2011년 1월 1일 토요일

Some Reviews

자료 1: Book Review: Growth Fetish by Clive Hamilton , By Graham Dunkley, Victoria University, (Journal of Economic and Social Policy, 7-1-2003)

In this book Clive Hamilton, a prominent independent Australian research scholar, provides a new and powerful critique of the Western preoccupation with economic growth. But the book is not just another 'greenie' anti-growth tract. Hamilton is a broad-ranging economist, and certainly a strong environmentally aware one, but his critique is based on a rich range of psychological, sociological, political and economic grounds as well as environmental issues.

In fact most of the book does not read like a 'greenie' tract at all, environmental aspects only entering the second last chapter where these are presented succinctly and well, but as merely a component of the case. The book then culminates with an outline of an alternative 'post-growth' philosophy.

Hamilton begins with a sharp, thoughtful critique of the core philosophies underlying what could be called the 'Three Ways'. The First Way relies far too heavily on Free Market assumptions. The Second Way of the old Left relies too heavily on distributional critiques of capitalisation. The so-called Third Way of Tony Blair and other ex-social democrats (my interpolation) is barely distinguishable from the Thatcherite First Way. All are far too reliant on mythologies of the 'growth fetish'.

The first chapter defines 'growth fetish' as the cargo cult-like belief running through Western economics that perpetual economic growth is the best way to solve all economic problems, promote well-being, ensure high living standards and maximise human happiness.

The following chapters proceed to debunk all this, citing a wide range of high quality research (including some by Hamilton himself), to show that well-being, happiness and 'living standards' are not tightly proportionate to income increases.

More profoundly, Hamilton makes a strong, well-documented case, often only loosely argued by fellow critics, that perceptions of need and identity are excessively influenced by advertising, promotion and related forces. He then argues that conventional notions of progress and work are in turn unduly influenced by such forces and by the general furphies of growth fetishism.

In his final chapter Hamilton sketches some possibilities for a 'post-growth' society in which work and income have been de-linked, advertising is greatly restricted and the present trend of 'downshifting' (working less and substituting creative leisure for income maximisation) is encouraged.

Hamilton argues that the 'defining struggle' of modern capitalism is not class, as the old Left held, but the need to overcome a social structure which 'manufactures 'individuality' and celebrates superficiality', as well as generating 'loneliness, boredom, depression, alienation, self-doubt and … ill-health'. He claims that the main contradiction of capitalism is the failure of economic growth and higher incomes to improve well-being.

As a core concept in post-growth society Hamilton advocates what he calls 'Eudemonism', a term and philosophy deriving from Aristotle and meaning the 'full realisation of human potential through, in the first place, proper appreciation of the sources of well-being'. He admits that it is an awkward term, but wants to distinguish the notion from the old Three Ways.

Broadly I agree with Hamilton's critique, especially with his case for a disjunction between income and well-being. I have cited some such evidence myself, but in my forthcoming book Free Trade: Myth, Reality and Alternatives I coin the concept of an 'r-curve' which shows growth improving well-being at low income levels, but not much at high levels. Hamilton obliquely acknowledges this, but does not recognise the complexity of differential growth strategies that this reality entails. It is not at all clear where 'eudemonism', a term which is unlikely to have mass appeal, takes us even once we have recognised the disjuncture between growth and wellbeing. Hamilton says that, 'whereas Marxism called for the power of capital to be destroyed, eudemonism calls for it to be ignored', but he has not really tried to show
that this is realistic. He advocates the near-banning of advertising, and I sympathise with this, but it is hard to imagine it being done without something like a political revolution. So we need to know more about strategies than Hamilton tells us.

Hamilton criticises globalisation but incongruously uses some unnecessary American expressions such as shopping malls, candy bar, kick-arse and gas station, which is symptomatic of a need for more strategic thought. The book cleverly establishes a crucial point - the disjuncture between growth and well-being, which has far-reaching implications, but we need to know more about what this means for alternative institutions, beyond Hamilton's suggestions for a leisured, more self-fulfilling society.

By Natasha Cica, 6 May 2003

Economist and public intellectual Clive Hamilton's latest offering, Growth Fetish, is a provocative, perhaps revolutionary, and certainly very timely book.

Hamilton argues that Australia, and the wider world, is the grip of an unsustainable and unhealthy obsession with economic growth and material consumption, driven by the ascendant orthodoxy of neo-liberal ideology that began to gain a serious hold in the West in the 1980s and 1990s. All this, he claims, comes at the expense of more generous and civilising values and processes. It is these values and processes we urgently need to revive, says Hamilton, in order to ensure the survival - and indeed the creative blossoming - of society, community, family and wider humanity.

