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The hegemony of growth the OECD and the making of the economic growth paradigm

The Hegemony of Growth

In modern society, economic growth is considered to be the primary goal
pursued through policy-making. But when and how did this perception
become widely adopted among social scientists, politicians, and the
general public? Focusing on the OECD, one of the least understood
international organizations, Schmelzer offers the first transnational
study to chart the history of growth discourses. He reveals how the
pursuit of GDP growth emerged as a societal goal and the ways in
which the methods employed to measure, model, and prescribe growth
resulted in statistical standards, international policy frameworks, and
widely accepted norms. Setting his analysis within the context of capitalist development, postwar reconstruction, the Cold War, decolonization, and industrial crisis, The Hegemony of Growth sheds new light on the
continuous reshaping of the growth paradigm up to the neoliberal age
and adds historical depth to current debates on climate change, inequality, and the limits to growth.
matthias schmelzer is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of
Zürich, Switzerland.

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The Hegemony of Growth
The OECD and the Making of the Economic
Growth Paradigm
Matthias Schmelzer

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University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom
Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge.
It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of
education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.
www.cambridge.org
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107130609
© Matthias Schmelzer 2016
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without the written
permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2016
Printed in the United Kingdom by Clays, St Ives plc
A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data
Schmelzer, Matthias, author.
The hegemony of growth : the OECD and the making of the economic growth
paradigm / Matthias
Schmelzer.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-107-13060-9 (hbk: alk. paper) 1. Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development. 2. Economic development – International
cooperation. 3. International trade. I. Title.


HC241.S347 2016
338.9–dc23
2015032466
ISBN 978-1-107-13060-9 Hardback
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of
URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication,
and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain,
accurate or appropriate.

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The Hegemony of Growth

In modern society, economic growth is considered to be the primary goal
pursued through policy-making. But when and how did this perception
become widely adopted among social scientists, politicians, and the
general public? Focusing on the OECD, one of the least understood
international organizations, Schmelzer offers the first transnational
study to chart the history of growth discourses. He reveals how the
pursuit of GDP growth emerged as a societal goal and the ways in
which the methods employed to measure, model, and prescribe growth
resulted in statistical standards, international policy frameworks, and
widely accepted norms. Setting his analysis within the context of capitalist development, postwar reconstruction, the Cold War, decolonization, and industrial crisis, The Hegemony of Growth sheds new light on the
continuous reshaping of the growth paradigm up to the neoliberal age
and adds historical depth to current debates on climate change, inequality, and the limits to growth.
matthias schmelzer is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of
Zürich, Switzerland.

use,

17:46:43, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of


use,

17:46:43, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of


The Hegemony of Growth
The OECD and the Making of the Economic
Growth Paradigm
Matthias Schmelzer

use,

17:46:43, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of


University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom
Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge.
It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of
education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.
www.cambridge.org
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107130609
© Matthias Schmelzer 2016
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without the written
permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2016
Printed in the United Kingdom by Clays, St Ives plc
A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data
Schmelzer, Matthias, author.
The hegemony of growth : the OECD and the making of the economic growth
paradigm / Matthias
Schmelzer.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-107-13060-9 (hbk: alk. paper) 1. Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development. 2. Economic development – International
cooperation. 3. International trade. I. Title.
HC241.S347 2016
338.9–dc23
2015032466
ISBN 978-1-107-13060-9 Hardback
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of
URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication,
and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain,
accurate or appropriate.

use,

17:46:43, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of


The Hegemony of Growth

In modern society, economic growth is considered to be the primary goal
pursued through policy-making. But when and how did this perception
become widely adopted among social scientists, politicians, and the
general public? Focusing on the OECD, one of the least understood
international organizations, Schmelzer offers the first transnational
study to chart the history of growth discourses. He reveals how the
pursuit of GDP growth emerged as a societal goal and the ways in
which the methods employed to measure, model, and prescribe growth
resulted in statistical standards, international policy frameworks, and
widely accepted norms. Setting his analysis within the context of capitalist development, postwar reconstruction, the Cold War, decolonization, and industrial crisis, The Hegemony of Growth sheds new light on the
continuous reshaping of the growth paradigm up to the neoliberal age
and adds historical depth to current debates on climate change, inequality, and the limits to growth.
matthias schmelzer is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of
Zürich, Switzerland.

