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Managing without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster (Advances in Ecological Economics Series) [Paperback]

Peter A. Victor
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2008 Advances in Ecological Economics Series
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 well-being. The author contends that continued economic growth worldwide is unrealistic due to environmental and resource constraints.If rich countries continue to push growth, poorer countries, where the benefits are more evident, will lag. Rising incomes increase happiness and well-being only up to a level that has since been surpassed in rich countries. Moreover, economic growth has not brought full employment, eliminated poverty or reduced the burden of the economy on the environment. By combining a systems approach with more conventional economic analysis, Peter Victor provides new insights into a pressing issue at the frontier of ecological economics in a way that will appeal to a wide audience. Academics, students, activists and interested lay readers will find this well argued book illuminating and compelling.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd (1 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184844205X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848442054
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'At last, Managing without Growth, a book that puts economics in its proper place within the real world and points the direction we must go in confronting the ecological crisis of the planet. As an economist, environmental studies professor Peter Victor is eminently qualified for the task. He examines some of our most fundamental assumptions and beliefs about the market, pricing, free trade and growth, prosperity and happiness that too often preclude a serious consideration of the environment and economy. His book couldn't be a more timely and important analysis of the destructive consequences of aspiring to endless growth and downloading the costs onto nature itself. He makes a powerful case for the need to work deliberately towards a steady state economy where the real world of the biosphere should set the limits to our activity. Victor's book should be at the basis for our discussion of these critical issues today.'- David Suzuki, broadcaster and activist'Peter Victor analyses the critical policy question of our time, how to manage our economy equitably and efficiently without growing beyond biophysical limits. He reasons carefully and rigorously, yet pulls no punches in drawing conclusions that some will consider radical. A superb book!'- Herman E. Daly, University of Maryland, US'Overcoming our addiction to economic growth is one of the most important challenges for the 21st century. Peter Victor's masterful summary of the history and fallacies of this particularly pervasive and increasingly dangerous addiction will be a great help in getting over it. A sustainable and desirable future requires clearly differentiating between A"biggerA" and A"betterA" and a recognition that in the overdeveloped West these two have parted ways. Peter Victor's book will help us slow down by design, not disaster, and understand how that slowing down will in fact increase our quality of life.'- Robert Costanza, The University of Vermont, US'Peter Victor's book is a carefully crafted argument for A"managing without growthA". It is not only an up-to-date survey of the latest thinking on energy, climate, and population, it offers practical policy responses to these challenges. This book is a must read for academics and policymakers concerned with environmental integrity and human wellbeing.'- John Gowdy, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, US

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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A great oportunity to get basic knowledge and fairly new ideas about environmental economy. I hope he will add the financial part to his subject and uses an open economy model
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Zero growth is far from a tragedy 16 April 2009
By A. J. Sutter - Published on Amazon.com
This book deserves a wider readership than Thomas Friedman's "Hot, Flat and Crowded". It's unlikely to get it for a couple of reasons that go beyond Friedman's celebrity status, which I'll touch on below. But instead of peddling utopian fantasies for market capitalists, Peter Victor (PV) raises timely questions about whether developed countries ought to continue economic growth into the indefinite future.

PV points out that growth in GDP hasn't brought some of the principal benefits claimed for it, such as full employment and environmental improvements. Indeed, the largest chunk of his critique is to show how GDP growth isn't sustainable from an enivronmental point of view. He also details how growth hasn't helped the poorest citizens in Canada, and has exacerbated inequality there. By means of scenario-based computer modeling, he shows how Canada might achieve a zero GDP per capita growth rate while reducing poverty, unemployment and debt/GDP. PV advocates a "steady state economy," an idea first (or most prominently) proposed by US economist Herman Daly. The book doesn't explore the idea of actually reducing GDP per capita, a notion called "de-growth" that is far more talked about in France, Italy and even Germany (where it's known as décroissance, decrescita and Schrumpfung, respectively) than in the Anglophone world. While I was disappointed by this restraint, I was pleased to see PV mention in several places the importance of employing more people for shorter working hours, an idea often discussed in Europe.

