Inventing post-growth economies

Radical thinkers series with Timothée Parrique

December 10 2021

Last week Timothée Parrique kicked off the Radical Thinkers Series of Nyenrode Business Universiteit. The series gives stage to radical thinkers in order to present alternative perspectives at the intersection of business, society, and ecology. Parrique: “Degrowth is a new utopia for sustainable transformation built around the idea that you don’t need economic growth to achieve a good life.”

Parrique uses this definition of degrowth: The planned and democratic reduction of production and consumption in rich countries to reduce environmental pressures and inequalities while improving wellbeing.

Growth is killing the planet

Parrique: “The richest 10% of the world is responsible for half of today’s greenhouse gas emissions. We are not all on the same boat, and we should acknowledge the link between wealth and pollution. This is not only a matter of lifestyle consumption; it is also about production decisions. High-income economies are the powerhouse of the climate crisis, and sustainability depends on reducing their extravagant levels of production and consumption.”

Overall, “high-income nations are all overshooting planetary boundaries”, Parrique says. And this situation is the result of an economic architecture centered on the overarching objective of constantly making more money, whether it is income, profits, or GDP.

Reviving economic imagination

Parrique thinks the capitalism/communism dichotomy is obsolete. “Everything that is not capitalism, is not necessarily communism and vice versa. We need more colors if we want to find alternatives. The challenge today is not to predict the future of the economy but rather to invent the economies of the future.” And that also counts for business schools, as he continues: “We need a bigger toolbox: ecological, feminist, Marxian, post-Keynesian economics and many more. The key word here is pluralism; a diversity of theories, disciplines, and methods to equip students for complex sustainability challenges.”

Transitioning to a post growth economy

But the question is how to operationalize this system change? “Let’s start by getting rid of GDP once and for all. Instead of this economic monomania, let’s organize economic life around concrete indicators of social and ecological wellbeing. But let’s not fool ourselves in believing that changing indicators is enough. We also need the change the very structure of the system. Let’s phase out for-profit enterprises, for example, and let’s massively invest into the social-ecological infrastructure that is necessary to achieve a prosperity without growth.”

Timothée Parrique is an ecological economist. His dissertation 'The political economy of degrowth' (2019) explores the economic implications of the ideas of degrowth and has received considerable attention in Europe and beyond. Click here to read more about Timothée.

The next installment of the Radical Thinkers series is on March 3rd. Our guest speaker will be Martin Drenthen of Radboud University and he will talk about the position of human among the livings. Please sign in here. 

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