Society 80 posts

At the heart of any form of prosperity lie the desires, aspirations, needs and capabilities of ordinary people. Understanding these needs and aspirations is vital. Our research examines the contested and situated nature of people’s visions of the good life and the role of materialism in delivering (or hindering) prosperity. We explore how different understandings of social justice and fairness enter our narratives of the good life. We also look at how our aspirations for prosperity and sustainability are negotiated in different contexts and circumstances. Using both social research and psychological experiments, we explore the idea that people could have ‘more fun with less stuff’. A more detailed outline of our investigation into societal understandings of the good life can be accessed on our theme page.

Video | Nature of Prosperity Dialogue w Kerry Kennedy, Clive Lewis, Miatta Fahnbulleh, Michael Jacobs and Rowan Williams
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.
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 16
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.
The ‘new’ climate politics of Extinction Rebellion? | Blog by Joost de Moor, Brian Doherty and Graeme Hayes
XR is a rather potent campaign, CUSP researchers Joost de Moor, Brian Doherty and their colleague Graeme Hayes find, yet creating a movement that can have the impact XR aims for will require confronting the political as well as the moral challenges posed by climate change. (This blog first appeared on the openDemocracy website, 27 Nov 2018).
Creative Economy, Critical Perspectives | Cultural Trends Special Issue edited by Kate Oakley and Jon Ward
CUSP researchers Kate Oakley and Jonathan Ward are guest editors of a special edition of Cultural Trends. In exploring how the idea of the creative economy persists since the 1980s, papers engage with the topic on a social, political, economic and/or organisational level.
We need a new common consciousness of what’s necessary and possible to curb climate change. | Guest blog by Teresa Belton
Cultural resistance to the need for a fundamental rethink of the way we conduct life is continuously fed by misleading words of charismatic thinkers such as Rutger Bregman and Steven Pinker, Teresa Belton finds. What we need instead are fresh holistic narratives to create a new common consciousness.
Energy Sufficiency—Managing the rebound effect | Report by Steve Sorrell, Brigitta Gatersleben and Angela Druckman
A new report by former SLRG colleagues Steve Sorrell, and CUSP researchers Brigitta Gatersleben and Angela Druckman examines the nature of rebound effects, and asks the question: can greater use of sufficiency policies and actions help to tackle negative rebounds, or will it create rebounds itself?
Young lives in seven cities | CYCLES Exhibition, Nov 2018—January2019
In our research we have been listening to young people around the world talk about their everyday lives, including what they like about where they live and what they might like to change. Following our opening on 7 November 2018 as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, the exhibition is on show until the end of January.
Young Lives in Seven Cities. A Touring Exhibition. | Catalogue
In each city small groups of young people, aged from 12–24, took photos or drew pictures to illustrate ‘a day in our lives’ and then discussed their images with us, focusing on what they valued and what they would like to change. A CYCLES photo exhibition is on show at The Foundry, in Vauxhall, London (until January 2019). These are their images. This is their story.
Beyond Redistribution—Confronting inequality in an era of low growth | An Economy That Works, Briefing Paper No 2
The second in our series of briefing papers on building An Economy That Works explores inequality in the UK. It examines the evidence for rising inequality over the last fifty years, estimates the economic welfare lost to society from an unequal distribution of incomes and addresses the critical question of managing inequality in the context of declining growth rates.
One Hundred Islands — An Interactive Installation | York Theatre Royal, 6 Nov 2018
One Hundred Islands is an installation that has been created through a collaboration between The Bare Project Theatre Company and the CUSP. The installation responds to the concept of denial: in particular the denial of the immediate need for change. Why are we failing to act? Is it that we won’t listen or that we are unable to?
Generation Z — A photography exhibition by CUSP Fellow Kerstin Hacker, documenting the changing urban experience in Zambia
Documentary photographer and CUSP fellow Kerstin Hacker is investigating the developing consumer culture of Lusaka (Zambia) and examines photographically the emergence of a new cultural sector. Supported by the Centre of African Studies at University of Cambridge, the exhibition is on show until 21 December 2018.
