Prosperity without Growth

BY Marlies Vlam
18 April 2023

The OCC book club is back! And this time with “Prosperity without Growth” by Tim Jackson.

As part of our Nordic Sustainability book club, The Overbooked Consultants Club, our plan is to read everything from social justice, economics, and climate change to corporate culture, change management, and self-help books. And probably a lot in between.

In this round of The OCC book club, we dove into the world of “Prosperity without Growth” by Tim Jackson, a British ecological economist. The OCC book club has spent the last few months exploring this fascinating and thought-provoking book, which challenges the very foundations of our economic system. Jackson’s vision for a post-growth economy prioritizes social and ecological wellbeing over endless economic expansion, offering a radical and inspiring alternative to the status quo. So buckle up, grab a cup of tea, and get ready to join us as we explore some of the main themes and ideas of this book. 

The problem of growth and the concept of prosperity

Although the book is written in a rather academic style, thereby making it less of a ‘before going to sleep’ type of book, Jackson skilfully presents complex ideas and data in a way that is easy to understand and engaging to read. He also uses real-world examples and case studies to illustrate his points, making the book relevant and relatable for us readers. 

The first part of the book outlines the problems with the current growth-based economic model, including its contribution to environmental degradation, social inequality, and cultural homogenization. Jackson believes that we need to move away from the idea that economic growth is the key to prosperity and instead focus on a more sustainable and equitable system. 

Jackson defines prosperity as “the ability of all people to flourish within the ecological limits of a finite planet”. This definition emphasizes the importance of sustainability and highlights the fact that prosperity is not just about material wealth. Jackson argues that we need to redefine prosperity to include non-material aspects such as well-being, social connections, and meaningful work. 

Many people believe that technology will solve our environmental problems and allow us to continue to grow the economy indefinitely. However, Jackson argues that technology is not a silver bullet and that we need to be careful about how we use it, not to mention the trust and importance we assign to it. He suggests that we need to focus on developing technologies that are sustainable and prioritize human well-being over economic growth. 

The importance of sharing in a new economic model

The second part of the book presents a vision for a post-growth economy that prioritizes social and ecological wellbeing over economic growth. 

Jackson argues that we need to move towards a sharing economy where resources are used more efficiently, and people consume less. He suggests that we can achieve this by sharing goods and services, using collaborative consumption models, and implementing policies that encourage sharing. By sharing resources, we can reduce our impact on the environment and create a more equitable society. Jackson suggests that we need to shift away from a consumer-driven economy and towards one that values social and environmental sustainability. This will require changes to the way we measure economic success and the policies that govern our economic system. 

Overall thoughts from our OCC Members

A strength of the book is its interdisciplinary approach. Jackson draws on insights from economics, psychology, sociology, and ecology to build his argument for a new economic model. This interdisciplinary approach allows him to present a nuanced and holistic view of the economy that takes into account both environmental and social factors. 

However, some of our members found the book to be overly idealistic and lacking in practical solutions. While Jackson does present some policy recommendations and examples of real-world initiatives, he acknowledges that the transition to a more sustainable and equitable economy will not be easy. 

To summarize, “Prosperity without Growth” by Tim Jackson is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of economics, sustainability, and social justice. While some members of our book club found the book to be overly idealistic, the majority of us were inspired by Jackson’s vision for a post-growth economy that prioritizes well-being over endless economic expansion. We appreciated the book’s interdisciplinary approach and found it easy to read and engaging. We recommend this book to anyone looking for a thought-provoking and inspiring read that challenges the status quo and offers a radical alternative to our current economic model.

Author details

Marlies Vlam