Supplementary Reading – American Global Challenge Lecture Series

Economy, Environment, Democracy - Broken?

The following are supplementary reading materials for Lance Bennett’s lecture series the American Global Challenge: Aligning Economy, Democracy & Environment in the 21st Century. For more information on the lecture series, click here.


January 17: System Breakdown: Economy and Democracy in Crisis

January 31: Can Capitalism Be Fixed?

February 7: The Best Democracy that Money Can Buy

February 21: Environment vs. Economy

March 7: Building the Next System: Solutions for Government, Business, and Citizens

Series reading materials, available for free download:

Prosperity without growth?

Author: Tim Jackson   Date: Mar 30 2009

Institution: UK Sustainable Development Commission (closed March 31 2011)

Annotation: “Prosperity without Growth? analyses the complex relationships between growth, environmental crises and social recession. In the last quarter of a century, as the global economy has doubled in size, increases in consumption have caused the degradation of an estimated 60% of the world’s ecosystems. The benefits of growth have been distributed unevenly, with a fifth of the world’s population sharing just 2% of global income. Even in developed countries, huge gaps in wealth and wellbeing remain between rich and poor. This report proposes a twelve step route to a sustainable economy, and argues for a redefinition of “prosperity” in light of our evidence on what really contributes to people’s wellbeing.”

Keywords: sustainability, ecological limits, prosperity, growth, decoupling, consumption, inequality, reform


You may also enjoy his TED talk: 


Systemic Crises and Systemic Change in the United States in the 21st Century

Author: Gar Alperovitz, James Gustave Speth, Ted Howard, and Joe Guinan Date: Sep 29 2016

Institution: The Next System Project  (

Annotation: In their new working paper, Next System Project co-chairs Gar Alperovitz and James Gustave Speth, NSP Executive Director Joe Guinan, and Democracy Collaborative President Ted Howard explore the mounting pressures on current American economic, political, and environmental systems. With the understanding that our current system is incompatible with a sustainable future, they identify 5 key catalysts behind our climate crisis: 1) the growth imperative, 2) consumerism, 3) extractivism, 4) corporate power, and 5) political control. A future that is “ecologically sustainable, equitable, and socially responsible” is possible only through a separation from the traditional American values of corporate capitalism. In this new system, we must place an emphasis on human and environmental well-being, along with a politically engaged citizen body if we are to reverse (or even slow) the existential threat of climate change.

Keywords: consumerism, climate change, growth



Building a Sustainable and Desirable Economy-in-Society-in-Nature

Author: Robert Costanza, Gar Alperovitz, Herman E. Daly, Joshua Farley, Carol Franco, Tim Jackson, Ida Kubiszewski, Juliet Schor, and Peter Victor Date: 2012

Institution: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)

Annotation: “This report is a synthesis of ideas about what a new economy-in-society-in-nature might look and how we might get there. The report argues that now is the right time for the transition to a new economic paradigm. It lays out a vision, objectives and concrete policies that could underpin a new model of the economy based on the worldview and principles of “ecological economics,” including sustainable scale, equitable distribution, and efficient allocation – a model where GDP growth is not the ultimate goal. The report makes a case for a greatly expanded commons sector of the economy and new common asset institutions to adequately deal with natural and social capital assets.”

Keywords: ecological limits, growth, transition, sustainability, GDP, capital, consumption



Limits Revisited

Author: Tim Jackson, Robin Wesbter  Date: April 2016

Institution: All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) (contact:

Annotation: “Four and a half decades after the Club of Rome published its landmark report on Limits to

Growth, the study remains critical to our understanding of economic prosperity. This new review of the Limits debate has been written to mark the launch of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Limits to Growth. It outlines the contents of the Club of Rome’s report, traces the history of responses to it and dispels some of the myths surrounding it. As Prof Tim Jackson summarises the report in his recent CUSP blog, if the Club of Rome is right, the next few decades are decisive: One of the most important lessons from the study is that early responses are absolutely vital as limits are approached. Faced with these challenges, there is also clearly a premium on creating political space for change and developing positive narratives of progress.”

Keywords: growth, consumption, resources, climate change, planetary boundaries



Green Economy at Community Scale

Author: Tim Jackson, Peter A. Victor Date: Nov 2013

Institution: Metcalf Foundation (contact:

Annotation: Greening the economy at the local level will bring jobs, prosperity, and help us address the environmental challenges we’re facing. A green economy is not business as usual — with some clean technology added in. The transition is more fundamental and more exciting. It requires rethinking work and productivity, and developing a new vision of enterprise, investment, and a money economy that can support a shared and lasting prosperity. For Jackson and Victor, prosperity is more than producing and consuming material stuff. It’s about providing the capabilities for people to flourish in their community — socially and psychologically — without destroying the ecological assets on which our future prosperity depends. Green Economy at Community Scale is one of the first research-based explorations of the green economy at the local level. The report is drawn from the authors’ original analysis of the flow of natural and financial assets at the national level. It analyses conceptual foundations, and provides empirical evidence, for more sustainable community-based economic activities. The final section of the report draws together findings and identifies positive steps towards the creation of green local economies.

Keywords: prosperity



Post Growth Economics: A Paradigm Shift in Progress

Author: Samuel Alexander Date: March 2014

Institution: The Simplicity Collective (

Annotation: “As the global economy slowly emerges, at least superficially, from the global financial crisis — a crisis in which many economies around the world suffered recession — the imperative of all governments around the world to maximize growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has never seemed stronger. The underlying economic assumption is that growth in GDP is the most direct path to national prosperity, and this vision of progress is widely embraced across the political spectrum, where growth is used as the touchstone of policy and institutional success. Despite the dominance of this growth model of progress around the world, it has never been without its critics, and as this paper will outline, there are reasons to think that grounds for opposition are growing in number, strength, and sophistication.”

Keywords: growth, limits to growth, degrowth, sustainable economy



Populism and Digital Democracy

Author: Craig Calhoun Date: October 2016

Institution: Berggruen Insights (

Annotation: “New technologies offer the reality of much wider access to political information and conversation, and the potential for greater governmental transparency and citizen participation. They also enable money to buy attention, simplistic messages to displace more sophisticated information and debate, and demagogues to broaden their reach.”

Keywords: social change, populism, digital media, information quality



Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress and a Plan to Stop It

Author: Lawrence Lessig Date: 2011

Institution: Roy L. Furman Professor of Law, Harvard

Annotation: “In an era when special interests funnel huge amounts of money into our government— driven by shifts in campaign-finance rules and brought to new levels by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission—trust in our government has reached an all-time low. More than ever before, Americans believe that money buys results in Congress, and that business interests wield control over our legislature…. While America may be divided, Lessig vividly champions the idea that we can succeed if we accept that corruption is our common enemy and that we must find a way to fight against it. In REPUBLIC, LOST, he not only makes this need palpable and clear—he gives us the practical and intellectual tools to do something about it.” (There is also a more recent version 2.0, but I find the first edition to be better)

Keywords: political corruption, democratic reform


You may also enjoy his TED talk:

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