Philosophy 63 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.

Nervous States: Democracy and the Decline of Reason | By Will Davies
Why do we no longer trust experts, facts and statistics? Why has politics become so fractious and warlike? What caused the populist political upheavals of recent years? How can the history of ideas help us understand our present? In this far-reaching exploration of our new political landscape, CUSP co-investigator Will Davies reveals how feelings have come to reshape our world.
Beyond the choke hold of growth: post-growth or radical degrowth?—Tim Jackson in conversation with Giorgos Kallis
The 2018 Post-Growth conference at the European Parliament marked a milestone in the history of the post-growth debate. In this interview, Riccardo Mastini discusses the possibilities and challenges for imagining a world beyond growth with two key post-growth thinkers—Tim Jackson and Giorgos Kallis. 
Risk and Uncertainty in the Anthropocene | Call for Abstracts
This conference aims to explore from a multidisciplinary perspective the role of risk and uncertainty in the Anthropocene. It invites papers that explore the specific logics, strategies, forms of knowledge and technologies that different actors are, or should be, using to approach risk and uncertainty.
Hugh Montefiore and our present moment | Blog by Richard Douglas
The hypothesis Richard Douglas is investigating in his CUSP research is that political resistance to environmentalism stems in part from a defence of modern ideas of infinity. The notion that there are inescapable limits to material progress, he argues, threatens the modern faith in humanity’s ability to control its own fate and journey into an unbounded future.
Escaping the iron cage of consumerism | Blog by Tim Jackson
Our systematic failure to address existential anxiety robs society of meaning and blinds us to the suffering of others; to persistent poverty; to the extinction of species; to the health of global ecosystems. With this think piece, Tim Jackson adds to an eclectic set of essays, published in honour of Wolfgang Sachs.
The moral vision of environmental sceptics | Blog by Richard Douglas
Richard Douglas introduces his new CUSP working paper, in which he uses ‘Listening Rhetoric’ to attend to the moral vision which environmental sceptics are keen to defend. The key to understanding their rejection of environmentalism—and doing more to counter the appeal of their arguments—lies in recognising their preoccupation with defending a moral vision of modernity, he argues.
The Commonplaces of Environmental Scepticism | Working Paper No 17
It is nearly half a century since the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth report was published. The thesis at its core—that infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet—is a seemingly common sensical proposition. To investigate why the ‘limits to growth’ has not yet led to decisive political action, this paper examines the thought of its most explicit critics in debate, employing Wayne Booth's ‘Listening Rhetoric’, used to understand opposing discourses on their own terms.
Heat, Greed and Human Need | Seminar with Ian Gough, Guildford 1 Nov 2018
Prof Ian Gough is Visiting Professor at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion and an Associate at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. Ian’s latest book, and the focus for this CUSP/CES seminar, is Heat, Greed and Human Need. It offers a powerful analysis of the connections between climate change, economic growth and social policy.
Nature of Prosperity Dialogue: An Economy That Works for All | London 24 Oct 2018
We’re delighted to be joined in Westminster by Kerry Kennedy, US human rights lawyer and daughter of RFK, Clive Lewis MP, Shadow Treasury Minister, Miatta Fahnbulleh, Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation, Michael Jacobs, Director of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice, and Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.
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.
Work: a situation vacant | Blog by Richard Douglas
We need a new defining idea for political economy, writes Richard Douglas. Could we find it in the idea of economic activity as service? (This article originally appeared in Issue 6 of The Mint.)
Everything is extraordinary: Prosperity and the qualities of attention | Guest blog by Dan Nixon
The way we pay attention affects our wellbeing and our relationships. But it also connects to our freedoms, our political decisions and our deeper sense of purpose. This post considers: what is the link between our attention and our prosperity?
The Return of Character: Parallels Between Late-Victorian and Twenty-First Century Discourses | Journal Paper by Nick Taylor
There has been an increasingly common trend in the UK to identify character skills and traits as the basis for various individual successes and achievements. In education policy and employment services, character has been linked to the making of successful, morally aware, employable and socially mobile citizens. This article explores the late-19th-century use of character discourses, focusing on the economist Alfred Marshall.
Climate Justice as economic mobilization | Seminar w Stefan Jacobsen, London 21 June 2018
Drawing on a newly published book, this talk will give a brief outline of the economic ideas that have been central in the buildup of a global movement for Climate Justice (CJ) since the 1990s. Jacobsen argues that although campaigns against the dominance of carbon markets and for divestment strengthened the CJ movement in raw numbers, these approaches also marked a move away from earlier demands for radical equality as part of transitioning away from fossil fuels.
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.
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.
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.
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 Feb 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.
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.