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Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist Hardcover – March 22, 2017
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“I read this book with the excitement that the people of his day must have read John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory. It is brilliant, thrilling, and revolutionary. Drawing on a deep well of learning, wisdom, and deep thinking, Kate Raworth has comprehensively reframed and redrawn economics. It is entirely accessible, even for people with no knowledge of the subject. I believe that Doughnut Economics will change the world.”―George Monbiot, author; columnist at The Guardian
“Raworth’s magnum opus. . . . A fascinating reminder to business leaders and economists alike to stand back at a distance to examine our modern economics."―Forbes, “Best Business Books of 2017”
“An admirable attempt to broaden the horizons of economic thinking.”―Financial Times, Martin Wolf, “Best Books of 2017: Economics”
“This is truly the book we’ve all been waiting for. Kate Raworth provides the antidote to neoliberal economics with her radical and ambitious vision of an economy in service to life. Given the current state of the world, we need Doughnut Economics now more than ever.”―L. Hunter Lovins, president and founder, Natural Capitalism Solutions
“[A] sharp, insightful call for a shift in thinking . . . Raworth’s energetic, layperson-friendly writing makes her concept accessible as well as intriguing.”―Publishers Weekly
“Can anyone seriously suppose that today’s economic orthodoxies are going to bring the world back from the brink of chaos? We need to fundamentally rethink the way we create and distribute wealth, and Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics provides an inspiring primer as to how we must now set about that challenge. I hope it ushers in a period of intense debate about the kind of economy we now so urgently need.”―Jonathon Porritt, author of The World We Made; founding director, Forum for the Future
“What if it were possible to live well without trashing the planet? Doughnut Economics succinctly captures this tantalising possibility and takes up its challenge. Brimming with creativity, Raworth reclaims economics from the dust of academia and puts it to the service of a better world.”―Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity without Growth
“Not long ago, well-known development economist Kate Raworth’s Doughnut graphic became an overnight sensation. Now this marvelous book clearly and succinctly explains her re-envisioning of the economy. On a bookshelf crowded with attempts to reframe economic thinking and the way forward, this book stands out―brilliantly.”―Juliet Schor, author of Plentitude
“Economics rightly is under the microscope. Kate Raworth’s insightful Doughnut is what every budding economist should see when they first peer down the lens.” ―John Fullerton, founder and president, Capital Institute
About the Author
Kate Raworth is a renegade economist focused on exploring the economic mindset needed to address the 21st century’s social and ecological challenges. She is a senior visiting research associate and advisory board member at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute and teaches in its masters program for Environmental Change and Management. She is also senior associate of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and a member of the Club of Rome. Over the past 20 years Raworth has been a senior researcher at Oxfam, a co-author of UNDP’s annual Human Development Reports and a fellow of the Overseas Development Institute, working in the villages of Zanzibar. She is also on the advisory board of the Stockholm School of Economics’ Global Challenges Programme and Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Resource Observatory. Kate lives in Oxford, England.
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Kate Raworth, who trained in economics at Oxford, has never quite felt comfortable in her chosen field of study. And for good reason. The neoliberal economic model that has guided us for the last three or four decades, based on fundamental assumptions that pre-date us all by several generations, are not so much flawed as they are misaligned, to the point of actual destruction, to the social, economic, political, and environmental world in which we live the 21st Century.
As an economics major myself back in the 1970s, and a corporate warrior who lived, breathed, and trusted the neoliberal creed for four subsequent decades, I am both an unlikely and uber-supporter of Raworth’s perspective and ideas.
The markets and the consumer are decidedly not efficient; as every leading economist has assumed but every businessperson knows is bullocks. If they were, strategic planning would be a lot more straightforward and companies would be a lot more consistently successful. Companies would not have to constantly reinvent themselves, the turnaround experts and bankruptcy attorneys would have little to do, and investors could take long holidays on the private islands they could easily afford.
The resources we rely on are not unlimited. Why are we arguing about the science of climate change? Look around, and if you still don’t see it, sit down and take an inventory of the resources you personally consume and plot it against whatever happiness index you like. The imbalance, you will quickly conclude, is absurd.
I lived as an ex-patriate industrialist in a part of the world where you could not drink the water or, on many days, breathe the air. On both counts I am being quite literal. And I can tell you that on both counts nothing else matters. Now back in the US Midwest I can tell you both that I continue to pay the price and that our collective attitude here in the developed world toward these issues is conscious but dismissive. In short, we have been spared true understanding in the same way the blind are spared having to look at the ubiquitous “comparative selfie” that seems to be the single most transformative accomplishment of social media at the moment.
We do not assign value to the economic inputs and the assets that really matter. There is no place on the balance sheet for engagement or innovation, and nowhere is there an accounting for shared (what Raworth calls common) assets, like safety, education, infrastructure, the country’s defenses, etc. We’re measuring well-being by the quality of the creases in our trousers.
