Less Is More – How Degrowth Will Save The World by Jason Hickel

Brilliantly joining the dots in a post-capitalist world

Economic anthropologist Jason Hickel leaves no stone unturned in this visionary and sharp analysis. This is a book about the climate and ecological emergency and how to solve it.

The first half of the book is a detailed overview of everything that is wrong and the root causes. The origins of capitalism are explored, particularly during the few hundred years leading up to the Industrial Revolution – how it rose on the back of organised violence, mass impoverishment and “the systematic destruction of self-sufficient subsistence economies”. A world view that separated humans from nature helped economic growth to became more important than human or planetary needs. Since the 1980s, “growthism” in developed countries such as the UK and USA has gone completely crazy.

Part two is all about the solutions. Hickel looks at the unquestioned assumptions of so-called progress. After a certain point, increased economic growth corresponds with a large number of social problems such as rising inequality, political instability and the deterioration of people’s physical and mental health. Chapter 5 outlines steps we need to take in order to survive – “Once we understand that we can flourish without growth, our horizons suddenly open up”. Hickel suggests ending planned obsolescence, cutting advertising, a shift from ownership to usership, ending food waste, and scaling down ecologically destructive industries. He goes on to look at how capitalism is organised around the constant manufacturing of scarcity – degrowth calls for abundance in order to render growth unnecessary.

In the final chapter, “Everything Is Connected”, the author presents a deeper opportunity for healing and recovery from the mess we are in. Learning from indigenous communities, we can develop a genuinely ecological world view and way of being. Behave as if all of reality is intimately interconnected – because it is.

Postcapitalism by Paul Mason

Most people would agree that capitalism is not working too well these days – to put it very mildly! Author Paul Mason takes us on a journey from the origins of modern capitalism through to the current crisis we are in. At the end he offers some possible solutions in great detail, some of them based on underlying social trends that are already emerging.

The first half of the book is heavy going in places, although readers more at home with economic theory might have a different view. I found myself struggling to take in the detailed analysis of the likes of Kondratieff, Schumpeter and the relevance of Marx. Gradually the author ties the theory in with where we are now and what may be ahead. Mason suggests that we are at the point of “The exhaustion of capitalism’s 250 year old tendency to create new markets where old ones die out”. The length of several cycles, such as the one just mentioned which corresponds to a complete cycle of Pluto, was interesting to me as an astrologer. Amongst other interconnected topics, the effects of automation in factories and the how neoliberal capitalism dealt with the 2008 financial crash are explored. Most neoliberal capitalist countries are now left with ridiculous unsustainable debts.

The emergence of the information economy and the networked individual are seen as crucial to the postcapitalist future. “A networked lifestyle and consciousness, at odds with hierarchies of capitalism”. The implications of this are examined in the last few chapters, covering climate change, the population explosion and just about every other major problem you can think of. A basic income is suggested. Many of the ideas will be familiar to those who have read the likes of Andrew Simms of the new economics foundation. The reader is left feeling that there may be some hope for the future.