Kate Soper’s Post-Growth Living is split in two. It’s about environmentalism and true human flourishing. It’s about doing the right and also pragmatism. This isn’t a pie in the sky philosophy book – it looks at where we are right now and how we can change our thinking and therefore our action in order to build a more sustainable and happy future.
In some ways this book could make more enemies than friends – Soper goes after our current cultural desire for more more more. The right’s entanglement with business and economy is a well-known critique. However, Soper also goes after the leftist ideas of more more more for everyone for two reasons. First, more consumerism isn’t sustainable for our environment. Second, it doesn’t make for a better life, anyway. Our home livers are worse, our work lives our worse, our environment is worse, our public spaces are worse – you name it! In other words, right and left are both selling a lifestyle and futures that aren’t sustainable or Good. Soper isn’t polemical, though. She of course acknowledges democratic and health advantages that have come with many iterations of capitalism and democracy. Her point is that because some good things have happened doesn’t mean that everything that comes with consumerism and capitalism is good. The point is to separate the wheat from the chaff, to quote another philosopher. The point is for everyone to have access to meaningful prosperity together. She specifically advocates for a shared citizenship thinking of everyone rather than mere self-interested consumers of goods and services (although she expands what “self-interest” can mean).
As the title suggests, Soper sees the solution in moving past the idea that economic growth is THE thing we should focus on. Her alternative hedonistic approach is to look at other indicators to have a real debate about ends, not means to get to more more more. What is “prosperity”? How do we help get everyone there?
The book certainly inspired changes in my own life. For one, I have only bought one item on the internet in the month that it took me to read this book – a book directly from a publisher. I’m cooking for myself more. I’m walking and cycling more.
Accessible yet lifestyle-challenging read. I recommend!