Sunday, 15 January 2012

Cannoball read #04: Prosperity without growth by Tim Jackson

I don't know how to review this book without sounding like I'm stupid.

Ok, let me start over: I'm no expert on economics, and at least half of this book went right over my head.

I picked it up because I wanted to read something different to what I usually read, and because of the book's premise: is it possible for humankind to thrive without economic growth? The older I get, the more fed up I get with things. Mindless consumption. Gadgets and clothes and decorative porcelain figurines or whatever. Things like television sets that break down after a couple of years, forcing you to buy new ones (if your peers haven't talked you into it first). Things that do nothing to enrich our lives, despite the promise of a better life they "make" in the commercials.

Tim Jackson discusses prosperity in his book. What does it really mean? Is it having all those things? Or is it fundamental values, like human connections, having a job, being healthy instead? And how does our society's endless striving towards economic growth help us to achieve such prosperity?

According to Jackson, it doesn't. Our society is ”trapped” in an economical model that chases after continuous growth, which has very bad consequences indeed for humankind. Not only because this model is based on consumption and the unequal distribution of goods, that does nothing for prosperity as defined above; it also has a catastrophic effect on our already-burdened planet. Nature's resources are quickly running out, and we have to do something to stop that.

Jackson proposes a different model, one that is based on the exchange of human services and on the investment in green alternatives. He presents arguments against the growth model and in favour of his greener one, most of them sound. But he does so in a language I had trouble following. The book reads like a economy textbook (maybe it is?) and it is littered with jargon. But here and there are small breadcrumbs of wisdom, simple and logical statements that even I could follow. And these breadcrumbs led me to the final chapter, one that summarised the book in an understandable way and which was a bit more ”social commentary” in nature. In the end, I was convinced.

I was relieved when I finally finished the book, but to say that it was a bad book would not be accurate. You can't say a book is bad just because you don't get it. The parts I did get were very interesting and put into words a lot of the thoughts I've had in my mind for some time.


  1. Stort tack för pepp. Jag inbillar mig att det var magsjukans fel. Fast jag behöll all mat, bara fruktansvärda kramper och kunde inte äta. Man blir ju lite svag av det.

    Skönt att det är ett tag kvar och idag blir det ingen löpning ;)

  2. Jag borde vara bättre på ekonomi än vad jag är (tänkte jag också på mötet på jobbet idag) fast jag tror inte att det är helt min grej. Inte att djupdyka i det i alla fall :)

    Och tack snälla!