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Herman Daly, Benjamin Kunkel et al., Ecologies of Scale, NLR 109, January-February 2018.pdf

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If fidelity togdpgrowth amounts to the religion of the modern world, thenHerman Daly surely counts as a leading heretic. Arguably the preeminent fig-ure in ecological economics, a field he did much to establish, and the authorin his many works of perhaps the most fundamental and eloquently logicalcase against endless economic growth yet produced, Daly was born in 1938,in Houston, Texas. Then and now the headquarters of theusoil industryand epitome, after World War II, of unplanned urban sprawl, Houston fellvictim in summer 2017 to Hurricane Harvey. The lumbering storm, bred onthe climate-changed waters of the Gulf of Mexico, doused the city’s built-overwetlands and tangle of freeways in fifty inches of rain, at a cost of scores oflives and tens of billions of dollars. Prophets can’t expect hometown honours,but Houston in particular, among American cities, has flouted Daly’s warn-ings against what he calls ‘growthmania’ or, more neutrally, ‘growthism’.The irony—the heretic hailing from the citadel—took some time to ripen, asDaly explains below. Once he perceived that economic growth could not longcontinue without forfeiting its ecological basis and moral justification, heachieved a series of breakthroughs.Steady-State Economics(1977) rivalsKeynes’s programme of full employment or Hayek’s free-market catallaxy inits visionary force, while exceeding either of these in the scale of its implica-tions. But this was only so much abstract reasoning. Recognizing thatgdpcould not be displaced as a measure of social well-being and progress withoutsome equally empirical alternative, Daly in 1989 proposed, in collaborationwith the Whiteheadean philosopher John Cobb, an Index of SustainableHuman Welfare to assess the wealth of nations. More recently, he has insistedon the theoretical possibility and historical actuality of ‘uneconomic growth’,which ‘occurs when increases in production come at an expense in resourcesand well-being that is worth more than the items made’. The world today isfaced with a pair of contradictory terrors: the economic fear that growth willsoon come to an end, and the ecological fear that it will not. Daly has con-ceived a form of society removed from this perplex, though not any historicaldynamic that would clear the path to it.INTRODUCTION TO DALYbenjamin kunkel
new left review 109jan feb 201881herman dalyECOLOGIES OF SCALEInterview by Benjamin KunkelMay I start by asking about your background—your upbringing and generalformation. Did your parents care much about politics? Were there any influ-ences that contributed to your ideas on ecology and economics?Iwas born and raisedin Houston, Texas. My father had a littlehardware store—he’d had to quit school around the eighth grade,at the start of the Great Depression. My mother had worked as asecretary, but the boss insisted she leave when she was pregnantwith me; this was 1938. It was hard to make a profit from running a

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Term
Fall
Professor
JunShen
Tags
Economics, Herman Daly

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