System Dynamics 51 posts

Achieving a sustainable prosperity requires compelling social narratives and robust economic models to deliver them. We collate and synthesise promising narratives of the good life and models of enterprise and investment from across the CUSP portfolio. Our research explores the economic, social and environmental implications of these models and narratives. Using a suite of system dynamic models developed by the team, we examine the macroeconomics of a ‘post-growth’ economy and test its resilience with respect to employment, social equity and financial stability. We also examine the role of good work in delivering sustainable prosperity. For further details, please see our theme page.

Other themes: Philosophy | Arts | Politics | Society | Economy | Finance
LowGrow SFC: An ecological macroeconomic simulation model by Tim Jackson and Peter Victor
System dynamics model by Tim Jackson and Peter Victor, developing low carbon and sustainable prosperity scenarios for the Canadian economy out to 2067. The scenarios are not predictions of what will happen, but an exploration of possibilities. Interested readers can explore the implications for themselves in the online beta version of the model.
CUSP shortlisted for 2018 ICAEW/A4S Finance For The Future Award
The finalists for Finance for the Future Awards 2018 have been announced by the founding organisations, ICAEW and A4S, and their partner Deloitte. CUSP was shortlisted in the Driving Change Through Education, Training and Academia award, which recognises the contribution of individuals, organisations or partnerships in driving action towards integrating sustainability through education, training and academia. Now in its seventh year, the awards ceremony will take place on 16 October 2018.
The Political Economy of Capitalism | INET workshop w Simon Mair, 27 August 2018
CUSP researcher Simon Mair will be presenting research at the forthcoming INET workshop on Political Economy of Capitalism. Titled ‘Capital and Environmental Crisis: insights from Adam Smith’, the paper sets out to explain two stylised facts of the modern economy: that the economy is becoming more energy efficient but economic growth is still tightly coupled to energy use, and that at a global scale different energy carriers are complements not substitutes.
Dialogues in Turbulent Times | CUSP at 2018 International Degrowth Conference, Malmö, 21-25 Aug
CUSP researchers Simon Mair, Ben Gallant and Ellen Stenslie will be presenting papers at the 6th International Degrowth Conference for ecological sustainability and social equity in Malmö. Apart from being a space for scholarly debates, degrowth conferences aim at promoting cooperation of various groups in the development of scientific, social and political proposals towards ecologically sustainable and socially just transformation.
A review of EROEI-dynamics energy-transition models | Journal Paper by Craig Rye and Tim Jackson
The need for an environmentally sustainable economy is indisputable but our understanding of the energy-economy interactions (dynamics) that will occur during the transition is insufficient. This raises fascinating questions on the future of economic growth, energy technology mix and energy availability.
Growth for the sake of growth | Guest blog by Federico Demaria
“Growth for the sake of growth” remains the credo of governments and international institutions, Federico Demaria finds. The time is ripe, he argues, not only for a scientific degrowth research agenda, but also for a political one. (This article is a transcript of Federico’s address to the European Commission, in preparation of the 2018 Post-Growth conference at the EU Parliament, 18-19 Sept 2018.)
Beyond 5%: why autonomy matters for workers’ wellbeing | Blog by Simon Mair
A recent trial of 4 day week in New Zealand inspired a 5% increase in life satisfaction. As celebrated as the results are, such measures are unlikely to contribute sufficiently towards more sustainable economies, Simon Mair argues, reflecting on the limits of such reforms within our current system. He wonders what it might take to get beyond 5% to something more utopian.
Understanding the ‘New Normal’—The Challenge of Secular Stagnation | An Economy That Works, Briefing Paper No 1
This first in our series of briefing papers on building An Economy That Works explores the underlying phenomenon of ‘secular stagnation’ – a long-term decline in the rate of growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The paper examines the evidence, explores the causes and discusses the implications of what some now call the ‘new normal’.
Rebound Mitigation — Environmental policy making in the context of rebound effects | Seminar w David F Vivanco, 19 July 2018
In this talk, David will introduce preliminary results of the Effective environmental policies in Europe in the context of rebound effects (EFFECT) project, which aims at developing an innovative analytical framework for capturing rebound effects.
