Society 51 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.

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.
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.
Writing A Better Future | Guest Blog by Denise Baden
Most of us feel it: the future doesn't look too bright. Dark future visions such as the Black Mirror series feed into our anxieties; the global news and climate change discourse create further avoidance. What we need, Denise Baden argues, are positive visions that allow transformative solutions to be showcased and played out—a kind of product placement for sustainability.
Everyday Culture and the Good Life | Working Paper No 9
The purpose of this paper is to prepare the ground for a strand of work in CUSP which aims to look at the role of culture in everyday life, and in doing so to understand how it might operate as an element of sustainable prosperity. The paper considers the basis on which we might start to think about new legitimations for cultural policy and a fuller understanding of its potential for living well with less.
The art of the good life: culture and sustainable prosperity | Journal paper by Kate Oakley and Jon Ward
This paper analyses the potential for cultural work to encourage alternative visions of the “good life”, in particular, how it might encourage a kind of “sustainable prosperity” wherein human flourishing is not linked to high levels of material consumption but rather the capabilities to engage with cultural and creative practices and communities.
Prosperity Is…? | A Research Log by S Venn, K Burningham, K Skippon and T Jackson
What can prosperity possibly mean in a world of environmental and social limits? This question lies at the heart of CUSP’s five year research programme on sustainable prosperity. We wanted to know how ordinary people in different contexts might answer this question, so we set out to ask them. What we found was fascinating.
Meritocracy vs. Social Cohesion: A Review of The Acting Class (UK, 2017)—By Anthony Killick
The latest documentary from D O’Neill and M Wayne highlights the barriers faced by working class actors attempting to pursue cultural work. The film exposes the fraudulence behind some of the central tenets of neoliberal meritocracy, Anthony Killick finds, particularly the idea that arts and cultural jobs are equally accessible to all on a “level playing field”.
Sustainable Consumption in Early Motherhood | Journal Paper by Kate Burningham and Sue Venn
In their new paper for the Journal of Consumer Ethics, Kate Burningham and Sue Venn suggest there is a need for greater attention to the gender and relational dimensions of environmentally sustainable practice, and for promotion of holistic discourses of sustainable consumption which align sustainable living with the maintenance of family life.
Moments of Change—Opportunities for moving to more sustainable consumption? | Working Paper No 7
The idea that lifecourse transitions might offer ‘moments of change’ in which to encourage more sustainable consumption is popular, yet insights from the sociological literature on lifecourse transitions have rarely been brought to bear on this assumption. This paper focuses on two distinct lifecourse transitions - becoming a mother and retirement – and through qualitative longitudinal research evaluates the assumption that such periods provide opportunities for movement to more sustainable consumption.
Broken promises—the engine of consumerism | Blog by Tim Jackson
Does consumerism thrive on our discontentment? Tim Jackson argues yes, the success of consumer society lies not in meeting our needs but in its spectacular ability to repeatedly disappoint us. This may seem dark, but from here we can understand why consumerism must eventually fall – and how to replace it.
Local Action for Sustainable Prosperity | Seminar w Joan Walley, 19 Oct 2017
How, at a time of rising inequalities and austerity, can action for sustainable prosperity be galvanised at the local level? how do we create awareness amongst the public and their elected representatives of the environmental and social challenges facing us? Former MP of Stoke-on-Trent and chairwoman of the Aldersgate Group Joan Walley is sharing her insights.
Social Limits to Growth—Implications for Sustainable Prosperity | APPG Evening Debate, 13 Nov 2017
This Autumn, CUSP and the APPG on Limits to Growth will be hosting a debate to mark the 40th Anniversary of Fred Hirsch’s ‘The Social Limits to Growth’. Join us for this timely House of Commons discussion on Hirsch’s challenging analysis and its relevance today.
Young Lives in Seven Cities—A scoping study for the CYCLES project | Working Paper No 6
How do young people see the world? What are their hopes and aspirations for the future? What does the ‘good life’ mean for them in an age of environmental and social limits? These are some of the questions that motivate the CYCLES project which we are launching with this report.