use,

17:46:45, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of


use,

17:46:45, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of


The Hegemony of Growth
The OECD and the Making of the Economic
Growth Paradigm
Matthias Schmelzer

use,

17:46:45, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of


University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom
Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge.
It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of
education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.
www.cambridge.org
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107130609
© Matthias Schmelzer 2016
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without the written
permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2016
Printed in the United Kingdom by Clays, St Ives plc
A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data
Schmelzer, Matthias, author.
The hegemony of growth : the OECD and the making of the economic growth
paradigm / Matthias
Schmelzer.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-107-13060-9 (hbk: alk. paper) 1. Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development. 2. Economic development – International
cooperation. 3. International trade. I. Title.
HC241.S347 2016
338.9–dc23
2015032466
ISBN 978-1-107-13060-9 Hardback
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of
URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication,
and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain,
accurate or appropriate.

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Contents

List of figures and tables
Acknowledgments
List of abbreviations

page vii
viii
xi

Introduction

1

Setting the stage: a historical introduction to the OECD
Part I Paradigm in the making: the emergence of economic
growth as the key economic policy norm (1948–1959)
1
2
3

Measuring growth: the international standardization of
national income accounting

5
6

75
85

Propagating growth: from reconstruction and stability to
“selective expansion” and “productivity”

117

“Expand or die”: international economic mandarins and
the transnational harmonization of growth policies

142

Part II Paradigm at work: a “temple of growth for
industrialized countries” in action (1960–1968)
4

34

163

Power, progress, and prosperity: growth as universal
yardstick and the OECD’s 1961 growth target in
perspective

167

Boosting growth: the Western “growth conscience” and
social engineering in the name of accelerated growth

189

Replicating growth: the “development of others” and the
hegemony of donor countries

215

v

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Contents

vi

Part III Paradigm in discussion: the “problems of modern
society,” environment, and welfare (1969–1974)
7
8
9

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239

Quantity in question: challenging the hegemony of growth
and the OECD-Club of Rome nexus

245

Reclaiming growth: organizational dynamics and the
“dialectic” of qualitative growth

267

Quantifying quality: managing the environmental costs of
growth and the difficult quest for “gross national wellbeing”

288

Epilogue: paradigm remade (1975–2011)

313

Conclusion: provincializing growth

336

Archival sources and select bibliography
Index

359
375

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Figures and Tables

Figures
I.1 Percentage of all articles published per year in all academic
journals that contain the term “economic growth,” by
discipline, 1930–2010
page 3
I.2 GDP of OECD countries and chronology of the parts of
the book
32
S.1 Number of staff working at the OEEC/OECD, 1948–1995
42
S.2 Organigram of the OECD
55
S.3 Officials working in different departments of the OECD
61
C.1 Nominal and real GDP% change in key OECD countries,
1960–2014
337
Tables
S.1
S.2
4.1
9.1

The OEEC/OECD trajectory
page 54
Chronology of meetings of committees at Ministerial level
63
Comparative GNP growth rates (in percent), 1947–1959 171
Comparison of the list of social concerns common to most
OECD countries (1973) and the indicators in the OECD
Better Life Index (2011)
304

vii

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Acknowledgments

The writing of this book has been a long, challenging, and fulfilling
journey, both professionally and personally. It would not have been
possible without the support, thoughts, and critique of many colleagues,
comrades, and friends. This book is based on a dissertation at the
European University Viadrina, and I want to start by thanking the two
supervisors Alexander Nützenadel and Hartmut Kaelble. Together with
the team around the Chair for Social and Economic History at
Humboldt-University, which could not have been more inspiring and
deserves the warmest thanks, between 2009 and 2013 they provided a
wonderful and stimulating research environment. Furthermore, I am
grateful for the research environments enabled by long stays at the
German Historical Institutes in Paris, London, and Washington, to the
DFG-Kolleg “Post Growth Societies” at the University of Jena for inviting me as a fellow, to the Research Group “Transformations in Global
Governance,” and to the doctoral program “Construire les différences:
l’histoire comme objet et comme représentation” (Paris and Berlin). In
the final stages of the book, the team of the OECD history project at the
University of Geneva (and from August 2015 onward University of
Zürich) directed by Matthieu Leimgruber has enabled the transformation
of the dissertation into a book, discussed the entire manuscript, and has
provided invaluable critiques and questions on the institution discussed
in the book.
The book would not have become what it is without being rooted in and
supported by many more informal settings outside of universities. I am
grateful to everyone at the 026 in Kreuzberg for providing a critical, selfreflexive, and supportive office environment, to my Capital reading group
in Berlin, and in particular to everyone involved in our collective activities
with the altermondialista, the climate justice, the Occupy, and the
degrowth movements.
For reading drafts, inspiring talks, and challenging questions and comments I would like to thank in particular Samuel Beroud, Iris Borowy,
Christine Brulandt, Ute Daniel, Tine de Moor, Jana Flemming, Ludovic
viii

