Managing Without Growth

Managing Without Growth

Slower by Design, Not Disaster

Advances in Ecological Economics series

Peter A. Victor

Peter Victor challenges the priority that rich countries continue to give to economic growth as an over-arching objective of economic policy. The challenge is based on a critical analysis of the literature on environmental and resource limits to growth, on the disconnect between higher incomes and happiness, and on the failure of economic growth to meet other key economic, social and environmental policy objectives. Shortly after World War II, economic growth became the paramount economic policy objective in most countries, a position that it maintains today. This book presents three arguments on why rich countries should turn away from economic growth as the primary policy objective and pursue more specific objectives that enhance wellbeing.

Chapter 6: Limits to Growth – Synthesis

Peter A. Victor

Subjects: environment, ecological economics, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


The human enterprise relies on many goods and services from nature to sustain the entire demand for food, fuels, water, medicine, fibre and electricity. Human vulnerability to the state of the environment depends directly upon the ability of the environment to supply the essential basic needs for humans, as well as on the economic and social capability of the individual to cope with environmental degradation. (United Nations Environment Programme, 2007) It is convenient for expositional purposes to distinguish among sources, sinks and services but we should not overlook the fact that they are intimately connected. The Western intellectual tradition places great emphasis on reductionism: breaking complicated problems into their parts in the belief that if we understand the parts we will understand the bigger problems. Often this works well but not always. The specialization of human knowledge has led to the creation of numerous distinct academic disciplines, each with its own way of seeing the world, identifying issues, describing and analysing them, and reaching conclusions. Even within the broad groupings of natural science, social science, and the humanities, there are major differences in the way their practitioners think and work. The rise of interdisciplinary studies in Western universities that began in the 1960s can be understood as a response to the limitations of reductionism, though not an entirely satisfactory one, at least not yet. We have to find a way of considering sources, sinks and services together if we are to grasp the big picture of the dependence of...

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