Our initiative, Steady State Manchester takes its name from the idea of a Steady State Economy that was promoted in the work of North American ecological economists, principally Herman Daly. In our report In Place of Growth, we explore what a steady state economy, and perhaps more importantly, a steady state society, mean in the context of Manchester and its bioregion. Here we explore the closely-related concept of “post growth”.
The Post-Growth Institute explains that:
Post growth is about building on the existing aspects of our world that are sustainable in order to create resilient futures. This includes strengthening ecologically and socially sustainable practices, while recognizing the physical limits of the earth.
Like the Degrowth movement, initiated by another economist, Serge Latouche, in France they are concerned to change the topic of conversation, from growth as the defining characteristic of economic well-being, to other dimensions, not just economic but social and ecological too. In In Place of Growth we noted that this consensus change is already gathering strength.
Manchester in a post-growth context
This shift from an agenda centred on economic growth is what we understand by a post-growth Manchester. It is one where the pursuit of growth is not the chief goal of our local economy, local government and other organisations. For Steady State Manchester this means moving to a situation where the economic is not the primary concern, but as Daly has said, it is a “wholly owned subsidiary of the environment” – and society we would add.
We Love Growth!
Funnily enough, when some people refer to our orientation they call it “no-growth”. That isn’t a term we have used. Yes we know that the economy is too big – at least the economy as presently constituted and measured, with its high use of fossil fuels and other non-renewable and polluting materials. But we aren’t actually against some kinds of growth. We like human growth, plant growth, cultural growth, growth in knowledge and skills, and growth in social solidarity. We also recognise that some parts of the economy, some parts of the industrial system, that is, need to grow: hence our concept of the “replacement economy”.
If we reduce dependence on overseas production with its too hard to control and vulnerable long supply chains, then we need to grow local production. This is especially true of food and the things we use everyday – which isn’t to say some regional or even global specialisation shouldn’t remain. But we also recognise that there can’t be a continual expansion of the overall economy – there just isn’t the room to do that on what pioneers of ecological economics, Barbara Ward and Kenneth Boulding, called “spaceship earth”.
A post-growth world is one where we have changed our priorities. Growth will still take place (but not in the aggregate), but we are more concerned with all the other dimensions of well-being, for people and ecosystem. The conversation has changed – we are post-growth – we’ve gone beyond GDP and GVA.
This is the first of an occasional series on key concepts.