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The Mismeasure of Progress: Economic Growth and Its Critics
by Stephen J. Macekura
University of Chicago Press, 2020
eISBN: 978-0-226-73644-0 | Cloth: 978-0-226-73630-3

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Few ideas in the past century have had wider financial, political, and governmental impact than that of economic growth. The common belief that endless economic growth, as measured by Gross Domestic Product, is not only possible but actually essential for the flourishing of civilization remains a powerful policy goal and aspiration for many. In The Mismeasure of Progress, Stephen J. Macekura exposes a historical road not taken, illuminating the stories of the activists, intellectuals, and other leaders who long argued that GDP growth was not all it was cracked up to be.

Beginning with the rise of the growth paradigm in the 1940s and 1950s and continuing through the present day, The Mismeasure of Progress is the first book on the myriad thinkers who argued against growth and the conventional way progress had been measured and defined. For growth critics, questioning the meaning and measurement of growth was a necessary first step to creating a more just, equal, and sustainable world. These critics argued that focusing on growth alone would not resolve social, political, and environmental problems, and they put forth alternate methods for defining and measuring human progress.

​In today’s global political scene—marked by vast inequalities of power and wealth and made even more fraught by a global climate emergency—the ideas presented by these earlier critics of growth resonate more loudly than ever. Economic growth appealed to many political leaders because it allowed them to avoid addressing political trade-offs and class conflict. It sustained the fiction that humans are somehow separate from nonhuman “nature,” ignoring the intimate and dense connections between the two. In order to create a truly just and equitable society, Macekura argues, we need a clear understanding of our collective needs beyond growth and more holistic definitions of progress that transcend economic metrics like GDP.

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