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Growth Fetish Hardcover – 20 Feb 2004
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Right on target and badly needed. (Noam Chomsky)
This is a hugely stimulating and thoughtful contribution to the increasingly important debate about economic growth. Clive Hamilton strips bare the intellectual inadequacies of the so-called 'Third Way', and focuses on the one question politicians are too afraid to answer: if people aren't getting any happier as they go on getting richer, why do we continue to trash the planet and turn people into consumptive zombies in pursuit of economic growth? There is a conspiracy of silence about all this which simply has to be broken. (Jonathon Porritt, Chairman of the British government's Sustainable Development Commission)
Where Hamilton takes the argument forward is with his view that the overwhelming majority of people in the rich countries have passed the point where additional material wealth gives them any benefit at all. .... His book, Growth Fetish, takes this to its logical conclusion, arguing that advanced economies, obsessed with increasing gross domestic product, should chill out. .... We'll carry on consuming -- however miserable it makes us. (David Smith, Sunday Times)
Anyone tired of current cant about growth and resistant to the blandishments of consumerism will welcome this radical analysis of conventional economics. Paradigm shift is usually painful, but this one is a positive pleasure. (Sir Crispin Tickell, Chancellor of the University of Kent at Canterbury)
This is a powerful statement about the failure of the rat-race society and the need for a new philosophy of sociable living. (Professor Richard Layard, London School of Economics)
The most lucid, penetrating, comprehensive and clearly articulated analysis of our present human predicament and of the pathologies that underlie it that I've seen so far. (John Bunzl, author of The Simultaneous Policy)
Breaks new ground by asking us to think what a post-growth, environmentally stable society might actually be like. ... Clearly, stylishly written. Its language and argument are accessible. (Hugh Stretton, author of Economics: An Introduction)
About the Author
Clive Hamilton is Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Australia's foremost public-interest think tank. He has held visiting academic positions at the ANU, University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney and the University of Cambridge. Described in the press as Australia's most influential economist on the left and Australia’s leading environmental economist, he is the author of six books and his views feature regularly in major news outlets.
Top customer reviews
Starting from the point that the aim of all governments of both left and right is that of economic growth, he argues that, despite steady economic growth, in the West over a number of years, we are none the happier for it. He argues that we should fight back against our consumerist tendencies, noting that many marketing campaigns are created even before the product exists and the product is then created to sell a lifestyle rather than producing something of benefit to anyone except those who profit financially from it. In order to take part in this frenzy of consumerism, we inevitably spend more of our time working longer and harder, leaving little free time to actually enjoy our lives and relationships with others around us. He notes that, after the 9/11 attacks, George W Bush urged the US public not to give in to terrorism by 'going out and shopping'! He argues that much of the crime and violence in society is due to our obsession for consumption noting that our current lifestyle is destroying the very planet we live on. He notes that if the rest of the world were to consume at the same rate as the USA, we would need 10 planet Earths to provide sufficient resources.
This book truly inspired me to re-assess my own lifestyle and has changed my life without a doubt. As Clive Hamilton argues, this is one revolution we can all take part in without the use of violence, simply by shopping and consuming less, whilst actually getting more from our lives.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Some parts of the book have aged better than others. CH's praise for the liberating power of non-regular employment (Chap. 6) was already off-base as to the situation in some countries, such as Japan, at the time he wrote; it's certainly too rosy a picture for many other Western economies post-2008 crash. (It's amazing how many tenured university professors who've never been unemployed love to recommend to others that losing a career isn't so awful: judging by the CV on his website, CH seems to have held various prestigious positions, sometimes several at a time, continuously since getting his Ph.D. in 1984.) On the other hand, while the chapter on politics focuses on the Third Way of Blair's Britain, its observations remain remarkably pertinent to the policies of the Obama era. The existence of such a chapter is also refreshing, since more recent books in this genre are much more focused on economics and the environment. Apropos of which, CH's chapter has a nice typology of philosophical attitudes toward the environment (@191ff) that remains useful, even though global warming has become even more serious than it was in 2003.
Unfortunately, the final chapter about the "post-growth society" probably never was very pertinent: it's heavy on grand utopian wishful thinking, such as that a post-growth society will "engender and reflect a historic transformation of consciousness" (@214), provide "an opportunity ... to trigger a cultural renaissance" (@226-227), and will "encourage a reinvigoration of democracy" (@217). Among other issues here, it is far more likely that a revived and strengthened democracy will be a pre-requisite for attaining any "post-growth society" than a result.
Nonetheless, if you take this last chapter with a grain of salt, there's plenty you can learn from this book if you're new to the idea that economic growth might not always be a good thing. If you've already read a few books on de-growth, this one won't tell you many things that will seem new -- but I give it a healthy star-rating because it deserves credit for having said them before many others did.
This book demonstrates integrative thinking of a high order and is a welcome change from the plethora of writing that is full of critical thinking about world affairs but does little to suggest a way forward for the growing number of people who feel there is more to life than increased consumption.
I believe it is a "must read" for thinkers in all fields everywhere.
If you are wondering what infinite consumption is doing to us as a race then you should read this book.
If you are wondering why the choice has gone out of politics as every party tries to seize the middle ground then you should read this book.
If you are wondering why GDP seems to grow but your life doesn't get better then you should read this book.
If you've ever wondered why we need thousands of hair care products which differ only in how they are marketed, you should read this book.
Basically, you should read this book. Someone ran off with my copy, but I'll buy another. It really is that good. You'll find yourself picking it up again and again, and like Shakespeare you'll take something different away from it every time.
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