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Acknowledgments

ix

Fulleringer, Christian Grabas, Christian Gütgemann, Alix Heininger,
Rachel Herp, Ruth Jacherts, Stephen Macekura, Martin Marcussen,
Jochen Mayer, Erasmus Müller, Barbara Muraca, Mathias Mutz,
Jürgen Neyer, Avner Offer, John O’Neill, Alexis Passadakis, Kiran
Patel, Dominique Pestre, Steven Piguet, Dieter Plehwe, Kim Priemel,
Claudia Prinz, Bob Reinalda, Martin Rempe, Laura Rischbieter, Julia
Roßhart, Elke Seefried, Mitja Sienknecht, Daniel Speich, Adam Tooze,
Andrea Vetter, Troy Vettese, Anna Voigt, in particular Heike Wieters,
and finally the three anonymous reviewers of this book.
The book has also benefited from critical comments and fresh ideas
from the participants of numerous conferences, workshops, and seminars, where I had the possibility to present and discuss most of its
chapters. In particular, I would like to thank the organizers and participants of the workshop Ein Europa der Experten (Köln 2010), the ESTER
and GLOBALEURONET Research Design Course (Vienna 2010), the
conference Shifting Visions of Development (Bremen 2011), the European
Social Science History Conference (Glasgow 2012), two international
degrowth conferences (Venice 2012, Leipzig 2014), the Winterschool
Limits to Growth Revisited (Hannover 2012), the Japan Socio-Economic
Society Annual Conference (Tokyo 2013), the 8th Pan-European Conference
on International Relations (Warsaw 2013), the Forschungskolloquium
“Soziologie” (Luzern 2013), the SINERGIA workshop (Basel 2014), the
conference The Concept of the World Economy (Berlin 2014), the conference Zur Soziologie ökonomischen Wissens (Jena 2014), the congress of the
European Network in Universal and Global History (Paris 2014), the
Historikertag (Göttingen 2014), the conference Wachstum ohne
Alternativen? (Berlin 2014), the OECD New Approaches to Economic
Challenges seminar (Paris 2015), the History of Recent Economics
Conference (Cergy-Pontoise 2015), and the World Economic History
Congress (Kyoto, 2015). Furthermore, I want to thank the participants
of the colloquia in Berlin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Halle, Konstanz, Leipzig,
London, Munich, Paris, Washington, and Zürich.
Special thanks also go to the archivists, without whom this work would
have been impossible, at the OECD Archive in Paris in particular: JanAnno Schuur, Patricia Fiore, Francis Pellerin, but also the archivists at
the Bundesarchiv Koblenz, the King’s College Archive Centre,
Cambridge, The National Archive in Kew, the European Commission
Historical Archives in Brussels, and the National Archives and Records
Administration, College Park, Maryland. For background interviews
with officials from the OECD and TUAC and economists who worked
with the OECD, I would like to thank Herman Daly, Jean Paul Fitoussi,
Pier Carlo Padoan, Roland Schneider, and Judit Vadasz. And I would like

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x

Acknowledgments

to thank the editorial team of Cambridge University Press for the excellent work in editing this book.
This research was made possible by funding from the Deutsche
Forschungsgesellschaft (Research Group “Transformations in Global
Governance”), the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant
PP00P1_139023/1), the doctoral program “Construire les différences:
l’histoire comme objet et comme représentation” (Paris and Berlin), and
the German Historical Institutes in Paris, London, and Washington, and
the DAAD.
Last but not least, very special thanks go to Adele, Albert, Alexis,
André, Andrea, Bärbel, Björn, Dalilah, Daniel, Doris, Erasmus, Fabian,
Feli, Fritzi, Heike, Jeroen, Johanna, Josie, Julia, Kathi, Katt, Lea, Leonel,
Leonie, Manu, Mareile, Mark, Max, Martina, Mela, Nina, Pablo, Sarah,
Susanne, and Tine – for being who they are and making life more
beautiful.