This is one of the best books of its type in English, but an accumulation of small points led me to give it less than five stars. One is its adherence to the steady-state view. This model assumes not only that we can know just the right amount of resources to extract, and the right amount to renew, but that we will actually do all those things. That's incredibly difficult to achieve in practice. Our understanding of natural processes is not so advanced that we can be confident of getting this right. For example, we're still figuring out the connections among marine microbes, the carbon cycle and climate, such as whether marine bacteria are a CO2 sink or a CO2 source (see D. Kircher, ed., "Microbial Ecology of the Oceans", 2nd ed. (2008).)

Another reason is that the book doesn't quite live up to the ideals announced in its Prologue. PV says there that his point is not "that we should adopt zero growth as an alternative, over[-]arching policy objective [, but rather] that we should not bother with growth as a policy objective at all" (@2). But GDP is an input in most of the linear equations equations determining consumption, employment, exports, etc. in the computer model PV features later in the book (see @185-189). So if you were using the model to explore policy options, it would be hard to say that you were ignoring GDP when formulating policy. I wrote to PV about this, and he explained that he "wanted to model growth in terms of changes in GDP because this is the way that it is conventionally measured," and so he thought it might be more convincing to his intended audience. To be more consistent with the Prologue, I'd have preferred to see the model's inputs be entirely independent of GDP, with GDP being computed ex post from the model's outputs.

Milder disappointments: PV includes surprisingly cursory discussion of the purported "environmental Kuznets curve", which supposedly shows that the cure for most types of pollution is more growth rather than less (@164-165). And the late Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, an economics professor at Harvard and Vanderbilt who had been Herman Daly's mentor, isn't mentioned at all (PV told me it was unintentional, and that he didn't have enough room in the bibliography). NG-R was among the first to point out analytically the fundamental flaws in conventional economics' treatment of the environment, and to advocate a move away from pro-growth policies. In Europe he's claimed as one of intellectual founders of the décroissance movement -- but he was skeptical about Daly's steady-state model. One hopes that Daly's North American followers won't airbrush him out of the photo, so to speak. (I don't want to suggest anything sinister about this omission, however; it's a very minor point. And I hasten to add that PV was very gracious and forthcoming in responding to all of my questions.)

While PV's writing style is far from Friedman's, it's more readable than usual for books directed at economists and policy-makers; for an academic style, it's relatively fluid. Unfortunately, though, the book has been published in a series called "Advances in Ecological Economics". "Ecological economics" is a code-word for the style of economics practiced, in the main, by Daly and his supporters, who are a minority among economists. It's different from "environmental economics," whose practitioners are more numerous and whose thinking is more conventional. So the series title may be a good excuse for lots of people, especially those who most need to read this book, to ignore it instead. I hope this review encourages you to do just the opposite.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Supports limiting obsession with GDP 18 Dec 2009
By Hazel Henderson - Published on Amazon.com
A wonderfully well-argued and documented case for shifting countries' focus from obsessing on GDP-measured economic growth to wider, more realistic measures of material progress and quality of life. As one who has followed and contributed to the 30 year debate on these issues, I can attest to this book's creative and multi-disciplinary perspective and its realistic discussion of the range of policy options for redirecting national attention and policies toward more realistic goals of reducing inequality, limiting the throughput of material resources and restoring environmental sustainability. My only complaint was the inexplicable omission of the foundational work of Nobelist Frederick Soddy's Cartesian Economics (1913) and Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen's The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1971), both of whose work I discussed at length in my The Politics of the Solar Age The Politics of the Solar Age, Alternatives to Economics(1981, 1988), also overlooked. Overall, a great contribution and must-reading for those in the fields of sustainability and its new metrics.

Hazel Henderson Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 20 Jan 2009
By Mark M. Mackenzie - Published on Amazon.com
This book will make you think hard about choices that we are making in society. In the midst of credit and financial meltdowns, this book couldn't be timed better as Peter Victor takes a hard look at the meaning of progress. If you are thinking this book is about 'sustainable development', think again and be prepared to question a lot of what you thought you already knew to be universally true.
5.0 out of 5 stars The best I've seen on steady-state economics 7 Aug 2013
By Ron Bottorff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent and comprehensive analysis of how the mantra of economic growth at all costs is leading us into a blind corner, as well as ways we can cope with it. Victor is well-positioned to write this book and his arguments are both well-balanced and solidly reasoned. This message needs to reach a much broader audience including, hopefully, our national leaders..
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