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Measuring progress in the degrowth transition to a steady state economy

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  • O'Neill, Daniel W.

Abstract

In order to determine whether degrowth is occurring, or how close national economies are to the concept of a steady state economy, clear indicators are required. Within this paper I analyse four indicator approaches that could be used: (1) Gross Domestic Product, (2) the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, (3) biophysical and social indicators, and (4) a composite indicator. I conclude that separate biophysical and social indicators represent the best approach, but a unifying conceptual framework is required to choose appropriate indicators and interpret the relationships between them. I propose a framework based on ends and means, and a set of biophysical and social indicators within this framework. The biophysical indicators are derived from Herman Daly's definition of a steady state economy, and measure the major stocks and flows in the economy–environment system. The social indicators are based on the stated goals of the degrowth movement, and measure the functioning of the socio-economic system, and how effectively it delivers well-being. I discuss some potential applications of the indicators, including a method that allows national economies to be placed into one of five categories: desirable growth, undesirable growth, desirable degrowth, undesirable degrowth, and a steady state economy.

Suggested Citation

  • O'Neill, Daniel W., 2012. "Measuring progress in the degrowth transition to a steady state economy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 221-231.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:84:y:2012:i:c:p:221-231
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.05.020
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Philip Lawn, 2007. "A Stock-Take of Green National Accounting Initiatives," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 80(2), pages 427-460, January.
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    5. Martínez-Alier, Joan & Pascual, Unai & Vivien, Franck-Dominique & Zaccai, Edwin, 2010. "Sustainable de-growth: Mapping the context, criticisms and future prospects of an emergent paradigm," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 1741-1747, July.
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    7. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-659, May.
    8. Lawn, Philip A., 2003. "A theoretical foundation to support the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), and other related indexes," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 105-118, February.
    9. Krausmann, Fridolin & Erb, Karl-Heinz & Gingrich, Simone & Lauk, Christian & Haberl, Helmut, 2008. "Global patterns of socioeconomic biomass flows in the year 2000: A comprehensive assessment of supply, consumption and constraints," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 471-487, April.
    10. Lawn, Philip, 2006. "Using the Fisherian concept of income to guide a nation's transition to a steady-state economy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 440-453, March.
    11. Van de Kerk, Geurt & Manuel, Arthur R., 2008. "A comprehensive index for a sustainable society: The SSI -- the Sustainable Society Index," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2-3), pages 228-242, June.
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    14. Helmut Haberl & Marina Fischer‐Kowalski & Fridolin Krausmann & Joan Martinez‐Alier & Verena Winiwarter, 2011. "A socio‐metabolic transition towards sustainability? Challenges for another Great Transformation," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(1), pages 1-14, January/F.
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    1. repec:eee:ecolec:v:137:y:2017:i:c:p:207-219 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:ecolec:v:156:y:2019:i:c:p:350-359 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:ecolec:v:156:y:2019:i:c:p:272-286 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Buch-Hansen, Hubert, 2014. "Capitalist diversity and de-growth trajectories to steady-state economies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 167-173.
    5. repec:eee:ecolec:v:156:y:2019:i:c:p:327-336 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Tokic, Damir, 2012. "The economic and financial dimensions of degrowth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 49-56.
    7. Hardt, Lukas & O'Neill, Daniel W., 2017. "Ecological Macroeconomic Models: Assessing Current Developments," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 198-211.
    8. repec:eee:ecolec:v:157:y:2019:i:c:p:141-155 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Rammelt, Crelis F. & Boes, Jan, 2013. "Galtung meets Daly: A framework for addressing inequity in ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 269-277.

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