Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Growth Fetish, Clive Hamilton

Growth Fetish, by Clive Hamilton

'Growth Fetish' (2003), by Clive Hamilton is a look at some some of the basics assumptions of economic growth and asks the key question: does it make us happier?
Hamilton's answer to this question is no. But doing so he looks at a number of areas including work, identity and well being and environment all which in his view pretty conclusively show that economic growth as we know it doesn't make us any happier. If anything the 'Market' approach is selling us a lie.
There were some very interesting aspects which struck me, one was that 'religion', when it comes to wellbeing, enhances a persons life by giving it meaning! It points to things other than self to which marketing is directed.
The other area I found interesting was the idea that when a person is affluent economically this typically doesn't make them any happier.
Hamilton reveals that there is an increasing number of people who realise that working more and having more money is not making their lives any happier. These people are actually 'downsizing', decreasing income, and hours worked, living a simpler life. The opposite to consumption lifestyle.
After the book was published the economic crisis of the late 2000's occurred. For Australia the governments answer to this was for the Australian public to basically spend its way out of the recession. Most Australians were given by the government a couple of hundred dollars to spend! In reflection with reading the book it just doesn't make sense!
I agree with most of Hamilton's assumptions about the impoverishment of a society that consumes and spends with little real benefit of happiness to people. If anything I think that most of the gadgets which fill our lives is just a distraction from real importance. Our sense of Space and Spirit. This maybe why as argued by Hamilton that people who are 'religious' are happier?
For all of Hamilton's writing deploring growth as an economic answer, I'm not sure that he demonstrated an alternate economic path. For me this was the disappointment of the book. Interestingly, he mentioned communism which ultimately got caught up in consumption as well but it was based on central planning not market forces.
Clive Hamilton is the Executive Director of 'The Australian institute' a public interest think tank. He also holds positions at a number of Australian Universities.

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