Abstract: This paper outlines a simple, aggregate, descriptive model of what is here termed a “whole economy”, covering all human involvement in the economy, from ultimate means or ecological sacrifices, to the ultimate ends of human satisfaction. The model embraces not only the formal “professional economy” driven by money, but also the parallel non-paid, voluntary economy, here termed “amateur economy”, driven by peoples’ affective motivations.
The input of work to the economy plays an essential role in the paper’s analysis of options for reducing ecological sacrifices. Hence, part of the paper is devoted to a brief historical overview of the role of work, including turning points in the 1930s in the United States, when work sharing was displaced by work creation through consumerism, and, in the post-war economy when GDP became the dominant economic indicator.
The paper proposes the aim of a happy and sustainable degrowth for affluent countries, implying the transfer of some activities from the professional economy to the less ‘labor’ productive amateur economy. This will tend to reduce overall labor productivity and hence resource throughput, but increase satisfaction and happiness. A key element in the analysis is combining a reduction in consumption with a reduction in production, which is obtainable through lowering either working time or work productivity and turning some of the leisure time into voluntary activities.
Economic growth is not a law of nature but the consequence of explicit political decisions taken. Hence growth is also open to new political decisions in recognition of physical limits to growth and the human quest for replacing economic growth with life satisfaction, including increased free time.
Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 38, January 2013, Pages 61–70, Degrowth: From Theory to Practice