Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Circular economy, Sustainable Development, and Degrowth

Santos Redondo Manuel , Complutense University of Madrid

A few texts in the 1960s and 1970s advocated for more attention to the negative aspects of economic growth. Most significant being Kenneth E. Boulding, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen and Herman Daly. The report by Club of Rome in 1972 on the Limits to Growth, by a group of scientists led by Donella Meadows, received a wider attention. These studies, implicitly or explicitly, advocated for degrowth. Since then, natural resources and the environment had become part of mainstream economic analysis, and even prominent in the formulation of economic policies. The concepts of “sustainable development” and “circular economy” are key in today’s debates and real policies. These terms imply a much more careful model of economic growth but are not seen economists and politicians as degrowth. But this evolution has not been undisputed by environmentalist and ecologist groups. Some of them keep openly advocating for degrowth (in French, décroissance) and challenging mainstream economics. They claim that “sustainable development” doesn’t question capitalist growth and consumption. Main names may be Jacques Grinevald and Serge Latouche. Most of this groups are more on the political movement than in the pure economic analysis. Degrowth movement is also related to leftish anti-globalization. Part of the debate is a clash of economic and political ideas. But another part is semantic, since “degrowth” is associated with unemployment and poverty, and the other terms, “sustainable”, “circular”, avoid the “bad name”. Many environmental economist claim that we should have degrowth in some sectors, like fossil fuels, but growth in other, like renewable energies. Both the semantic and the real content of the discussion are very relevant part of today’s economic ideas and history.


Keywords: Circular Economy; Degrowth; Green Growth; Sustainability