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Degrowth, Happiness and and wellbeing

Jezri Krinsky
blobMetropolis, 2021
Level: beginner
Perspective: Ecological Economics
Topic: (De-)growth, Resources, Environment & Climate, Social movements & Transformation
Format: Short Film
Duration: 7:58
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH3k0R2PpMw

How should we discuss welfare when understanding the role of growth and the viability of Growth-led development? One option is to look at subjective happiness. This provides an anti-materialistic view which may superficially appear more compatible with significant reductions in consumption in order to remain within safe ecological limits. However, in cross-sectional data happiness is still linked with GDP. Further happiness is not a holistic measure of welfare at may even obscure a lack of basic needs. Eudaimonic welfare refers to a more holistic view of welfare. One way of understanding eudaimonic welfare is to take a basic needs approach. Needs are universal non-substitutable, satiable and provide a framework for rights and entitlements. Neither a needs-based approach nor a happiness-based approach is compatible with global growth-led development, due to low rates of decoupling of GDP from both fossil fuel usage and more general, indicators of ecological damage. However, meeting needs in a degrowth scenario also remains a major challenge and will require a much more egalitarian society focused on providing for everyone's needs rather than luxury consumption.


Comment from our editors:

Economists have defended policy recommendations as "welfare" or "utility" maximizing for decades. This video reminds us of the difficulty in defining and measuring human well-being, particularly so within a degrowth framework. While the ultimate measure for welfare is yet to be developed, content like this adds to the much-needed discussion on how to prioritise human needs from compulsive economic growth. 

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