Philosophy 50 posts

The foundation for our work is an understanding of the meanings and moral framings of prosperity. We explore philosophical, expert and everyday assumptions about the economy, and probe the distinction between technical questions of economic efficiency and moral questions of justice, sustainability and equality. We adopt a pragmatist and pluralistic approach to showcase both expert and everyday ideas of what sustainable prosperity might mean. Our assumption is that moral philosophies need to become embedded in the institutions, commitments and ethos of economic actors, if they are to be a basis for change. A more detailed outline of our investigation into the meanings and moral framings of the good life can be accessed on our theme page.

T h i s is not all there is: Thinking utopias as ideas and practices | Blog by Will Davies
'Utopias' is one of the cross-cutting themes in CUSP, spanning our various research programmes. In this blog, Will Davies is reflecting on what the concept of utopia can offer in terms of its prefigurative potential, and how it is informing our interdisciplinary research.
Forging connections: Review of The Progress of this Storm and General Ecology | By Richard Douglas
How should we understand the relationship between nature and society, now that we have entered that condition known as the Anthropocene? Two new books offer radically opposing views on this question—though, as Richard Douglas finds, both remain prisoners of post-Kantian metaphysics.
Can the financial system work for the economy, people & the planet? | Lecture by Nick Silver
The current financial system developed to serve capitalism 1.0, a world of mass employment based on producing physical goods. This world is ceasing to exist – this talk will discuss the trends that are causing the change, and how finance needs to change to serve the economy of the future.
The Politics of Enclaves: Launch of Economic Science Fictions | London, 2 May 2018
Economic Science Fictions is a new volume of essays exploring the overlap between the economic imagination and science fiction, in economics, fiction, design fiction and utopian (and dystopian) political economy. To celebrate the publication of the book, this event will explore the politics of enclaves from the perspective of urban design and science fiction, so as to cast different light on the anxieties and hopes of the present.
Anthropocene Dreams — Review of The Ends of The World | By Jana Bacevic
If the Anthropocene had an intellectual mixtape, The Ends of the World would be a worthy candidate, Jana Bacevic finds. The book presents perspectives on the end of the world beyond the Western-centric view, to include those for whom the world has already ended; providing valuable lessons. 
Economic Science Fictions | Edited by Will Davies
From the libertarian economics of Ayn Rand to Aldous Huxley’s consumerist dystopias, economics and science fiction have often orbited each other. In Economic Science Fictions, CUSP co-investigator Will Davies has deliberately merged the two worlds, asking how we might harness the power of the utopian imagination to revitalise economic thinking.
Sustainable What, Why, and for Whom: Learning from Moral Philosophy | Blog by Will Davies
These are turbulent times, the fault lines within modern capitalism are widening. Yet, Will Davies finds, where one economic model becomes less certain, we can open up a much wider range of questions about what progress, prosperity and welfare actually mean: this is the right moment to interrogate the meaning and moral dimensions of prosperity.
Promethean Planetary Care – Review of Oliver Morton’s The Planet Remade | by Nick Taylor
What if geoengineering were envisaged as a utopian project of care? Oliver Morton’s The Planet Remade is a call for enlightened readership. It is an invitation to step up our thinking on the ethical questions around geoengineering.
Nature of Prosperity Dialogue: Ethics and Utopias | London, 16 February 2018
CUSP and the William Morris Society are delighted to invite you to a joint symposium on the Nature of Prosperity. The event will offer an afternoon of philosophical conversations on the themes of ethics and Utopian thinking, and how they can inform concepts of sustainable prosperity.
Finance in the Anthropocene | Blog by Nick Taylor
Risk is our society’s dominant way of governing the future in order to tame uncertainty. This is the case not only for financial crises but also for our responses to global environmental crises. The dominant risk management approach focusses on the prospect of financial devaluation and instability induced by climate change. But the kinds of calculation that are ultimately most pressing relate to how we might consider the financial system as an ecological regime itself.
The Anthropocene Reading Group 2017/18—Goldsmiths, London
Coordinated by Will Davies, Richard Douglas and Nick Taylor, the Anthropocene Reading Group is meeting regularly to discuss some of the latest literature in the field. The monthly meetings will take place on Wednesdays at 4pm.
Christmas, Consumerism and Confusion | Blog by Jonathan Rowson
Christmas is the season of shallow critique, Jonathan Rowson finds. We lament the commercialisation around us as if it were a seasonal problem, but lurking inside the wrapped presents, juicy puddings and roasted birds there are deeper questions about ethical drift and the social logic of our entire economic model.
