‘There is no alternative.’ The infamous slogan used by Margaret Thatcher would often be flung in your face, explicitly or implicitly, whenever you tried, in recent decades, to resist the dominant economic system.
You were opposed to ‘capitalism’ because of its colonial roots, because it was a productivity machine that generated extreme social inequality and that was disrupting the climate and the environment at an ever-growing pace.
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You were a part of that ‘system’, however, and, for some of us, we were also white middle-class Westerners, and we reaped some of its benefits. You only really stammered when you tried to describe that ‘alternative’.
Jason Hickel’s bestselling Less is More (2021) at least frees us from this sense of discomfort. In it, Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, not only shows irrefutably that capitalism – driven by the creation of profit and the reinvestment of that profit and thus by the idea of seemingly infinite growth – is an impossible path for the future.
In purely material terms, the planet on which and off which we live has put up several hard ecological boundaries. Crossing those boundaries, it has become increasingly clear, has extremely destructive consequences.
Drawing on indisputable data, Hickel shows that, as a new way forward, ‘green growth’ – growth decoupled from an excessive energy and material footprint – is just as likely to lead to a dead end and that technological innovation is not going to magically solve the problems.
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