alternative. Their preference is for a form of highly regulated market rather than one with minimal regulation. Such regulation can take many forms in addition to law, including a strong sense of moral self-restraint – what today would often be classified as ‘ethical behaviour’. Ironically, their goal is to curb what the market does far better than any previous form of social organisation: raise productivity to allow humanity to enjoy higher levels of consumption.

It should be clear by now that growth scepticism is closely linked to environmentalism. The idea that man should live in harmony with nature, rather than striving to dominate it, is arguably the key tenet of environmentalism. Human beings are seen as destructive creatures, both to themselves and to nature, if they stray from this path. From this starting point flows ideas such as the need to place limits on human activity and hostility towards the notion of progress. Animosity towards economic growth is therefore central to environmentalist thought.

Challenging the growth sceptics

If these are the arguments of the growth sceptics how can they be tackled? In many cases they seem to have a strong case. The world is highly unequal and there are numerous examples of environmental degradation. It is also indisputable that, despite growing affluence, a huge number of people feel unhappy in some way.

Perhaps the best starting point is to remind ourselves that economic growth and affluence have had enormous social benefits. These are all too easily forgotten in a society with little sense of history. Our lives are substantially better than those of any previous generations. Anne Krueger, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), looked at some of the key global indicators over the previous half century in a speech in 2002. She is worth quoting at length

‘Infant mortality has declined from 180 per 1000 births in 1950 to 60 per 1000 births. Literacy rates have risen from an average of 40 per cent in the 1950s to over 70 per cent today. World poverty has declined, despite still-high population growth in the developing world. Since 1980, the number of poor people, defined as those living on less than a dollar a day, has fallen by about 200 million, much of it due to the rapid growth of China and India.

‘If there is one measure that can summarise the impact of these enormous gains, it is life expectancy. Only 50 years ago, life in much of the developing world was pretty much what it used in be in the rich nations a couple of centuries ago: “nasty, brutish and short.” But today, life expectancy in the developing world averages 65 years, up from under 40 years in 1950. Life expectancy was increasing even in sub-Saharan Africa until the effects of years of regional conflicts and the AIDS epidemic brought about a reversal. The gap between life expectancy between the developed and developing world has narrowed, from a gap of 30 years in 1950 to only about 10 years today.’ (22)

Of course there is still a huge amount to do despite the successes of the past half-century. According to the World Bank some 2.7 billion people still lived on less than $2 a day in 2001, of which 1.1 billion lived on less than a dollar (23). But the growth sceptics are not arguing for ambitious new development to bring Third World living standards up to those in the West. On the contrary, at every stage they cast doubt on the benefits of growth.
However, while it is important to use facts to help refute growth scepticism such a procedure is insufficient on its own. It is also necessary to separate the negative forms that growth can take – for instance inequality or environmental degradation – from the principle of affluence itself. It also means spelling out the broader benefits of growth such as its link to cultural and scientific advance.

More growth = better environment

At its most fundamental level, the starting point is the Enlightenment ideal of increasing human control over nature. As human society develops it becomes better able to control the natural world. Humans have increasingly become better able to control disease, curb the impact of the seasons and minimise the impact of natural disasters.

Economic growth plays a central part in such progress. It gives humanity the means and resources to acquire a better life. Rather than being a problem-maker, the development of the economy provides humanity with the ability to overcome its difficulties.

The importance of economic growth to providing a better environment should be clear. As a general rule the environment in the developed world is far better for humans than in the poorer countries. For many people in the world, malnutrition, as well as a lack of clean water and modern sanitation, are key killers. In addition, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1.6 million people a year – that is one person every 20 seconds – dies as a result of indoor air pollution. As WHO notes:

‘More than half of the world’s population rely on dung, wood, crop waste or coal to meet their most basic energy needs. Cooking and heating with such solid fuels on open fires or stoves without chimneys leads to indoor air pollution. This indoor smoke contains a range of health-damaging pollutants including small soot or dust particles that are able to penetrate deep into the lungs.’ (24)

Yet those of us lucky enough to live in the developed world do not need to cope with such problems. Since the overwhelming majority of us are connected to the electricity grid, gas mains or both, the scourge of indoor air pollution is not a killer. Economic development has played a key role in improving the environment for many millions of people, although many more could gain from its benefits in the future.

Nor is material development just about economics in the narrow sense of the term. Greater affluence, including more consumer goods and better infrastructure, should certainly be welcomed, but there is also a wider story. Economic growth is also linked to broader scientific and cultural advance. Greater material development provides the resources for science to develop and provide even further benefits for humanity. As humans become free from the tyranny of scarcity, they are also better able to spend time engaging in cultural pursuits.

