Society 41 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.

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.
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.
Connecting Societies and Cultures | Discoveries on your Doorstep evening with Kate Burningham
CUSP Deputy Director Kate Burningham will give a presentation at the second event in Surrey's Discoveries on your Doorstep series, with the theme this time on Connecting Societies and Cultures. Kate will draw on ongoing research which we are conducting in Stoke-on Trent.
Survey: Values and Everyday Experiences
Take part in our study to understand how people's values may impact upon their everyday experiences and feelings. The results will help inform research and interventions looking at how a change in values may allow for more positive experiences and improved well-being.
Beyond Consumer Capitalism – Foundations for a Sustainable Prosperity | Working Paper No 2
This paper explores the ramifications of the combined crises now faced by the prevailing growth-based model of economics. In paying a particular attention to the nature of enterprise, the quality of work, the structure of investment and the role of money, the paper develops the conceptual basis for social innovation in each of these areas, and provides empirical examples of such innovations.
Understanding Sustainable Prosperity – Towards a transdisciplinary research agenda | Working Paper No 1
Understanding sustainable prosperity is an essential but complex task. It implies an ongoing multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary research agenda. This working paper sets out the dimensions of this task. In doing so it also establishes the foundations for the research of the ESRC-funded Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP).
Intergenerational learning: making the SDGs work | Blog by Sue Venn
The Agenda 2030 forms an ambitious set of long-run goals. Yet, for those most affected, the year 2030 seems like a very long time in the future. How can we make the most of it and involve kids in the SDGs task, Sue Venn asks, reflecting on her participation at a recent Global Goals conference at Ken Stimpson Community School.
The Global Goals | School Conference w/ Dr Sue Venn
In this one day school conference, 160 students between the ages of 13-14 are challenged to learn, discuss and create as global citizens methods for the UK to meet the SDGs; in due course designing solutions. Dr Sue Venn is attending the conference to help the students with developing and articulating their ideas.
Doing family and sustainability | New paper by Kate Burningham and Sue Venn
Kate Burningham to present new paper at 5th International CRFR conference in Edinburgh, 14 June 2016. It argues for the development of more relational and positive discourses of sustainable consumption which align sustainable living with the creation and maintenance of family life.
Constructing and mobilising ‘the consumer’ | Seminar w/ David Evans
With a focus on the politics of food waste reduction in the UK, this seminar considers how responses to sustainability challenges are mediated by the real and discursive figure of the responsible consumer.
Social and psychological understandings of the good life | Blog by Kate Burningham
What does the ‘good life’ actually mean to people and how are their visions and aspirations informed by aspects of their social, economic and environmental situation? In this blog, co-investigator Kate Burningham explains how CUSP is approaching research into the social and psychological understandings of the good life.