Thursday, April 20, 2017


Plenitude was written in 2010 in the aftermath of the great financial crisis. The change in the economy and needs for individual workers seemed like the perfect setting for the author's "plenitude" theory of eco-friendly, sustainable economy. Alas, the economy was since rebounded and people have now gone back to the "business as usual" economy. This makes the book hard to read, even if it does have some good points.
Plenitude economics involves having enough material wealth to make you happy, while spending time outside the market economy to build up skills and personal relationships. It does not necessarily mean forgoing material aspects of life, but instead providing some in areas outside the market. People will work fewer hours at their jobs, and spend more time in hobbies, unpaid work, and "domestic production" (gardening, fixing things, etc.) They will purchase higher quality goods and take care of them so that they last longer. They will exchange with their friends and neighbors. Everyone will be conscious of the environment, and treat nature as a depleatable resource rather than something that is free for the taking. The "green economy" will create many small companies with environmentally friendly jobs. Additional job growth will occur not so much by economic growth, but instead by working fewer hours. (We have already scaled down a typical work year by over a thousand hours since the industrial revolution.)
I love a lot of the theory of Plenitude. However, it came across as very Utopian. What about the free riders? Would people actually devote time to personal production if they worked less, or would the market just come in with more entertainment options? Furthermore, the projections of future after the economic downturn proved to be unfounded. The business as usual economy came back with a vengeance. Can the economy really complete a transformation on its own?

No comments:

Post a Comment