Growth hasn’t gone nearly far enough

Admittedly, the more sophisticated growth sceptics will grudgingly concede that economic growth is positive up to a certain point. However, they go on to argue that as economies become more developed there are diminishing returns in relation to growth. In their view, once basic human needs are met it becomes less important, or even counterproductive, to strive for material development.

Such an outlook ignores how much there is still to be done to improve human living standards even in the developed world. For example, there is a common refrain that the developed world is suffering form a ‘demographic time bomb’ as a result of an ageing population. The advocates of such an approach often argue it is necessary to curb consumption in the present to help provide a minimal standard of living for the elderly. But with economic growth there should be no problem in providing a comfortable living for those who have retired (25).

There is also a considerable amount of unemployment, both overt and hidden, in the developed world. Even in countries such as Britain, where the official unemployment rate is low compared with many other nations, there is a huge amount of covert unemployment. As Phil Mullan has pointed out on spiked there are about nine million people between 16 and 65 who do not work (26). No doubt a large proportion of these people are willing and able to work. A stronger more productive economy could in principle give them the ability to do so.

Although the growth sceptics seem to have a point in relation to happiness it is weaker than first appears. It is probably true that as the developed world has become substantially more affluent over the past 50 years, the subjective feeling of wellbeing has not improved (27). But it is a huge logical leap to conclude from this that economic growth is not worthwhile. Even leaving aside the objective benefits of growth, there are other ways to explain the pervasive sense of foreboding about the future. As has been argued elsewhere on spiked, this sense of pessimism has other roots, including the atomisation of contemporary society (28).

In any case it is questionable that happiness should be an overriding social objective. On the contrary, the most important social changes have generally come about when people are discontent with their lot. The obsession with happiness virtually lowers humans to the level of mere animals. From the perspective of happiness alone a cow munching grass in a field can be better than a human being trying to grapple with his problems. To change the animal metaphor, John Stuart Mill, a nineteenth-century British philosopher, was right when he argued: ‘It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.’ (29)

The conclusions to be drawn from social inequality are also not what they might first appear. A positive approach to inequality would be to argue that the mass of society should have the benefits that are currently confined to the elite. A precondition for such an approach is to have an even more developed and economically advanced society. But the implication of the growth sceptics, and sometimes the explicit argument, is that society should consume less. For them, criticisms of inequality imply that there should be a levelling down of living standards to more basic levels rather than a rising up of affluence (30).

The limits of the contemporary imagination

Contemporary limits on material advance are not physical or even social, but the result of a constrained imagination. Rather than think about the huge possibilities that a more affluent society could bring, we have a pervasive fear of economic growth. It is this subjective barrier which is the most formidable obstacle to progress at present.

However, if the growth sceptics are so wrong, it begs the question of how there arguments have become dominant. Why is it that such a misanthropic outlook has become so widely accepted? To understand how this shift came about, it is necessary to go back to the 1970s. Although critics of growth have existed for over two centuries, it was only in that decade that anti-growth thinking began to become an orthodox view (31).

Until the 1970s anti-growth thinking was generally the preserve of a middle-class elite. It did not have wide purchase in society. In contrast, for mass socialist movements before then the debate was about how best to achieve a better life – for example, through reforms or revolutionary change – rather than about the principle of striving for more prosperity. In retrospect, this began to change with the rise of the New Left in the 1960s, including the likes of critics such as Herbert Marcuse (32). One of the distinctive features of the New Left was its anti-consumerism.

Environmentalism, and with it growth scepticism, developed as a mainstream force in two phases from the 1970s. In the first stage, from the early 1970s, there developed an emphasis on the need to place limits on human activity. There are many indicators of how, after being a minority force in the 1960s, it became mainstream in the following decade. For instance, in 1970 the US celebrated its first Earth Day. In 1972 the United Nations proclaimed its Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations on the environment. Best-selling texts, such as The Limits to Growth (1972) and Small is Beautiful (1973), emphasised the dangers of resource depletion and pollution (33). By the mid-1970s, many prominent economists, usually from a conservative perspective, were attempting to defend the benefits of growth, including Wilfred Beckerman, Gottfried Haberler, William Nordhaus, Mancur Olson, and Robert Solow.

Growth scepticism found its way into both radical economics and public policy. It was in this period that the left gave up on the vision of socialism as a more productive alternative to the market. Instead the emphasis shifted towards regulating the market to curb its most destructive tendencies.

