Advanced

Shifting Priorities in Degrowth Research: An Argument for the Centrality of Human Needs

Koch, Max LU ; Buch-Hansen, Hubert and Fritz, Martin (2017) In Ecological Economics p.74-81
Abstract
We present an argument for the deprioritization of subjective well-being and a prioritization of human needs within degrowth research. First, we discuss empirical evidence, methodological problems and theoretical shortcomings of subjective well-being concepts. While data for one country over time suggest a flattening of the happiness curve relative to GDP growth, cross country comparisons reveal that the richest and most environmentally unsustainable countries are also the ‘happiest’. Methodologically, we point to the issue of adaptability. A limitation in the use of ‘positional goods’ is unlikely to be accompanied by short-term increases in subjective well-being. Theoretically, we question ‘happiness’, where it helps promote growth and... (More)
We present an argument for the deprioritization of subjective well-being and a prioritization of human needs within degrowth research. First, we discuss empirical evidence, methodological problems and theoretical shortcomings of subjective well-being concepts. While data for one country over time suggest a flattening of the happiness curve relative to GDP growth, cross country comparisons reveal that the richest and most environmentally unsustainable countries are also the ‘happiest’. Methodologically, we point to the issue of adaptability. A limitation in the use of ‘positional goods’ is unlikely to be accompanied by short-term increases in subjective well-being. Theoretically, we question ‘happiness’, where it helps promote growth and disguise structural relationships of inequality. Secondly, we sketch out an alternative degrowth research agenda oriented at the satisfaction of human needs. Here, Doyal and Gough’s theory of human needs is especially useful due to its systematic account of environmental limits and the ‘policy-auditing’ approach that follows from it. Finally, we illustrate such a needs-based research agenda at the example of food by reviewing recent research on the environmental impacts of different diets and kinds of food production and on how these forms compare in terms of scale and land-use. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Degrowth, Needs, Subjective Wellbeing, Nutrition, World
in
Ecological Economics
issue
138
pages
74 - 81
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • scopus:85016302473
  • wos:000402215800009
ISSN
0921-8009
DOI
10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.03.035
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d3408674-19df-4c34-890f-b0fbc7cf5df4
date added to LUP
2017-03-29 10:27:47
date last changed
2017-09-18 11:34:18
@article{d3408674-19df-4c34-890f-b0fbc7cf5df4,
  abstract     = {We present an argument for the deprioritization of subjective well-being and a prioritization of human needs within degrowth research. First, we discuss empirical evidence, methodological problems and theoretical shortcomings of subjective well-being concepts. While data for one country over time suggest a flattening of the happiness curve relative to GDP growth, cross country comparisons reveal that the richest and most environmentally unsustainable countries are also the ‘happiest’. Methodologically, we point to the issue of adaptability. A limitation in the use of ‘positional goods’ is unlikely to be accompanied by short-term increases in subjective well-being. Theoretically, we question ‘happiness’, where it helps promote growth and disguise structural relationships of inequality. Secondly, we sketch out an alternative degrowth research agenda oriented at the satisfaction of human needs. Here, Doyal and Gough’s theory of human needs is especially useful due to its systematic account of environmental limits and the ‘policy-auditing’ approach that follows from it. Finally, we illustrate such a needs-based research agenda at the example of food by reviewing recent research on the environmental impacts of different diets and kinds of food production and on how these forms compare in terms of scale and land-use. },
  author       = {Koch, Max and Buch-Hansen, Hubert and Fritz, Martin},
  issn         = {0921-8009},
  keyword      = {Degrowth,Needs,Subjective Wellbeing,Nutrition,World},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {03},
  number       = {138},
  pages        = {74--81},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Ecological Economics},
  title        = {Shifting Priorities in Degrowth Research: An Argument for the Centrality of Human Needs},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.03.035},
  year         = {2017},
}