The endless pursuit of G.D.P., argues the economist Kate Raworth, shortchanges too many people and also trashes the planet. Economic theory, she says, “needs to be rewritten” — and Raworth has tried, in a book called Doughnut Economics. It has found an audience among reformers, and now the city of Amsterdam is going whole doughnut.
We're told the world is getting better all the time. In January, The New York Times' Nick Kristof explained "Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History." The same month, Harvard professor and Bill Gates' favorite optimist Steven Pinker lamented (in a special edition of Time magazine guest edited by - who else? - Bill Gates) the “bad habits of media... bring out the worst in human cognition”. By focusing so much on negative things, the theory goes, we are tricked into thinking things are getting worse when, in reality, it's actually the opposite. For the TEDtalk set, that the world is awesome and still improving is self-evidently true - just look at the data. But how true is this popular axiom? How accurate is the portrayal that the world is improving we so often seen in sexy, hockey stick graphs of upward growth and rapidly declining poverty? And how, exactly, are the powers that be "measuring" improvements in society? On this episode, we take a look at the ideological project of telling us everything's going swimmingly, how those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, and how The Neoliberal Optimism Industry is, at its core, an anti-intellectual enterprise designed to lull us into complacency and political impotence. Our guest is Dr. Jason Hickel.
Dr. Jason Hickel is an anthropologist, author and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. His book, The Divide, addresses global inequality and was published by Penguin Random House in 2017. Jason has taught at a number of universities including Goldsmiths, and the University of London where he currently convenes the MA in Anthropology and Cultural Politics. He serves on the Labour Party task force on international development, works as Policy Director for the Rules collective, sits on the Executive Board of Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP), and recently joined the International Editorial Advisory Board of Third World Quarterly.
This is a wide-ranging and thought-provoking interview, chock full of fresh thinking on sustainability, poverty and inequality, and the impact of the western-led development agenda across the world. Jason paints an eye-opening picture of the state of the global economy today, building upon his research in The Divide. He presents strong arguments for a post-growth economy in order to achieve emissions reductions, and to avoid crossing other planetary boundaries, and provides examples from Costa Rica, Japan, and other EU countries, highlighting non-growth approaches that facilitate human flourishing. Jason also provides an array of ideas for action including the need to limit shareholder power, and alternatives to GDP measurement techniques to account for ecological and social negatives.
The post Episode 56: interview with Dr. Jason Hickel, author of The Divide appeared first on The Sustainability Agenda.
In this Upstream Conversation we spoke with Jason Hickel, an anthropologist formerly at the London School of Economics and now at Goldsmiths University of London. Originally from Swaziland, Jason's research has focused on a critique of development and globalization. He has also written on the topics of inequality, climate change, basic income, and soil regeneration.
Jason argues that we cannot begin to seriously tackle the climate crisis until we take a hard look at the growth-dependent economic system that drives fossil fuel production and consumption. He believes that simply regulating fossil fuels is not enough, and that in order to truly address climate change we'll need to move away from our current capitalist economic model, a model which can only function properly when it is growing exponentially.
We also spoke with Jason about his fascination at capitalism's extraordinary ability to co-opt and commodify its own critique. How does Tom's Shoes allow you to purchase your redemption from being a consumer? How are hipster bars and clubs in cities like London and New York appropriating the aesthetic of working class neighborhoods while remaining closed off to these very communities? How does this dynamic play out in the environmental movement? Jason provides a number of interesting examples that demonstrate why this process is incredibly harmful to building a true resistance to capitalism.
Our conversation took many turns, exploring what 21st century socialism might look like, the myths of international development, and more. Jason is a natural systems-thinker, and his upstream perspective is an incredibly important one.
Jason Hickel’s latest book is titled: “The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions”. We spoke with Jason at his office at The London School of Economics.
Cover design by Natascha Nel.
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