In the second stage, which roughly dates from the late 1980s the idea of precaution became accepted within the mainstream. It emphasised not only the actual damage being done to the environment by humanity but potential threats in the future. The increasing institutionalisation of the precautionary principle, as well as the notion of sustainable development (for example, in the 1987 Brundtland Report), were expressions of this growing consensus. Both stressed the need to place limits on human activity to thwart potential threats to future generations.

It was also implicit, and sometimes even made explicit, that the Third World could not expect to reach the economic level of the West. For example, the influential Brandt Report of 1980 argues that: ‘We must not surrender to the idea that the whole world should copy the models of highly industrialised countries.’ (34)

Several related factors can be used to explain the rise of growth scepticism over this period. In the first phase, from the 1970s onwards, these were:

The secular slowdown in economic growth – and its impact on capitalist legitimacy. The long economic boom that followed the Second World War ended in 1973. Since then growth, particularly in the developed world, has slowed substantially. As a result, pessimism about the prospects for growth has grown. The sharp rise of unemployment apparent from the 1970s was particularly harshly felt. In the period following the Second World War, in what became known as the ‘Keynesian revolution’, there was huge importance attached to the ability of the market to provide ‘full employment’ (in turn a response to the mass unemployment and social dislocation of the 1930s). It also became increasingly difficult for the market to deliver steady rises in consumption to the mass of the population. As Daniel Bell wrote back in the 1970s: ‘Put simply, where workers once feared losing their job, which was the common experience of the Depression, they now expect a job and a rising standard of living. And no government can deny that expectation.’ (35)

As it became increasingly difficult for the market to deliver on such demands the legitimacy of capitalism was increasingly called into question. In this sense, the development of theories that played down the importance of economic growth was rational. Growth scepticism was at least partly a response to the difficulty the market was finding in delivering sustained increases in affluence (36).

The defeat of the left and radical movements. The left’s capitulation on growth from the 1970s onwards was a precondition for growth scepticism becoming a mainstream outlook. As it said farewell to the working class, it gave an increasingly warm welcome to ecology. The capitulation of the left on economic growth parallels its defeat and marginalisation in political struggles. As the remnants of the old labour movement were defeated from the 1970s onwards, they became increasingly receptive to anti-growth and more generally environmentalist ideas.

Under such conditions the left stopped providing social alternatives. Instead its focus turned to the most destructive aspects of the market. At the same time as accepting that there is no alternative to the market it became a staunch advocate of regulation and restraint.

The demise of 1960s radicalism. The defeat of the student and youth radicalism of the 1960s also bolstered the mood of pessimism and so strengthened environmentalism. The strong element of anti-consumerism in the 1960s counterculture – the assumption that individuals were too preoccupied with the pursuit of material goods – helped facilitate this process.

In the second phase, from the 1980s onwards, additional factors came into play:

The rise of risk consciousness. Growing social atomisation, with the breakdown of traditional institutions, has heightened the awareness of risk in society. There is a heightened sense that society is out of control. As a result, actual and potential risks are often seen out of proportion to the real danger involved. In contrast, potential advances are viewed with suspicion.

The end of the Cold War and the rise of the idea that there is no alternative to the market. These developments have helped consolidate a sense of profound social pessimism. The idea that humanity has the capacity to improve itself and its environment has become subdued. Human potential tends to be viewed as a threat rather than a positive attribute.

These factors together explain how growth scepticism has become a mainstream force in society. Whereas material development was once hailed as part of social progress it is now seen as bringing misery and environmental degradation. The enormous benefits of economic growth have been virtually forgotten.

For anyone committed to human progress it is imperative to launch a counter-attack against growth scepticism. Anti-growth thinking is a central part of the narrow consensus that nowadays passes for politics. Growth scepticism is integral to the idea that human potential should be constrained as a dangerous force. Therefore restating the case for growth is a central part of arguing for the power of humanity to create a better world.

Daniel Ben-Ami is the author of Cowardly Capitalism: The Myth of the Global Financial Casino, John Wiley and Sons, 2001 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA))

(1) Will Hutton, “Shopping and tut-tutting”, Observer, 2 September 2005.

(2) See Daniel Ben-Ami Beyond the growth fetish. The term is implied in Fred Hirsch’s The Social Limits of Growth, Harvard University Press 1976, p17. The ambiguity perhaps also reflects an older tension between what Daniel Bell calls asceticism and acquisitiveness. See p283 of the 1996 afterword to The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Basic Books 1996 (originally published 1976).

(3) PM reflects on ‘blunt truth’ of climate change, Downing Street website

(4) Our Common Future, Oxford University Press, 1987, p8.

