Growth Fetish

I have written a few consumption driven posts of late, so this is a bit of a balancing and perspective post for me. During the lead up to this Christmas period I have also begun reading Growth Fetish by Clive Hamilton.

It is certainly an interesting time to be reading this book, given the current financial crisis. Growth Fetish was first published in 2003. The basic premise of the book is that the constant mantra of economic growth over the last few decades has not led to a better or happier society.

Clive Hamilton argues that, far from being the answer to our problems, growth fetishism and the marketing society lie at the heart of our social ills. They have corrupted our social priorities and political structures, and have created a profound sense of alienation among young and old.

This book is not an easy read, but it definitely worth the effort. I am only a quarter of the way through it and it has challenged me to think about very personal issues like “What makes me contented?” and “What choices am I making with my consumption patterns?”.

I have a Business degree, so studied economics and like subjects during my time at university. The below explanation of the working of capitalism is the best that I have read.

Modern consumer capitalism will flourish as long as what people desire out paces what they have. It is thus vital to the reproduction of the system that individuals are constantly made to feel dissatisfied with what they have. The irony of this should not be missed: while economic growth is said to be the process whereby people’s wants are satisfied so that they become happier – and economics is defined as the study of how scarce resources are best used to maximise welfare – in reality economic growth can be sustained only as long as people remain discontented. Economic growth does not create happiness: unhappiness sustains economic growth.

Now that the state of economies around the world have fallen off the growth cycle, it will be interesting to see how society changes along with the economy. Economic growth did not bring the happiness that it promised – increased obesity, increased depression and suicide rates show this. What will the economic downturn bring?