University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

A tale of two utopias: Work in a post-growth world

Mair, Simon, Druckman, Angela and Jackson, Tim (2020) A tale of two utopias: Work in a post-growth world Ecological Economics, 173, 106653.

1-s2.0-S092180091930415X-main.pdf - Version of Record
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (987kB) | Preview


In this paper, we aim to contribute to the literature on post-growth futures. Modern imaginings of the future are constrained by the assumptions of growth-based capitalism. To escape these assumptions we turn to utopian fiction. We explore depictions of work in Cokaygne, a utopian tradition dating back to the 12th century, and William Morris's 19th century News from Nowhere. Cokaygne is a land of excessive consumption without work, while in News from Nowhere work is the route to the good life. These competing notions provide inspiration for a post-growth vision of work. We argue that biophysical and social dynamics mean that in a post-growth economy we are likely to have to be less productive and work more. But, this can be a utopian vision. By breaking the link between work and consumption at the level of the individual, we can remove some of the coercion in work. This would free us to do jobs that contribute to the social good, rather than generate exchange value, and empower us to fight for good work. Finally, we draw on eco-feminist analyses of capitalism to argue that by challenging labour productivity growth we can also challenge wider forces of oppression.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences > Centre for Environment and Sustainability
Authors :
Date : 21 March 2020
Funders : ESRC
DOI : 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106653
Grant Title : Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2020 university of surrey. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Uncontrolled Keywords : Utopia Post-growth Environmentalism Environmental limits Work Employment Futures Post-work Post-capitalism Feminism
Depositing User : James Marshall
Date Deposited : 24 Mar 2020 16:57
Last Modified : 25 Mar 2020 09:46

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800