This Must be the Place: An interview with Dan Lyttleton | By Mark Ball
Coming at an interesting time for the city, Dan Lyttleton’s new photo book This Must be the Place prompts discussions of Stoke ‘free from cliches’. Given CUSP’s continued interest in the city, Mark Ball sat down with Dan to talk about his new book, the role of photography, and Stoke.
No hard feelings: Why environmental scholars can’t afford to dismiss children’s views of the good life | Blog by Anastasia Loukianov
“What can children tell you about the good life? Oh popsicles are great, raisins suck.’’ — conversations like this can make for a good laugh, but exemplify an almost systemic scepticism towards children’s legitimacy in social debate, CUSP researcher Anastasia Loukianov finds. There are compelling reasons, she argues, for working alongside young people in defining what it might mean to live well in a world of planetary limits.
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.
Making transformation tangible: We all need to work together | Blog by Katherine Trebeck
Our approach to economics and development needs fundamental transformation. A new global initiative is making connections between the diverse institutions and movements working on that task. Facilitating collaboration and knowledge exchange, the key aims of the new alliance are "to amplify and connect, to build and to promote the building of a wellbeing economy".
Investing psychic (not material) energy: flow experiences and sustainable prosperity | Blog by Amy Isham
As the negative well-being effects of materialistic lifestyles continue to be documented, it is crucial that we start to uncover ways of living well that do not rely so heavily on material inputs. Summarising her recent journal article with Birgitta Gatersleben and Tim Jackson, Amy Isham considers how choosing to invest our attention and effort into the creation of flow experiences might be able to help us to achieve sustainable prosperity.
Flow Activities as a Route to Living Well With Less | Journal Paper by Amy Isham, Birgitta Gatersleben and Tim Jackson
Research suggests that the excessive focus on the acquisition of material goods promoted by our consumer society may be detrimental to well-being. Current Western lifestyles, which promote unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, therefore risk failing to bring citizens the happiness they seek.
A Cultural Shift towards an Ecological Democracy | Blog by Marit Hammond
Democracy – as the political embodiment of a commitment to listening to the whole society equally, and facilitating fair participation in shaping its future – is not an inconvenience, but the only conceivable foundation for sustainable prosperity.
Vacancy: Postdoctoral Fellow for CYCLES (University of Canterbury, NZ)
We are seeking a part-time Postdoctoral Fellow to join our NZ based team of researchers working on our international CYCLES study: a study of the lifestyles and embedded experience of young people aged 12-24 in urban communities.
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.)
Protecting the Interests of Future Generations | Working Paper No 14
Even the most perfect democracy can only represent the wishes of people currently alive. But how can the interests of members of future generations be safeguarded in political systems? This paper outlines different ways in which this could be achieved through reforms to the UK political system, and then looks in more detail at examples in other countries.
A Cultural Account of Ecological Democracy | Journal Paper by Marit Hammond
What are the political foundations of an ecologically sustainable society? Can—or must—they be democratic? Absolutely 'yes' Marit Hammond argues, for sustainability is a moving target that requires a reflexive cultural ethos based on democratic values.
Exploring the natural capital debate—Creating a space for conversation about conservation across boundaries? | Blog by Fergus Lyon
The search for innovative ways of tackling sustainability and conservation challenges while supporting local communities and livelihoods has brought together a group of researchers from Colombia, Mexico, Peru and the UK. Summarising the workshop, Fergus Lyon is reflecting on how the concept of natural capital can be used (and abused).
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.
Katniss Everdeen, Utopia, and The Future of Work | Blog by Simon Mair
What is the future of work in a world of social and environmental limits? Drawing lessons from utopian fiction, and introducing the latest CUSP working paper, Simon Mair wonders if we can avoid ending up in the Hunger Games.
The Future of Work—Lessons from the History of Utopian Thought | Working Paper No 13
This paper aims to contribute towards the development of a political economy of work fit for purpose in a world of social and environmental limits. In order to get beyond today’s dominant conceptions of work in a growth-based capitalism, Simon Mair, Angela Druckman and Tim Jackson explore the role of work in historical utopias.