The Good Life?—Review of Monbiot’s Out of the Wreckage | By Richard Douglas
George Monbiot has produced an encouraging manifesto for political transition to a happier, more sustainable world. Yet, Richard Douglas finds, his vision of the good life is undermined by an unresolved tension surrounding ideas of individualism.
Why we’ve never had it so good, yet everything has to change | Blog by Jonathan Rowson
We need a more conscious society, CUSP fellow Jonathan Rowson finds, and work “towards a level of depth, insight and abstraction that connects human nature and experience with societal meaning and purpose”—in the context, he writes, of a shared curiosity towards reality as a whole.
Life beyond Capital | Essay by John O’Neill
The language of capital penetrates social and environmental policy discussions at local, national and international level. Yet its appeal, John O’Neill argues, is premised on a fundamental misunderstanding of prosperity. The treatment of nature as capital is not a solution to the problems of environmental loss. Rather, it is part of the problem.
Realising the Future—Politics and methodologies of economic expectation | Workshop, 20 Dec 2017
Modernity, capitalism and finance involve distinctive orientations towards the future, in which a degree of uncertainty, risk and change are assumed. This half-day workshop explores the calculative devices, experts, discourses and images through which the future becomes available as an economic concern in the present, and considers the politics and controversies that arise in and around the future today.
World Accumulation and Planetary Life | Lecture by Jason W. Moore, 10 Oct
PERC/CUSP Lecture by Jason W. Moore on "World Accumulation and Planetary Life or Why Capitalism Will Not Survive until the ‘last tree is cut’". More details to follow shortly.
Commons, capabilities and collective action. A response to Ingrid Robeyns | by Emilia Melville
Robeyns’ CUSP essay opens an interesting space for reconsidering what should be of public and of private concern, Emilia Melville finds. Collective action as part of the solution can be effective if it can take place at multiple scales, and if it can nurture the love of place as well as a sense of global responsibility and sharing.
Critters, Critics, and Californian Theory – review of Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble
Solutions to climate change require good ol’ politics, Jana Bacevic argues. The attempt to avoid dealing with human(-made) Others is the key unresolved issue in an otherwise nice blend of theoretical conversation and science fiction that is Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble.
Where there is no vision, the people perish: a utopian ethic for a transformed future | Essay by Ruth Levitas
In the fifth essay in our series, Ruth Levitas argues that thinking about our ethical responsibilities in the present and for the future is helped by looking through the lens of Utopia. The Utopian approach allows us not only to imagine what an alternative society could look like, but enables us to imagine what it might feel like to inhabit it.
Shifting the social imaginary | Blog by Jonathan Rowson
In the second part of his essay on 'Imagining a world beyond consumerism' Jonathan Rowson is challenging the extraordinary tenacity of consumerism and alighting on the idea that in order to go beyond consumerism it might be necessary to improve what German Philosopher Metzinger calls “the present cognitive and emotional abilities of our species”.
The uncanniness of climate – Review of Morton’s Hyperobjects
Timothy Morton cares about the humans and things with which he co-exists, and doesn’t want to see them destroyed. But reading Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, Will Davies finds, it’s not entirely clear why. His version of environmental ethics is rather disquieting.
A Progressive Anthropocene? – Review of The Breakthrough Institute’s Love Your Monsters
The Breakthrough Institute asserts that ecomodernism can give us a “Good Anthropocene”. But in aiming at a second naivete of progressive modernism, it mistakenly treats nature as though it were a human creation.
Freedom and Responsibility – Sustainable Prosperity through a Capabilities Lens | Essay by Ingrid Robeyns
Is it possible to lead rich and good lives that are simultaneously just and ecologically sustainable? Yes, Ingrid Robeyns argues in the fourth of our CUSP essay series on the morality of sustainable prosperity, if we understand well-being and human flourishing in terms of human capabilities.
Imagining a world beyond consumerism | Blog by Jonathan Rowson
Consumerism is deeply problematic, but despite its obvious limitations, harms and absurdities, it is remarkably difficult to displace as our default societal setting and plot. Consumerism has become our prevailing cultural and economic modus operandi and is fundamentally more logical than it might at first appear.
Prosperity without Growth – Foundations for the Economy of Tomorrow | By Tim Jackson
The publication of Prosperity without Growth was a landmark in the sustainability debate. This substantially revised and re-written edition updates its arguments and considerably expands upon them. Tim Jackson demonstrates that building a ‘post-growth’ economy is not Utopia - it's a precise, definable and meaningful task. It’s about taking simple steps towards an economics fit for purpose.
Reporting Climate Survival – Review of Gaia Vince’s Adventures in the Anthropocene
Adventures in the Anthropocene—the fourth book discussed in the Anthropocene Reading Group—stands out from the others as the first that might be taken to the beach. Gaia Vince’s intrepid reportage has won her generous reviews. Yet, the journalistic and scientific objectivity—the twin lenses of her investigation—comes at a price, Robert Butler finds.
