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Wayne Ellwood, The No-Nonsense Guide to Degrowth and Sustainability

New Internationalistm 2014; 192pp; £7.99

ImageMake no mistake, this is not a guide to degrowth and sustainability. It is instead yet another description of the perils of the growth model – but still well worth reading on that basis.

Compact and directly written, it will be an enjoyable, rewarding, and fact-filled read for anyone concerned with the environment, the quality of our lives, and our current economic disparities.

In the first six chapters, Ellwood analyses capitalism, and why growth is not just a goal of capitalism, but a fundamental requirement for it to exist.

He then shows how growth is destroying our planet,while expertly surveying the best writers on the topic.

These chapters are stuffed with facts, references, and useful analyses of the impact of growth on our environment and society.

In the last two chapters, where Ellwood could be specifying the alternatives to the growth model and the ways to create a sustainable society, he is still demolishing the old model.

Indeed, he doesn’t get around to defining ‘degrowth’ until 20 pages from the end of the book.

When Ellwood does turn briefly to what a ‘no-growth’ society would look like, his prescriptions coalesce around four principles:

  1. Sharing work and more wages would reduce the need for growth;
  2. Reducing work weeks would give more time for workers to self-actualise (to realise their personal potential and meet their needs for personal growth) rather than working and consuming;
  3. Stabilising world populations;
  4. Ending free trade, which promotes globalism at the expense of localism

Elwood joins others in calling for an ‘economy of sufficiency’, and an end to mindless accumulation, but there are only a few allusions to how this might be achieved, what it might look like, and how people might be induced to accept it – especially the ones benefiting most from the existing growth model.

Unfortunately, then, the book ends at the point where it could have become most interesting.

I look forward to a book of the same title that starts where Ellwood leaves off.

Topics: Economics