Hamilton argues that real fulfillment and contentment depends on casting aside the whips and chains of the huge mortgages, platinum mastercards, Telstra share portfolios and designer gym shoes that enslave us. In its place he urges more restraint, more reflection, a more holistic approach to everything from international trade to child-rearing to cleaning the toilet bowl.

Growth Fetish will inspire, annoy and intrigue its readers and critics. Neo-cons will either dismiss it out of hand as green-lefty piffle or, Windschuttle-like, pick through Hamilton's footnotes for typos in support of their continuing assertion that Greed is Go(o)d for all of us.

A more interesting place to watch, however, might be the domestic Labor camp, should current powerbrokers take some time out from strategising the best route for Crean's Anti-Tax Bus. Hamilton pulls no punches in dismembering the economic, social and philosophical credibility of the Blair/Giddens Third Way and its variants as, in turn, mere tweaked variants of the neo-liberal agenda of the Thatcherite First Way:

The Third Way is a victim of the great contradiction of the modern world - that, despite several decades of sustained economic growth, our societies are no happier than they were. Growth not only fails to make people contented; it destroys many of the things that do. Growth fosters empty consumerism, degrades the natural environment, weakens social cohesion and corrodes character. Yet we are told, ad nauseum, that there is no alternative.

Hamilton argues that Western social democratic and labour parties have emptied themselves of purpose and real pulling-power by jumping on the Third Way bandwagon. He pointedly claims:

The capitulation of social democratic and labour parties to neoliberalism has left them soulless and they are now staffed, for the most part, by people who have cashed in their youthful enthusiasm for the perquisites of office and traded their policies of radical social change for a media strategy. If these parties were to play a role in bringing about the post-growth society they would need to extricate themselves from their Faustian bargain and undergo a process of wholesale renewal.

For Hamilton, the growth fetish can and must be attacked. The paradigm must be shifted. But it will not be budged, it seems, by the parties of labour, New or Old:

Bypassing the politics of the entrenched parties, now characterised by instinctive conservatism, personal opportunism, executive control and the power of lobbyists to overturn repeatedly popular preference, the new politics is the politics of direct participation pioneered by the environment movement and inherited by the 'anti-globalisation' protest movement and the No Logo generation. Indeed, the vision of a post-growth society may become the focus of social change around which the modern protest movements coalesce and recapture the democratic electoral process. The two-party system of parliamentary elections suited post-war social democracy well, but the era of neoliberalism has left only the illusion of choice between two parties both in the grip of the growth fetish. The roots of the established political parties are sunk too deeply in the old politics and new parties must emerge.

I can already hear Mark Latham and fellow Third-Way Warriors within the ALP darkly muttering 'green-lefty piffle' in response. But is that really what this is? Hamilton's treatise is undeniably green-lefty. That makes sense, given that today the only people, policy agendas and dissent events openly taking on the fundamentals of neo-liberal incumbents would happily describe themselves as either green or left, and many as both.

It also follows from Hamilton's strong professional track record on the economics of Kyoto and the not inconsiderable political success of the environmental movement, locally and globally. Then there's the hole Bob Brown's Greens have made in the side of Labor's sadly listing craft. Carr may have creamed Brogden in the recent NSW election but the constituency that called for something different in Newtown, Port Jackson, Hornsby, Vaucluse, Ballina, Lismore and of course Cunningham will not be easily conned, spun or bullied back into old party lines.

In terms of cold hard numbers, that constituency undoubtedly remains a small minority in Australia. Both major parties know it and will use that fact to their greatest short-term pragmatic advantage. But these citizens just might be the forward guard of Hamilton's political vision of the post-growth society. It's a very large and largely appealing vision and, crucially, one that allocates considerable space and resources to nurturing hope and justice, without apology. I for one have sorely missed that kind of aspirational humanity in Australian public life in recent years.

I did find parts of Hamilton's argument a bit lacking, especially his accounts of the impact of feminism inside and outside the private sphere (a bit less Germaine Greer might have gone a longer way, as might have a more muscular critique of marriage) and of the meaning and implications of the rising incidence of voluntary and part-time work (what kind of "control" over working time is really available to those unsupported by safety nets held by their parents, partners or the increasingly shabby welfare state?). I also remain not entirely convinced that the bulk of the citizenry is as overwhelmingly comfortably situated in material terms - as "prisoners of plenty" - as Hamilton asserts. And I would like to have seen more breakdown and analysis of differences between differently situated "rational economic men", especially according to geography, income bracket, gender, age and race, which may have muddied some of his crystal-clear waters.

But sometimes the whole is very much greater than the sum of its parts. Hamilton is no piffler, and this book is a must-read.

자료 3: The growth fetish exposed again, by Samuel Brittan, Financial Times, March 2004

자료 4: Book Review: Growth Fetish (Blog: Dispatches From the Moderate Left)

※ Seach: Book Reviews on "Growth Fetish"


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