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.
Economic Theory for the Anthropocene | Workshop w Ioana Negru and Gaël Giraud, 3 July 2018
In the 10 years since the financial crisis, heterodox theories of the economy have flourished. On 3 July 2018, as part of a workshop, CUSP and the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Surrey are pleased to invite you to two talks by leading economists in the field.
Against all odds? Modelling the low-carbon transition | Blog by Martin Sers
Can renewable energy supply grow rapidly enough to both, cover societies growing energy needs and displace fossil fuel use sufficiently to keep carbon emissions below some “safe” level? — the leading question of a recent CUSP paper in Ecological Economics. In this blog, Martin Sers is summarising the findings.
‘Secular stagnation’ meets the ‘GDP fetish’ | Blog by Tim Jackson
Tim Jackson introduces his new CUSP working paper ‘The Post-Growth Challenge’, in which he discusses the state of advanced economies ten years after the crisis. Our attempts to prop up an ailing capitalism have increased inequality, hindered ecological innovation and undermined stability, he argues.
The Post-Growth Challenge — Secular Stagnation, Inequality and the Limits to Growth | Working Paper No 12
Sluggish recovery in the wake of the financial crisis has revived discussion of a ‘secular stagnation’. These conditions have been blamed for rising inequality and political instability. Tim Jackson contests this view, pointing instead to a steadfast refusal to address the ‘post-growth challenge’.
The Energy-Emissions Trap | Journal Paper by Martin Sers and Peter Victor
The requirement to reduce emissions to avoid potentially dangerous climate change implies a dilemma for societies heavily dependent on fossil fuels. As renewable capacity requires energy to construct there is an initial fossil fuel cost to creating new renewable capacity. An insufficiently rapid transition to renewables, it turns out, will imply a scenario in which it is impossible to avoid either transgressing emissions ceilings or facing energy shortages.
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.
Confronting inequality: basic income and the right to work | Blog by Tim Jackson
Ten years after the financial crisis, inequality in advanced economies is still rising. Tim Jackson presents the findings of a new CUSP working paper to explore potential solutions.
Confronting inequality in a post-growth world – Basic income, factor substitution and the future of work | Working Paper No 11
Piketty argued that slow growth rates inevitably lead to rising inequality. If true, this hypothesis would pose serious challenges for a ‘post-growth’ society. Fiscal responses to this dilemma include Piketty’s own suggestion to tax capital assets and more recent suggestions to provide a universal basic income that would allow even the poorest in society to meet basic needs.
System Error | New documentary w Tim Jackson investigating the paradigm of ‘economic growth’
Why are we so obsessed with economic growth, knowing that it has devastating effects on our finite planet (and ultimately us)? SYSTEM ERROR looks for answers to this principal contradiction of our time and considers global capitalism from the perspective of those who run it.
A Theory of Change Approach for Measuring Economic Welfare Beyond GDP | Working Paper No 10
It is widely acknowledged that GDP is not a suitable measure of economic welfare. In this paper, Simon Mair, Christine Corlet Walker and Angela Druckman propose a novel framework for indicator development: the ‘Theory of Change’ approach — a causal model approach in which the relationships between system inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes of the economy are explicitly articulated, and can be used to identify theoretically sound indicators for economic welfare.
Complexity in the global agricultural system | Roberto Pasqualino presenting his latest CUSP/GSI work at Agri World 2018
The complexity of the global agricultural system is a tremendous barrier to the understanding of the impact that policies and business decisions may have on society at both global and national levels. CUSP research fellow Roberto Pasqualino will be presenting the latest work on his world system computer model, testing both climate and policy shocks to assess their possible outcomes and risks in the medium to long term future.
Closing the Gaps Between Finance and Sustainability | FINEXUS conference w Sarah Hafner and Roberto Pasqualino
This three-day conference bridges academic research, industry and policy expertise. Practitioner sessions present success stories from leading experts and discuss how the insights from research could help to address the challenges faced by the financial industry and by policy makers.