More Fun Less Stuff? Exploring Young People’s Everyday Consumption | A research log
The question of whether it is possible to live better by consuming less is a central one for CUSP. In order to answer this we need a rich understanding of the meanings that ‘stuff’ has in our lives. In this research log, Kate Burningham and colleagues offer insights into their analytical work in progress, summarising initial observations from a recent qualitative interview project with ten 18-22 year olds.
Call for Papers — Cultural Trends Special Issue: After the Creative Economy
CUSP researchers Kate Oakley and Jonathan Ward are guest editors of an upcoming edition of Cultural Trends. In exploring how the idea of the creative economy persists since the 1980s, papers are invited that engage with the topic on a social, political, economic and/or organisational level.
From Economic Growth to Growth in Wellbeing | Resurgence Festival w Tim Jackson, 23 Sept 2017
The Resurgence & Ecologist magazine, Britain’s flagship green magazine, is hosting its fifth Festival of Wellbeing on 23 Sept 2017. The event will raise money for The Resurgence Trust and features CUSP Director Tim Jackson in conversation with Satish Kumar.
Young lives in seven cities | CYCLES project launch, 19 Sept 2017
How do young people see the world? What are their hopes and aspirations for the future? What does the ‘good life’ mean for them in an age of environmental and social limits? These are some of the questions that motivate the CYCLES project which we are delighted to launch. This event marks the launch of the project and the publication of the study’s first background city report.
Stoke, the City of Culture? | Blog by Jonathan Ward
Stoke-On-Trent has set itself an ambitious task with its bid for UK City of Culture 2021. Should it be awarded the promising title then it will face a number of competing priorities and tensions, Jonathan Ward comments on the recent shortlisting, and the city should take it seriously.
What makes for a good life in Stoke-On-Trent? | A Workshop Report
This report presents a summary of a workshop we held in Stoke-on-Trent in May of this year. The emphasis in the workshop was to encourage discussions around identifying existing assets within the city, and to consider what would make Stoke-on-Trent a better place to live.
The challenge of stuff | Sue Venn presenting CUSP paper at #BSG17
Excessive focus on acquiring material goods is not only environmentally damaging but also associated with lower individual wellbeing. In this paper we focus on the transition to retirement as a period when people may reflect on the possessions they have, those they want to acquire and those they want to dispose of.
More fun with less stuff? CUSP researcher Amy Isham is putting ‘Flow’ to the test
CUSP researcher Amy Isham to present CUSP paper at 4th Annual BrEPS Conference, introducing her research into 'flow' activities as an environmentally friendly route to enhanced well-being.
Learning to Thrive | Innovation Unit event with Tim Jackson, London 28 June
What does it really mean to thrive in today’s world, and what are the key ingredients of a good society that works for everyone? Tim Jackson discussing solutions at evening event co-hosted by Innovation Unit, Webb Memorial Trust and Compass.
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 Politics of Sustainable Prosperity | Research Workshop – Keele, 11 July 2017
In times of climate change, overconsumption, and ecological collapse, we must re-think the meaning of prosperity: What is needed are new visions of environmentally sustainable, yet still flourishing societies. This research workshop considers the political foundations of such societies.
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.
Thriving beyond Surviving | Seminar with Maja Göpel and Katherine Trebeck, 15 May 2017
Sustainable development is the 21st Century’s wicked problem. The design of our economies and the principles of our economics have taken us to an extreme, unsustainable and unjust point. It’s widely recognised that system change is badly needed. But what does such large scale transformation actually mean? And how do we put it into practice?
The political nature of sustainable prosperity | Panel session w Joan Walley and Fanny Broholm
Video now available +++ How can we build a political consensus for sustainability that is inclusive and fair? How do research and practice move beyond the divisive nature of ‘post-truth’ populism? As part of the 2017 Nexus conference, CUSP was hosting a breakout session with Kate Burningham, Fanny Broholm, Phil Catney, Will Davies and Joan Walley.
Recovering the Social | BSA Annual Conference 2017 with Kate Burningham and Sue Venn
In the light of a rising culture of hyper-individualism and denigration of the role of the social, the broad theme of the conference will consider how research might explore and challenge misrepresentations of the relationship between the personal and the public realm.
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.