Cracks in the growth obsession

I was seduced by speakers and participants at the European Citizens’ Summit when they talked about the growth obsession – or even the growth religion. They characterised obsession as a persistent belief that growth is the answer to all of our concerns such as growing inequalities, increasing poverty, unemployment and working poor. I find the argument relevant when you consider that growth has not delivered on any of the concerning issues and that the forecast in the coming years is at best a slow growth if not “no growth”. Apparently the lack of concrete results is pushing more and more actors to take their distance from the growth agenda. However this distance can be as narrow as a crack or as big as a canyon.

Interesting enough, the cracks may come from the EU leadership itself which questions the whole idea of measuring “growth” only with Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Next week our President Heather Roy will seize the opportunity to voice a different vision of growth at the Italian Presidency and Commission’s conference on “moving beyond GDP in the Economic governance” (October 10) and will present policy options for the future that respond to people’s well-being.

But the leadership is not necessarily abandoning the concept of growth but more finding its boundaries. For example seven member states have expressed to the President of the Commission their wish to see the pharmaceutical policy moving back to the health portfolio in order not to privilege economic interests over public health. This is great and answers to the call launched by our member EPHA.

But is this enough? More than cracks in the model, don’t we need a real alternative to it? At the citizen summit, the key proposal was “degrowth”. It has the benefit of encompassing the social, ecological, development needs and to present a comprehensive vision: “it challenges the hegemony of growth and calls for a democratically led redistributive downscaling of production and consumption in industrialized countries as a means to achieve environmental sustainability, social justice and well-being”. There is also a short cut to that definition: “Our emphasis is on different, not only less”.  

As Social Platform we have no position on de-growth but we are certainly in support of moving beyond GDP as the sole indicator and we want a clear rebalancing between people wellbeing and economic priorities. This has been our main activity in the last weeks to ensure that questions are asked to commissioner designates to evaluate their readiness to include a social dimension in their future priorities (see them on twitter @social_platform).

We want to widen the cracks so that well-being becomes the obsession, not growth. Some obsessions are better than others.


Let’s engage!

Pierre Baussand – Director