The Social Effects of Global Trade | New book w chapter by Simon Mair, Angela Druckman and Tim Jackson
As part of a new compilation of groundbreaking work on social indicators, Simon Mair, Angela Druckman and Tim Jackson have contributed a chapter examining how globalisation since 1990 has shaped fairness in the Western European clothing supply chain.
In Defence of Degrowth — A Comment by Simon Mair
The concept of 'degrowth' is politically infeasible, according to a recent article by Branko Milanović. In this blog, Simon Mair argues that ‘degrowth’ is no less unrealistic than the alternatives.
World development within Planetary Boundaries | Lecture with Johan Rockström
The advent of the Anthropocene, the scientific recognition of the remarkably stable state of the Earth system during the Holocene Inter-glacial, the rising evidence of global risks of crossing Earth tipping points and the signs of a gradual decline in Earth resilience, constitute overwhelming evidence for the need of a deep mind-shift. In his lecture, Johan Rockström presents his science of sustainability.
A fair days wage for a fair days work? | Blog by Simon Mair
The people who make our clothes are paid very low wages. We instinctively feel that this is unfair, but it can be hard to articulate why this is. Even harder, is saying what can be done about it. Summarising his recent journal article with Tim Jackson and Angela Druckman, Simon Mair uses the living wage as a basis for claims about fairness, and discuss regional collective bargaining as a solution to unfair wages.
The future of jobs: is decent work for all a pipe dream? | Blog by Tim Jackson
Rapid developments in technology and unpredictable economies are destabilising employment as we know it. What are the possible solutions? It’s not the demand for human labour that is disappearing, Tim Jackson argues, but the institutions and economics to deliver it.
Chasing good work – reflections on The Taylor Review | By Simon Mair and Agni Dikaiou
One of the achievements of the recent Taylor review has been to breathe new life into the UK debate on good work. Going forward, this debate has to consider work in its wider social context, Simon Mair and Agni Dikaiou find; we have to think about Good Work not just as end in itself, but as a part of other systemic challenges. 
Ecological Economics in action | CUSP paper presentations at ESEE 2017 Conference Budapest
CUSP researches Agni Dikaiou, Sarah Hafner, Simon Mair and Craig Rye to give paper presentations at the 2017 Annual Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics, introducing their CUSP projects to the international ESEE community.
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?
Seriously Modelling what Matters | UKSD 2017 Annual Conference with Aled Jones
This is the 60th anniversary of the founding of System Dynamics by Jay Forrester, who died in November 2016, leaving behind a unique and precious legacy. This conference in his honour covers contemporary examples of the classic themes he first developed.
Integrating Health and Environment | NCSE conference with Tim Jackson
CUSP Director Prof Tim Jackson has been invited to give a keynote presentation at the 17th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment in Washington, D.C.. The event is hosted by The National Council for Science and the Environments.
On the use of instability indicators in exploring inter-decadal GDP variability | Working Paper No 4
This paper explores the use of instability indicators developed in statistical physics to analyse the stability of the GDP within national longitudinal datasets. From our early results it is suggested that they may provide invaluable insights into the inter-decadal dynamics of the macro-economy, providing potentially useful insights into (e.g.) the nature of the business cycle, secular stagnation and the restoring forces of the economy.
Indicators for sustainable prosperity? Challenges and potentials for indicator use in political processes | Working Paper No 3
The use of quantified indicators for the implementation and measurement of social progress is a well-established policy tool. However, any form of ‘social progress’ is inherently contested and a meaningful application of indicators in such contexts poses numerous challenges. In this paper we explore how indicators might be used to research and implement sustainable prosperity.
Spending time in a low carbon society | RSC event w/ Angela Druckman
Prof Angela Druckman to give a presentation on the embeddedness of carbon in UK lifestyles, at the The Royal Society of Chemistry, 13 October 2016, 6-8pm
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).
Measuring Prosperity? | Blog by Simon Mair
Barclay’s prosperity map has a very limited view of prosperity, focused almost entirely on financial wealth. Yet media reports have been entirely uncritical. We argue that this shows the power and dangers of measuring prosperity.