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Abbreviations

AEA
BAK
CEA
CERI
CSP
DAC
DAG
ECA
ECHA
ECSC
EEC
EPA
EPC
EPU
FRUS
GDP
GNP
IARIW
IBRD
IEA
ILO
IMF
JRNS
MIT
MPS
NARA
NARU

American Economic Association
Bundesarchiv Koblenz, Germany
Council of Economic Advisors
Centre for Educational Research and Innovation
(OECD)
Committee for Science Policy
Development Assistance Committee (OECD)
Development Assistance Group (OEEC)
Economic Cooperation Administration
European Commission Historical Archives, Brussels
European Coal and Steel Community
European Economic Community
European Productivity Agency
Economic Policy Committee (OECD)
European Payments Union
Foreign Relations of the United States
Gross Domestic Product
Gross National Product
International Association for Research in Income and
Wealth
International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development
International Energy Agency
International Labor Organization
International Monetary Fund
King’s College Archive Centre, Cambridge – The
Papers of John Richard Nicholas Stone
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Material Product System
National Archives and Records Administration, College
Park, Maryland, United States
National Accounts Research Unit (OECD)
xi

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xii

List of abbreviations

NATO
OECD
OECD-HA
OEEC
OTC
TNA
UN
UNCTAD
UNECE
UNESCO
WP-2
WP-3

WP-5
WTO

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North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development
OECD Historical Archives, Paris
Organization for European Economic Co-operation
Overseas Territories Committee (OEEC)
The National Archives, Kew, Britain
United Nations
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization
Working Party No. 2 of the EPC on Policies for the
Promotion of Economic Growth (OECD)
Working Party No. 3 of the EPC on Policies for the
Promotion of Better International Payments
Equilibrium (OECD)
Working Party No. 5 of the Council on Selective
Expansion (OEEC)
World Trade Organization

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Introduction

In 2012, Kenneth Rogoff, professor at Harvard and former chief economist at the IMF, described economic growth as “the be-all and end-all of
policy.” Considering the long-term future of economic development and
the underlying causes of the current financial turmoil, Rogoff concluded:
“There is a certain absurdity to the obsession with maximizing long-term
average income growth in perpetuity, to the neglect of other risks and
considerations.”1 And indeed, the dominance of the growth imperative is
hard to ignore: growth statistics regularly appear on the front pages of
newspapers, play a key role in economic analyses, and pervade political
debates, not only across the political spectrum but also in all countries.
Since these numbers have come to form our very language, it seems
almost impossible to think about economic issues without referring to
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its proxies. The recent global economic crisis has conspicuously demonstrated how dependent capitalist
economies are on growth and how even minor reductions of GDP are
received with almost religious disappointment.2
Environmental historian John R. McNeill has argued that the “overarching priority of economic growth was easily the most important idea of
the twentieth century.”3 Although this statement might at first seem
exaggerated, there are good reasons that justify this view (if more with
regard to the second half of the twentieth century than to the first). Not
only was the idea of economic growth at the core of the ideologies of the
socioeconomic and political systems whose competition marked the
twentieth century, capitalism and communism in their different varieties.
More importantly, the social and economic policies that were the result of
1

2
3

Kenneth Rogoff, “Rethinking the Growth Imperative,” Project Syndicate, 2012, www.pr
oject-syndicate.org/commentary/rethinking-the-growth-imperative (accessed March 3,
2013).
Tomas Sedlacek, Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from
Gilgamesh to Wall Street (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
John Robert McNeill, Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the
Twentieth-Century World (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000), 236.

