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.
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
The other area I found interesting was the idea that
when a person is affluent economically this typically doesn't make them
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!
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.