New Economics of True Wealth

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Book: Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth. By Juliet B. Schor. Penguin, 2010


From the publisher:

"In Plenitude economist and bestselling author Juliet B. Schor offers a groundbreaking intellectual statement about the economics and sociology of ecological decline, suggesting a radical change in how we think about consumer goods, value, and ways to live.

Humans are degrading the planet far faster than they are regenerating it. As we travel along this shutdown path, food, energy, transport, and consumer goods are becoming increasingly expensive. The economic downturn that has accompanied the ecological crisis has led to another type of scarcity: incomes, jobs, and credit are also in short supply. Our usual way back to growth-a debt-financed consumer boom- is no longer an option our households, or planet, can afford.

Responding to our current moment, Plenitude puts sustainability at its core, but it is not a paradigm of sacrifice. Instead, it's an argument that through a major shift to new sources of wealth, green technologies, and different ways of living, individuals and the country as a whole can actually be better off and more economically secure. And as Schor observes, Plenitude is already emerging. In pockets around the country and the world, people are busy creating lifestyles that offer a way out of the work and spend cycle. These pioneers' lives are scarce in conventional consumer goods and rich in the newly abundant resources of time, information, creativity, and community. Urban farmers, do-it-yourself renovators, Craigslist users-all are spreading their risk and establishing novel sources of income and outlets for procuring consumer goods. Taken together, these trends represent a movement away from the conventional market and offer a way toward an efficient, rewarding life in an era of high prices and traditional resource scarcity.

Based on recent developments in economic theory, social analysis, and ecological design as well as evidence from the cutting-edge people and places putting these ideas into practice, Plenitude is a road map for the next two decades. In encouraging us to value our gifts- nature, community, intelligence, and time-Schor offers the opportunity to participate in creating a world of wealth and well-being."


Mentioned by Paul Fernhout:

[From a comment on Amzaon ?:]

"Almost every economist (with the exception of those mentioned here) misread the financial tea leaves of 2008. Imagine the circumstances if that happens again. If you want to learn how economic downturn tracks ecological decline, and how to deal with that congruence, Plentitude is a must read. The wisdom expressed by Professor Schor talks about a different way of living that will allow our children and their children to live a good life.

The alternative to Juliet Schor's future is unknowable, if not unthinkable.

[And from another comment:] Though never having heard of Schor previously, when she was recently interviewed on National Public Radio, her ideas and perspectives immediately piqued my interest. What Schor offers, in a nutshell, is a preview of important changes that have begun to unfold, and will continue to do so over the course of this century. While books on globalization, such as Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, capture one piece of the emerging puzzle, Schor draws our attention to another critical dimension. Namely, she recognizes that the twenty-first century will not only be characterized by postmodern practices, such as the global marketplace, but also premodern ones. The latter includes things such as a rediscovery of small farms and gardening, a renewed emphasis on local trade, and diminished reliance on mass markets and disposable goods. At first blush, it is easy to be skeptical of such notions, which might seem hopelessly romantic or even naive. Viewed more carefully, however, Schor's treatise actually appears more realistic (at least from my perspective) than those who view globalization as the ultimate panacea. ...

The bottom line:

We have come to a critical point in human history. We can either continue to cling to the dreams of the past, or, we can find the courage to build a new future. The former requires that we continue to place all our trust in massive and often volatile systems, while in the latter, we start turning to our neighbors, innovate new local practices, and work more from the ground up. To thrive and survive, we must harness global wisdom and ingenuity toward the building of an interconnected network of quasi self-sustaining communities. Schor's work is a move toward achieving the right balance between the global and the local."

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