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Pete Lawrence - 13 Sep 2017


“Reversing consumerism’s financial and cultural dominance in public and private life is set to be one of the twenty-first century’s most gripping psychological dramas” 

Kate Raworth : Doughnut Economics : If you read one book on economic theory this year, let this be it

This book is about re-designing the DNA of business, proposing regenerative investment rather than pursuing endless accumulation, it’s about challenging the assertion that GDP growth is the natural or desirable target (Raworth’s metaphor as ‘kite-surfing’ as a far-better metaphor for the future of GDP is an interesting proposition which reflects the precarious climate.) 

Raworth approaches the subject very much from a humane, holistic standpoint; one that puts the economy in service to us humans on the planet and one that is flexible enough to promote the idea that ""changing your mind is one of the best ways to find out if you still have one". Her enlightened eco-model shunts aside the traditional neoliberal consensus. 

She cites life’s essentials as :

  • £ money to buy essentials 
  • work
  • access to safe drinking water ands a toilet
  • education
  • a political voice

The New Economics Foundation’s 5 acts of well-being are quoted as yardsticks :

  • Connecting
  • Being active in our bodies
  • Taking note of the world
  • learning new skills
  • Giving to others

"Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer. The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century."

On her website Raworth says : "Since the first iteration of the Doughnut was published as a discussion paper by Oxfam in 2012, it has had traction in very diverse places – from the UN General Assembly and the Global Green Growth Forum, to Occupy London.  Why such interest? I think it is because the doughnut is based on the powerful framework of planetary boundaries but adds to it the demands of social justice – and so brings social and environmental concerns together in one single image and approach. It also sets a vision for an equitable and sustainable future, but is silent on the possible pathways for getting there, and so the doughnut acts as a convening space for debating alternative pathways forward.

George Monbiot in The Guardian argues that the doughnut highlights the importance of addressing environmental sustainability and social justice together.

Grist writer David Roberts sees the doughnut as a new way to think about economic growth (and wants the T shirt).

Tony Juniper argues that the doughnut helps to forge a way beyond contemporary capitalism.

Will Steffen and Mark Stafford Smith, two leading Earth scientists, reflect on how the doughnut can help to generate a set of Sustainable Development Goals.

Eduardo Gudynas, a Latin American environmentalist, asks whether the doughnut is too Western.

Wolff Olins, the brand consultants, challenge companies to ask themselves, “Is our brand a doughnut?”

On advertising and ‘public relations’ Raworth is looking at today’s rapidly changing perspectives “As the media theorist John Berger put it in his book Ways of Seeing, publicity is not merely an assembly of competing messages : it is a language in itself which is always being used to make the same general purpose…it proposes to each of us that we transform ourselves, and our lives, by buying something more”

"Do we have a chance of shaking off this twentieth century inheritance?” asks Kate. There is a sense that throughout her book, she is gently and logically pointing out how much of an outmoded system is still around us. The changes we need to make are all part of the movement that is taking shape - towards altruists, awareness, listening, working for the good of all and our planet. “Reversing consumerism’s financial and cultural dominance in public and private life is set to be one of the twenty-first century’s most gripping psychological dramas” 

As an aside, I would be interested to ask Kate for her feedback on Campfire’s ideas around a new style of co-operative social network that rewards in return for engagement - the Kudos scheme, for me a viable example of a post-capitalist framework concept that is grounded in a network ideology as opposed to a market-based one.

Kate's research is focused on exploring what planetary and social boundaries imply for rethinking the concept of economic development. Is it growth or post-growth? How should we measure economic progress? How should we rewrite the economics textbooks so they are fit for tackling 21st century challenges? Join the discussion by subscribing to her blog at



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