I could go on, but there is no need. Raworth has already completed that task. Which is why this book should be required reading for every adolescent in every corner of the world. The universe is interconnected in ways that we have known, but largely ignored, since the beginning of time. We see the world in a linear framework that reflects and reinforces our deductive worldview in which logic and reason progress from left to right and down to up. Our top is where our smarts reside. Our backs contain the backbone that carries the weight of our ever-extending bellies (mine at least).
Nowhere in economics has this been more obvious or more damaging to our long-term interests than our pre-occupation with economic growth. It’s not an assumption, really. It’s a necessity. As we’re reminded daily, we need economic growth to keep people employed and wages rising. Without new air going in each and every moment, the balloon deflates. Doesn’t that mean, however, that at some point the balloon reaches its innate capacity and ultimately bursts?
Raworth’s perspective is spot on and the writing is excellent. She has an obvious knack of distilling what may at first seem complex down to the simple and straightforward without losing anything in the translation.
I think of the debate in more personal terms. We currently see our world through a very individual-centric lens. In economics, as Raworth covers here, the macro exists to serve the micro. In politics we are motivated by individual rights and freedoms. In medicine we focus on individual health and well-being. Even in psychology we are absorbed with personal happiness and personal measures of purpose and contentment.
The result is that our political, social, economic, and even religious spheres of influence operate in independent isolation. And that was okay in the past since there were far fewer of us, resources were in abundance, and we lived and acquired information and knowledge in a largely local ecosystem.
But technology, population growth, and constant advances in science have changed all that. Those spheres are now completely inter-connected. Social media drives politics. Politics drives social identity. Economics drives social injustice. The need for security impinges religious freedom.
Raworth’s donut is the perfect visual analogy for the need to think less in terms of absolutes and more in terms of balance. I also think of it in terms of balancing the deductive Western worldview with the more inductive Eastern worldview. Most importantly, we must learn to think in terms of “we” rather than “I.”
All of our systems of influence, from the political to the economic, must be transformed to promote collective balance rather than individual hegemony.
In the last sections of the book, Raworth addresses the question of the era: Can the plane of economic growth, as we currently define it, continue to soar ever upward; must it level out, and if so how do we fulfill our economic expectations; or is it time to land and make do?
As with the rest of the book Raworth does the conundrum justice and lays out all of the options thoroughly and with clarity. I think there is only one element that is not missing, but perhaps deserves more emphasis.
We continue to treat economics, politics, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and the hard sciences as distinct and discrete spheres of knowledge and influence. With advances in technology that have entirely transformed all aspects of our lives, that is simply no longer possible. We must take a page from our leaders in science who are quickly integrating all functional disciplines into, essentially, one. That is how the universe ultimately works.
One of the arguments for pushing the plane higher and higher is the recognition that democracy, as we have known it, will die if we don’t. It is, however, already dying, if not already dead. The democratic justification for growth, in other words, is a specious argument. We must redefine what it means to be free.
To borrow a page from Darwin, none of the current disciplines will give up its identity quietly (With perhaps the exception of philosophers, who have largely given up or gone into hiding. Sadly.). Each will fight to the death to preserve its own privilege.
It’s a bit like the game of Jenga. Who goes first?
I won’t say Raworth would endorse this priority but she certainly makes the case for it. I think the first to go has to be the notion of shareholder supremacy. It is an anachronism of the most abusive kind, positing, as Raworth notes, employees as the ultimate outsiders looking in. It’s an unsustainable model. And it’s pure fallacy. To say that today’s investors own our corporations is like saying that the gamblers own the casinos. (At least in the case of gambling, the gamblers at least set foot in the casino.) As in the case of poker, the gamblers may own the pot, but not the cards, the table, or the dealer.
And, as Raworth futher notes, changing the perspective will require a complete transformation of the process by which we currently manage our largest corporations. So be it. If it doesn’t start there, I don’t think any of the other transformative needs are feasible.
Beyond that I believe that the only viable option for transformative change is to address the problem from the consumption and expectation side of things. We just don’t need all of this “stuff” in order to live fulfilling lives. We can and should live much more locally. And technology has given us the perfect opportunity.
What really matters in life is to think and dream globally and the Internet has given us that opportunity at next to zero cost. The next step should be an easy one although no gambler ever got rich betting against the power and resilience of those entrenched interests who wish to protect the status quo. (Which is why our politics are such a mess.)
At any rate, this really is a great book and I do hope we can collectively push it to the top of the bestseller list where it belongs. It’s a discussion we need to have, not just with our economists, but with our children, our colleagues, and our loved ones. (Not to imply we don’t love our children.)
I've realized recently that our way of thinking about economics has led into a political cul-de-sac. This book has answers that ring true.
Raworth's brilliant whole-planet thinking will certainly be held among the great economic architectures of the 21st century, a prototype for the absolutely necessary requirement to change our old (and deeply entrenched) ideas of "unlimited growth" into something sustainable for all earthly inhabitants. Brava, Kate, for gently leading us out dangerously antiquated thinking and into far smarter ways of understanding what it means to thrive and prosper.