Sustainable Capitalism and the Pursuit of Well-Being
To Be Published November 30th 2013 by Routledge – 224 pages
According to conventional wisdom, we need to change the system to change behaviours. This book argues that changing behaviours will change the system, with potential for positive feedback on behaviour. It starts by questioning the received wisdom that we know what makes us happy. Research shows that while we in the rich countries continue to pursue material accumulation, we are not happier nor enjoy greater well-being than our less materially fortunate forebears, or people in some poorer countries. If, as it seems, we really do not know what would make us happy and increase our well-being, what would the world look like if most of us began to pursue our personal well-being directly rather than indirectly through material consumption?
The unique power of capitalism is that it transforms our pursuit of our own gain into a collective outcome that none of us intended. It is an emergent system: the system emerges from our individual choices. If we choose to satisfy our essential needs rather than material wants, we would increase our personal well-being, reduce our consumption of natural resources and natural sinks, and society would become more sustainable. But what would be the effect that none of us intended on capitalism itself? Could it sustain itself without unsustainable perpetual growth?
This book shows that environmental sustainability comes from each of us knowing what’s truly good for ourselves. Because the pursuit of well-being will reduce material consumption, it then considers how that redefinition of self-interest may happen and assesses the effects of this change on the capitalist system itself.
1. Sustainable Pathways 2. Complex Sustainability 3. Authority and Altruism 4. The Causes of Consumption 5. Happiness, Well-being, and Sustainability 6. Needs and Wants 7. Leveraging Wants 8. Changing the Social Paradigm 9. Adapting to Sustainable Capitalism 10. A Sustainable System.
Dr. Neil Harrison is the Founder and Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Institute. He has an earned doctorate in International Studies from the University of Denver Graduate School of International Studies.