1

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.001


2

Introduction

the overarching priority of economic growth, or were justified by it, have
fundamentally and irreversibly reshaped human life and the planet itself.
Over the twentieth century, millions of people have come to take part in
the production and consumption of ever increasing quantities of goods
and services. At the same time, economic growth has caused environmental changes of unprecedented proportions that are threatening the
livelihood of millions of people today, and even more so that of future
generations. Ecologists, geologists, and historians have used the concept
of the “anthropocene” to mark the fundamental transformations related
to the fact that humanity itself has become the dominant geological force
on planet earth.4
In light of the sweeping acceptance of the pursuit of growth as a key
policy goal around the world it is easy to forget that not only the reality of
economic expansion, but even more so growth as a key category of
economic and public discourse is a surprisingly recent phenomenon.
Before the nineteenth century, when economic growth accelerated in
the context of the industrial revolution, economic activity around the
world had been characterized by periodic ups and downs, only expanding
by an average of 0.05 percent annually – as far as this can be measured
retrospectively – and this was largely due to the slow increase of
populations.5 Even more recently, the term “economic growth” was not
widely used before the middle of the twentieth century, but during the
1950s it advanced to become a key notion, not only within economics and
other social sciences, but also in political discourses and everyday speech
(see Figure I.1).6 One of the aims of this study is to contribute to
explaining this change.
Although a highly ambivalent and elusive term, the semantic core of
economic growth is statistically fixed. It is generally defined as the annual
increase in the monetary value of all the goods and services produced
within a country, including the costs of producing all the services provided by the government. Or, more technically, as the annual increase of
4

5

6

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Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, L’événement anthropocène: La Terre,
l’histoire et nous (Paris: Seuil, 2013); Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History:
Four Theses,” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (2009): 197–222.
Angus Maddison, The World Economy: Historical Statistics (Paris: OECD, 2003).
However, these estimates, which Maddison and others have elaborated since the 1950s
(largely within the OECD), have been continuously contested. See for example the
critique in Desmond C.M Platt, Mickey Mouse Numbers in World History: The Short View
(Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989); or, with a different perspective, Marshall D. Sahlins,
Stone Age Economics (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1972).
The same trend can be analyzed within public discourse and non-academic publications,
where the term “economic growth” (or its French and German translations) and its
statistical correlates “GNP” and “GDP” only emerged from the 1950s onwards. See
Google’s Ngram Viewer, https://books.google.com/ngrams.

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.001


3

Introduction
20

Economics
15

10

Political Science
Sociology
5

All journals
0
1930

1940

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

Figure I.1 Percentage of all articles published per year in all academic
journals in the JSTOR database that contain the term “economic
growth,” by discipline, 1930–2010
Source: JSTORs Data For Research (DFR) tool, http://dfr.jstor.org,
own calculations.

what has been called “the world’s most powerful number,” Gross
National Product (GNP) or GDP, which are sometimes expressed as
per capita values to account for changes in the size of populations.7
While these definitions have always stayed at the core of what is meant
by economic growth, the concept has become charged with a multitude of
contested and shifting meanings, assumptions, and connotations.
Economic growth has in fact raised the living standard of millions of
people, even though socially and geographically very unevenly, and still is
7

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Lorenzo Fioramonti, Gross Domestic Problem: The Politics behind the World’s Most Powerful
Number (London: Zed Books, 2013). While GNP measures the output generated by a
country’s enterprises (whether physically located domestically or abroad), GDP measures
all the output produced within the borders of a countries (including the output produced
by foreign firms). Until the 1960s, GNP was more widely used, but GDP has since
become the standard measure. Furthermore, national income differs from GDP in various
ways, most importantly in so far as GDP subtracts the depreciation of capital. The
differences between these measures, while important for the technical debates about
growth modeling (and also for North-South relations), are not relevant to the questions
discussed in this book and will thus be neglected in favor of a more general perspective.

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.001


4

Introduction

the rallying cry for millions of others, who hope for a better life. And, as
French economist Thomas Piketty has demonstrated in Capital in the
Twenty-First Century, economic growth seems to be essential to counter
capitalism’s tendencies to increase inequality since in times of slow
growth inequalities in income and wealth increase as wages tend to
grow much slower than returns on capital.8
However, there are good reasons to question the desirability or possibility of further quantitative growth in industrialized countries. First, the
universal merits of maximizing growth have become rather dubious.
Research in welfare and feminist economics, social history, and ecological
economics has definitely shown that the focus on GDP is “mismeasuring
our lives.” It has raised cogent doubts regarding the continuing positive
relationship (beyond a certain threshold) between further GDP growth
and welfare, equality, distribution, happiness, and employment. This
relates not least to the fact that GDP is a “blind meter” – a statistical
measure that “counts only output; it ignores costs and losses” – and that
therefore the deceptive logic “more is better” leads to problematic results.
A wealth of studies demonstrate that growth has not been beneficial to all,
that the level of inequality is much more decisive than average per capita
incomes, and that in industrialized countries since the late 1960s or 1970s
the costs of growth have been increasing faster than the benefits, thus
making GDP growth increasingly “uneconomic.”9
Second, the ecological and social costs of economic growth are not
negligible, especially in the context of achieving global social justice to
overcome the North–South divide and repay the accumulated ecological
debt of the rich countries. The fundamental promise of growth – to raise
the living standard and consumption of soon to be nine billion people to
Western levels through a continuous expansion of world GDP – has been
irrevocably shattered by the ecological predicament, most importantly
climate change.10 Economic analyses show that achieving equitable
development in the global South while staying within planetary
8
9