(5) Robert Wade of the London School of Economics is one of the leading critics of global inequality. See, for example, his “Winners and Losers” Economist, 26 April 2001. One of the most influential texts on happiness is Richard Layard, Happiness, Allen Lane 2005. For a critique of the contemporary obsession with happiness see Michael Savage, If you’re happy and you know it…

(6) John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society. First published in 1958 with many editions since.

(7) For example, Donella H Meadows et al The Limits to Growth, New American Library 1972 was one of the first books arguing that there are physical limits to growth to gain a mass popular readership. A “30 year update” version of the book was recently published which denied frequent allegations that its predictions had proved hopelessly inaccurate.

(8) Sociologists such as Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens are the arch-exponents of such an approach.

(9) Fred Hirsch, Social Limits to Growth, Harvard University Press 1976.

(10) Steffan Linder, The Harried Leisure Class, Columbia University Press 1970. Cited by Fred Hirsch.

(11) SW Verstegen and JC Hanekamp argue that the debate over the “quality of life” was rekindled in the mid-1950s in America. “The sustainability debate” Globalizations 2 (3) December 2005, p352. However, it is hard to see why the two authors associate this view with what they call the “idealist” (pessimist / no growth) strand of sustainable development. It can also be found among the “conformist (optimist / mainstream) school which conforms more closely to what is called “growth skepticism” in this paper.

(12) For a coherent attack on conventional national accounts see Herman E Daly, Beyond Growth, Beacon Press 1996.

(13) In Amartya Sen’s Development As Freedom Oxford University Press 1999, p10.

(14) In Britain, for example, those commenting regularly on this theme include Justin Rowlatt (BBC Newsnight’s ‘ethical man’), Leo Hickman of the Guardian and Lucy Siegle of the Observer. Nor is this outlook the preserve of those who see themselves as radical. Rod Dreher Crunchy Cons Crown Forum 2006, an American text, makes the point it is perfectly compatible with conservatism.

(15) See Josie Appleton, In search of utopia

(16) For example, Christopher Lasch argues that the distinctive feature of the eighteenth century idea of progress, as exemplified by Adam Smith, was its belief that rising productivity could feed man’s “insatiable appetites”. Lasch The True and Only Heaven Norton 1991, p52.

(17) Benjamin M Friedman, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth Alfred A Knopf 2005, p31.

(18) Benjamin M Friedman, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth Alfred A Knopf 2005, p31.

(19) Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Basic Books 1996 (originally published 1976), pxxv.

(20) Fred Hirsch, Social Limits to Growth, Harvard University Press 1976, p175.

(21) Fred Hirsch, Social Limits to Growth, Harvard University Press 1976, p137

(22) Anne O Krueger, Supporting Globalization, 26 September 2002.

(23) Global Poverty Down By Half Since 1981 But Progress Uneven As Economic Growth Eludes Many Countries, World Bank news release, 23 April 2004

(24) WHO, Indoor air pollution and health, Fact sheet No. 292, June 2005.

(25) See Phil Mullan, Ageing and the ‘pensions’ crisis

(26) See Phil Mullan, Ageing and the ‘pensions’ crisis

(27) See, for example, Richard Layard Happiness Allen Lane 2005, p3.

(28) See, for example, Frank Furedi, Epidemic of fear. A more detailed discussion can be found in Frank Furedi, Culture of Fear, Cassell 1997 (updated edition published in 2002).

(29) John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, 1863

(30) For example, see Fred Hirsch, Social Limits to Growth Harvard University Press 1976, p165. He argues he is following in the line of Richard Henry Tawney, a twentieth century Christian socialist in Britain

(31) As Anna Bramwell argues in The Fading of the Greens Yale University Press 1994: “In the 1970s and 1980s what had previously been a minority interest acquired a mass following and developed party organisations, which at one stage became major players in local and national politics.” (pvii). She could have added that a green outlook increasingly became incorporated into state policy.

(32) For example, his 1964 One-Dimensional Man available at: Note also the 1972 response to this by Paul Mattick, One-dimensional man in class society. Later on Marcuse wrote more explicitly ecological works such as his late 1970s essay “Ecology and the critique of modern society.”

(33) Donella H Meadows et al, The Limits to Growth, New American Library 1972 and EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, Blond & Briggs 1973.

(34) North-South: A Programme for Survival Pan 1980, p23-4. In contrast, back in the 1960s Walt Rostow was arguing for the universal adoption of the American pattern of “high mass consumption.” (according to Istvan Meszaros, The Necessity of Social Control, Merlin Press 1971, p17-18).

(35) Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism Basic Books 1996 (originally published 1976), p239.

(36) This is in spite of the Thatcher and Reagan “revolutions” of the late 1970s and 1980s. In retrospect the call for greater growth that these movements seemed to embody was short-lived.

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