Enjoyable, meaningful lives without economic growth or jobs? | Guest blog by Alison Kidd
How will people live enjoyably and meaningfully in a world of less economic growth? Do the care, craft, culture and creative activities which CUSP is exploring offer a promising alternative prosperity? Behavioural psychologist Alison Kidd recently studied the activities of 325 UK people to find out what they found enjoyable and meaningful to see if she could get clues.
Social Darts | Blog by Mark Ball
Leisure doesn’t always make business sense, and success doesn’t mean turning a profit. Against the logic of expansion and abundance, Stoke has something major metropolitan cities do not, Mark Ball finds. His research looks at the connections between leisure, wellbeing and sense of place — and currently involves playing a lot of darts
From stranded workers to enabled workers—Lessons for a successful low carbon economy | Blog by Lucy Stone
From stranded to enabled workers — the transition to renewable, low carbon economies is a huge opportunity to create more stable, healthy sources of employment, a new Agulhas report finds, but it needs smart management. CUSP Fellow Lucy Stone is highlighting some of the key findings.
Can a play start a conversation and generate multi-disciplinary projects? | Guest blog by Shirley Wardell
Few people understand how money works, and yet it has a vital part in our lives. In her new theatre play ‘Balance’, former Positive Money consultant Shirley Wardell tries to address this issue by making the topic relevant to people who watch the play — and to those who act in it.
CIRCONOMÌA | Circular Economy Festival w Tim Jackson and Kerry Kennedy, Milan/Pollenzo 24-25 May 2018
On 24 and 25 May 2018, Tim Jackson will be joining Kerry Kennedy, human rights lawyer and daughter of Robert Kennedy, for a series of dialogues on prosperity, inequality and human rights at the 3rd Circonomìa festival in Italy. Under the theme of  "growth without prosperity, prosperity without growth", Tim and Kerry will be discussing the legacy of Robert Kennedy's historic speech at the University of Kansans on the failings of measurement and vision that, after 50 years, still haunt both economic policy and our everyday life.
Making connections, experiencing flow, and countering consumption: crafting is more fun with less stuff | Blog by Sue Venn
One of the research projects within CUSP is concerned with how wellbeing can be enhanced through immersing oneself in challenging activities, leading to a state of ‘flow’. BBC Four's recent MAKE! Craft Britain programme is a perfect showcase of that concept. The programme is connecting people to traditional crafts, past and present generations — and, importantly, to those with whom we are crafting.
Defining and promoting carbon literacy | Seminar w Rachel Howell, 28 June 2018
Given government policies and public discourse aiming to change everyday behaviour so as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, individuals are increasingly encouraged to understand how their activities contribute to such emissions, and how they can reduce their personal carbon footprint. This seminar proposes a definition of 'carbon literacy' and compares this with other, related concepts.
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.
Policies for Sustainable Consumption | The Cambridge Handbook of Psychology and Economic Behaviour w chapter by Tim Jackson and Carmen Smith
Tim Jackson's chapter in The Cambridge Handbook of Psychology and Economic Behaviour has been updated for the second edition of the international, multi-disciplinary and partly new collection, edited by Alan Lewis. It summarises the challenge inherent in recent policy debates about sustainable consumption, focusing in particular on what might be involved in negotiating the kinds of lifestyle changes that are implied by the radical reductions in carbon emissions that are required to mitigate climate change.
The People’s Projects | Feral Spaces Project shortlisted for Public Voting
The arts and learning project ‘Feral Spaces’ by CUSP Fellow Laurel Gallagher is shortlisted for public voting. The voting is open from 16-30 April. If successful, the Feral Spaces group will provide art activities for young people, using disused local spaces and recycled materials, to promote appreciation of the local environment.
Dance Me to the End of Love—An Economics for Tomorrow | Guest blog by Alan Simpson
Any economics that defines the time given to human interaction as negative productivity has lost the plot, Alan Simpson writes in his guest blog. The economy of tomorrow must be built around people and their inbuilt kindness and decency.