10

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Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 2014).
Dirk Philipsen, The Little Big Number: How GDP Came to Rule the World and What to Do
about It (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 2–3; Avner Offer, The Challenge of
Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950 (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2006); Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, and Jean-Paul Fitoussi,
Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up (New York: New Press, 2010);
Marilyn Waring, Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women Are Worth
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999); Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The
Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, Reprint edition (New York:
Bloomsbury Press, 2011).
Wolfgang Sachs, Planet Dialectics: Explorations in Environment and Development (London:
Zed Books, 1999); McNeill, Something New Under the Sun; Peter Dauvergne, The

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.001


Introduction

5

boundaries will only be possible if the countries in the North drastically
reduce their ecological footprint, which most likely implies reductions of
economic output to be effective.11
Third, the future possibilities of actually achieving further quantitative
growth have become more and more precarious due to resource and
energy scarcities and internal structural problems, which have led to
declining or stagnating growth rates in the early-industrialized countries.
Average per capita growth rates in Western Europe have, for example,
continuously decreased since decades from almost 5 percent annually in
the 1950s to around 1 percent in the 2000s and growing number of
economists are convinced that it will be impossible to repeat the phenomenal growth rates of the last century.12 Growth will most likely be much
slower in the twenty-first century or even stall.13 In a growth society, in
which all kinds of policies are predicated upon ever increasing production
and consumption, slower growth thus reinforces all the social and economic problems associated with economic crises such as rising inequality,
unemployment, public debt, social tensions, and even an undermining of
democracy. A growing array of economists and theorists thus demand to
look “beyond growth,” arguing that growth may currently be causing the
same problems it was originally hoped to solve and that political responses
need to adapt to the changing social, economic, and environmental
circumstances to work independently of growth.14

11

12

13
14

use,

Shadows of Consumption: Consequences for the Global Environment (Cambridge: The MIT
Press, 2008).
Ida Kubiszewski, Robert Costanza, Carol Franco, Philip Lawn, John Talberth, Tim
Jackson, and Camille Aylmer, “Beyond GDP: Measuring and Achieving Global
Genuine Progress,” Ecological Economics 93 (September 2013): 57–68; Herman E.
Daly and Joshua C. Farley, Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications, 2nd ed
(Washington: Island Press, 2011); Marc Fleurbaey and Didier Blanchet, Beyond GDP:
Measuring Welfare and Assessing Sustainability (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013);
Tim Jackson, Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet (London: Earthscan,
2009).
This theme will be further discussed in the Conclusion. See also Hans Christoph
Binswanger, Die Wachstumsspirale: Geld, Energie und Imagination in der Dynamik des
Marktprozesses (Marburg: Metropolis, 2009); Richard Heinberg, The End of Growth:
Adopting to Our New Economic Reality (Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society
Publishers, 2011); Jeff Rubin, The End of Growth (Toronto: Random House Canada,
2012).
Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, chap. 2.
Robert Costanza, Ida Kubiszewski, Enrico Giovannini, Hunter Lovins, Jacqueline
McGlade, Kate E. Pickett, Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir, Debra Roberts, Roberto De
Vogli, and Richard Wilkinson, “Development: Time to Leave GDP Behind,” Nature
505, no. 7483 (2014): 283–85; Giacomo D’Alisa, Federico Demaria, and Giorgos Kallis,
eds., Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era (London and New York: Routledge, 2014);
Barbara Muraca, Gut leben: Eine Gesellschaft jenseits des Wachstums (Berlin: Wagenbach,
2014).

18:15:21, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of
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