The Mismeasure of Progress: Economic Growth and Its Critics

November 28, 2020
The Mismeasure of Progress: Economic Growth and Its Critics

Few ideas in the past century have had wider financial,political, and governmental impact than that of economic growth.The common belief that endless economic growth, as measured byGross Domestic Product, is not only possible but actually essentialfor the flourishing of civilization remains a powerful policy goaland aspiration for many. In The Mismeasure of Progress,Stephen J. Macekura exposes a historical road not taken,illuminating the stories of the activists, intellectuals, and otherleaders who long argued that GDP growth was not all it was crackedup to be.Beginning with the rise of the growth paradigm in the 1940s and1950s and continuing through the present day, The Mismeasure ofProgress is the first book on the myriad thinkers who arguedagainst growth and the conventional way progress had been measuredand defined. For growth critics, questioning the meaning andmeasurement of growth was a necessary first step to creating a morejust, equal, and sustainable world. These critics argued thatfocusing on growth alone would not resolve social, political, andenvironmental problems, and they put forth alternate methods fordefining and measuring human progress.​In today’s global political scene—marked by vast inequalitiesof power and wealth and made even more fraught by a global climateemergency—the ideas presented by these earlier critics of growthresonate more loudly than ever. Economic growth appealed to manypolitical leaders because it allowed them to avoid addressingpolitical trade-offs and class conflict. It sustained the fictionthat humans are somehow separate from nonhuman “nature,” ignoringthe intimate and dense connections between the two. In order tocreate a truly just and equitable society, Macekura argues, we needa clear understanding of our collective needs beyond growth andmore holistic definitions of progress that transcend economicmetrics like GDP.