Less Is More: Rogue Economists Champion Prosperity without Growth
For years, economists have posited that prosperity requires growth, with environmental damage as the regrettable but unavoidable consequence. A growing number of critics are now challenging this equation, though, calling for a radical revamping of the economic system.
Harald Welzer’s career as a critic of growth began with a few simple reflections. Just how progressive is it, he asked himself, when millions of hectares of land are used elsewhere in the world so that we keep down the cost of meat? How modern is it when producing a kilogram of salmon in a supposedly sustainable way requires feeding the fish five to six kilograms (11 to 13 pounds) of other types of fish?
If everyone used up as much space and resources as we do, says the 54-year-old Berlin-based social psychologist, we would need three earths. In Welzer’s eyes, this can hardly be called progress.
All of this made Welzer so angry that he wrote a book critical of equating this sort of progress with growth. The ruling class of economists, who he characterizes as “disdainers of reality” and “proponents of a world essentially limited by consumption,” is responsible for compulsively tying these two concepts together, he argues. His treatise, “Selbst denken” (“Thinking for Ourselves”), is a manual for phasing out the “totalitarian consumerism” that gives people desires that, until recently, they didn’t even suspect they would ever have.
Until a few months ago, Welzer specialized in studying the psyche of Nazi criminals. He has also written about climate wars. His current bestseller, “Selbst denken,” has now made him the figurehead of a movement that radically questions the growth model of the Western economy.
Welzer was also recently named a professor in transformation design at the University of Flensburg, in northern Germany. When a local journalist asked him what transformation design is, he replied: “We don’t exactly know yet ourselves.” But the goal of the discipline, he added, is to counter the “systematic scam” created by an industry that produces things that break unnecessarily or are hardly capable of being repaired. Welzer wants to “design corridors” in which companies would be given time to transform faceless, no-name products into durable products with an origin and a history.
Economists have largely disregarded the environmental consequences of growth. For them, the key benchmark of prosperity is gross domestic product (GDP), the sum of all products and services produced in a given country. However, GDP does not factor in the overexploitation of resources, the destruction of biological diversity, air pollution, noise, the expansion of impervious surfaces known as soil sealing, and the poisoning of groundwater.
But for many people, a wealth model built on chronic growth is no longer a desirable goal. They are deciding to opt out of this model by establishing “repair cafés” or “transition towns,” communities that try to run things differently at the local level. But doubts about the growth dogma are even beginning to creep into politics. For instance, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), recently argued that Western countries should “espouse limiting economic growth” at home.
But can there be prosperity without growth and growth without environmental damage? How can jobs be preserved in a stagnating or even a shrinking economy? How can a government service its debts in such an economy, especially as the population shrinks?
Read the rest here
3:56 am • 4 May 2013 • 2 notes
People who get hung up on era. and modernity and what is new and what is old and what is tasteful should get an eye-full of Kabel, a beautiful piece of German Modernism from the 1920’s designed to take Futura’s timeless throne that instead became the awesome font of the connoisseur pot smokers record collection, inevitably the font of the mid 1970’s, who gives a fuck what era its from it looks great!
2:54 pm • 3 May 2013
Democratic design, a case study:
I wonder what Charles & Ray Eames would think seeing their simple, functional, universal furniture reduced to the status of elitist museum pieces? example being the ‘Eames Plastic Armchair’ above right, which was designed as part of contest put on by MOMA in 1950, the theme? ‘Low cost furniture design’ (emphasis mine) currently retailing at? £450.
Now all power to the people at Vitra that currently make the chair, they have fine stable of designers, take risks with their production and I’m sure are dedicated to what they do, but I will never in my 20’s be able to furnish my home in most of their goods. It’s not like I have a right to design classics either, this isn’t necessarily bellyaching but why is there so much talk of ‘Democratic’ design when clearly the emphasis is on high end? that’s when Robin Day comes in, Robin (pictured above) and his wife Lucienne are often compared to the Eames, and while they were both talented designers they rarely collaborated the way Charles and Ray did.
Robins most famous design is his 1963 ‘polypropolene chair’ which he made for the British manufacturer ‘Hille’ it was cheap, functional, stackable and alledgedly the most widely sold chair of all time. He followed it up with several others in the same mold including the wonderful ‘polyprop armchair’ pictured above (c.1967) which I can attest is as lovely, comfortable and light as any Eames chair, cost? £59, or £83 if you want the legs in Chrome and still made in England in the Hille factory, either way it’s a comfortable price for any young apartment dweller, I think Robin would be thrilled, truly democratic design.
3:53 pm • 22 April 2013 • 1 note
Delighted to have came across renowned post-war German youth magazine ‘Twen’ designed by Willy Fleckhaus with this beautiful spareness (not all issues, some are more typical of the era) and wonderful cross page spreads that have some Alexi Brodovitch to them but push the graphic style further, most of all the photography is soft, intimate and almost voyeuristic, in contrast to the ever sharper, cleaner (and at this point very bland) magazine photography of today (Apartamento excluded)
(also of note is the font used very effectively: Schmalfette Grotesk designed by Walter Haettenschweiler in 1954)
9:05 am • 14 April 2013 • 1 note
Art/Architecture, Design/Fashion. Do you believe in the merging of creative disciplines?
Actually they are all connected to each other in our lifestyle. However, they are categorised and separated for our industrial reasons and this is the situation. Because of this, we design home electric products as electric products rather than blending them into the interior. Fashion and furniture are designed without any interconnections as well.
— Interesting idea from the great industrial designer Naoto Fukosawa
4:48 pm • 12 April 2013
There are plenty of criticisms to be aimed at professional critics, often they are arrogant, nowhere near as knowledgeable as one who passes judgement for a living should be, and worst of all lacking in humor or self awareness, none of these could be applied to Roger Ebert who died last Friday, an enthusiast and everyman, few critics will be as missed.
I didn’t find Ebert’s writing during his 90’s ‘Siskel & Ebert’ heyday where he was a sort of constant pop culture presence but rather after his first bout of cancer when he took to blogging prolifically and opened up his huge archive of reviews, these were a pleasure to read (usually after seeing the film, spoilers were sort of a specialty of his writing) because aside from being a great critic he was a great writer: amiable, personal and funny without allowing his personality to overshadow the film and most of all he wasn’t infallible and knew it, famously trashing the great ‘Blade Runner’ and revising his review a decade later.
He will be missed by me and many others,
be sure to check out his website and this Esquire profile for an insight into the man.
6:02 am • 9 April 2013
Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these miniature models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications. More here c/o Lloyd
These are tight
2:05 pm • 22 March 2013 • 1,285 notes
Designing a small range of summer clothing decked in prints featuring beloved European children’s book character Barbar the Elephant seems like a terrible idea, when in fact its a great Idea:
Well done Soulland! these are tight
4:01 am • 17 March 2013 • 2 notes
I haven’t enjoyed anyone’s illustration/design as much as I enjoy Geoff McFetridges since Mike Mills, especially this reductive series, filled with humor and driven by economy.
His earlier work was more of a place with mid 00’s design with a strong a 1970s/Ironic feel but as it’s progressed, become warmer more personal and he’s taken on this really lovely simplicity of line, the closest thing to it being maybe Ben Shahns illustrations or Marjene Satrapi, and It’s also nice to see someone take on multiple-mediums, McFetridge has done ceramics, wallpaper and is working on some fabrics in addition to fine art and commercial illustration, it makes you nostalgic for a time when fine artists had democratic instincts and not just commercial ones, and vice versa.
2:20 am • 27 February 2013 • 8 notes