Artists as workers. A response to John Bellamy Foster | by Kate Oakley
Bellamy Foster’s essay is to be warmly welcomed for putting the question of what constitutes ‘good work’ on the table. But by arguing - at least in parts - that good work looks like creative or artistic work, it risks perpetuating certain ideas about artistic production that will harm, rather than aid, the struggle for good work, Kate Oakley finds.
Reducing work to transform work. A response to John Bellamy Foster | by Nick Taylor
John Bellamy Foster is right that we mustn’t abandon the project of pursuing non-alienating work, nor simply see work as a disutility. Yet, there is clearly space for articulating the importance of reduced, reproductive and redistributed work, Nick Taylor finds, and systems of social security that support these circumstances, as part of efforts to deliver democratic control over meaningful work.
Political Populism and Sustainability | Guest blog by Mike Hulme
This blog is a transcript of Mike's contribution to the conference Sustainability in Turbulent Times on 16 March 2016, reflecting on the implications of recent swings towards populism and nationalism around the world, for the relationship between inequality, democracy and sustainability.
The Meaning of Work in a Sustainable Society: A Marxian View | Essay by John Bellamy Foster
The nature of work has divided thinkers across the fields since the Industrial Revolution. In his Marxian take on the meaning of work, John Bellamy Foster argues that the real potential for any future sustainable society rests not so much on its expansion of leisure time, but rather on its capacity to generate a new world of collective work.
Reflexive realism and hope for the future – a response to Will Davies | by Jonathan Rowson
We are rarely encouraged to think of ourselves as good ancestors, but that’s what we need to become. After all, we represent the past the future relies on to have a viable present. If the idea of Utopia invites us to imagine the future, Jonathan Rowson argues, it is up to us to make a path towards that future discernible in the present.
The Meanings of ‘Home’. A response to Roger Scruton | by Victor Anderson
Roger Scruton’s paper usefully enlarges the scope of our discussions in CUSP, bringing a wider range of concepts to bear on the question of “sustainable prosperity”. However despite this wide scope, Victor Anderson argues, there is inherent in his arguments a philosophical justification for nimbyism.
Who is clearing up the ‘mess’ at ‘home’? A feminist response to Roger Scruton | by Malaika Cunningham
Scruton’s understanding of home or ‘oikophilia’ overlooks the patriarchal norms which govern these institutions, Malaika Cunningham argues in her response, this undermines his own argument against doctrines and ‘top-down’ structures.
What exactly are we conserving? A response to Roger Scruton | by Will Davies
Conservative thinking offers various necessary ingredients for any serious reflection on the meaning of ‘sustainable prosperity’. Yet, the relationship between sustainable prosperity and conservatism is a paradoxical one, Will Davies argues in his reply to Roger Scruton's recent essay for CUSP.
Settling Down and Marking Time | Essay by Roger Scruton
Can we create communities that are both prosperous and sustainable? And can we do this while retaining democratic procedures? These are huge questions and, like others who have addressed them, Roger Scruton is by no means convinced that he has a persuasive answer. But an answer is more likely to be found, he argues, "in the legacy of conservative thinking, than by adopting the standpoint of the top-down plan."
Rethinking Capitalism | Joint lecture by Mariana Mazzucato and Michael Jacobs, 15 March 2017
In this joint lecture, Mariana Mazzucato and Michael Jacobs will seek to explain the causes of the current economic crisis, and suggest how we might escape it. Drawing on their new book, Rethinking Capitalism: Economics and Policy for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth they will show how today’s deep economic problems reflect the inadequacies of orthodox economic theory and the failure of economic policies informed by it.
Making all things comrades – Review of Wark’s Molecular Red
The great humanistic emancipatory projects of the 20th century have run into the sand, leaving a non-humanistic one running riot: the Carbon Liberation Front. The rapid liberation of carbon molecules into the earth’s atmosphere is the dominant political programme of the 21st century, and neither state socialism nor capitalism provide any adequate response, it seems.
Professional Ethics in the Mirror. A response to Melissa Lane | by Aled Jones and Alison Greig
Academics must be conscious of the impact they create, Aled Jones and Alison Greig argue in their commentary, "even if that impact is unintentional. We must take responsibility for the action, or lack thereof, from the knowledge that we disseminate."
Against environmental awakening | Review of Bonneuil and Fressoz’s The Shock of the Anthropocene
What if we have known about our unsustainable destruction of the environment for a long time? Might we learn from our history of conscious ruin, and see more lucidly which institutions, social relations and modes of thought have perpetuated it?