A glossary of useful terms for me during this year. If you think disagree with any of my definitions or you come across any word in this website which meaning is unclear, please tell me so in the forum and I will correct or add to the glossary.
An anti-boycott, counter-boycott or buycott is the excess buying of a particular brand or product in an attempt to counter a boycott of the same brand or product.
A famous example was the “Buy Danish” campaign in 2006, to counteract the effects of the boycott on Danish products in the Middle East, following the caricatures of Mohamed published in the Danish press.
Degrowth (in French: décroissance, in Spanish: decrecimiento, in Italian: decrescita, in Catalan: decreixement), is a political, economic, and social movement based on ecological economics, anti-consumerist and anti-capitalist ideas. Degrowth thinkers and activists advocate for the downscaling of production and consumption—the contraction of economies—arguing that overconsumption lies at the root of long term environmental issues and social inequalities. Key to the concept of degrowth is that reducing consumption does not require individual martyring or a decrease in well-being. Rather, 'degrowthists' aim to maximize happiness and well-being through non-consumptive means—sharing work, consuming less, while devoting more time to art, music, family, culture and community.
Downshifting is a social behaviour or trend in which individuals live simpler lives to escape from the “rat race” of obsessive materialism and to reduce the “stress, overtime, and psychological expense that may accompany it” (Michelle Nelson 2007). People downshifting usually try to find a better work/leisure balance, focusing on life goals, personal fulfilment and building relationships instead of the all-consuming pursuit of economic success.
In economic and environmental fields, decoupling is becoming increasingly used in the context of economic production and environmental quality. When used in this way, it refers to the ability of an economy to grow without corresponding increases in environmental pressure. An economy that is able to sustain GDP growth without having a negative impact on environmental conditions, is said to be decoupled.
The Gini coefficient (sometimes expressed as a Gini ratio or a normalized Gini index) measures the inequality among values of a frequency distribution (most often, levels of income), and is the most common measure of inequality. It was developed by the Italian statistician and sociologist Corrado Gini and published in his 1912 paper Variability and Mutability.
A Gini coefficient of zero expresses perfect equality, where all values are the same (for example, where everyone has the same income). A Gini coefficient of 1 (or 100%) expresses maximal inequality among values (e.g., for a large number of people, where only one person has all the income or consumption, and all others have none).
Neoliberalism (or neo-liberalism) is a term which has been used since the 1950s, but became more prevalent in its current meaning in the 1970s and 80s. The term refers to the resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. Its advocates support extensive economic liberalisation policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy. Neoliberalism is most commonly associated with the economic policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States.
Coined by the American sociologist Juliet Schor in Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth (2010), Plenitude is an economic model in line with the theories of degrowth and sustainability. Focused on American society, Schor advocates for four changes to the United States’ current economic model:
- A reduction in work hours to reduce the stress associated with current work conditions
- The redeployment of these hours into “self-provision”, the act of growing and making things one needs to be less dependent on markets.
- “True materialism,” an environmentally aware approach to consumption.
- Community and human connection building.
The aim of the plenitude economy is to “work and spend less, create and connect more. In turn [these changes] yield ecological benefits—emitting and degrading less—and human ones—enjoyment and thriving more.”
POST GROWTH ECONOMY
Post-growth is an umbrella term to describe a range of futures where economic growth is no longer at the centre of society.
The term “post-growth” acknowledges that economic growth can generate beneficial effects up to a point but beyond that, it is necessary to look for other indicators and techniques to increase wellbeing.
Unlike steady-state economics and degrowth, post-growth does not specify the answer to the limits-to-growth challenge but rather seeks to understand and address this challenge from a complex systems perspective that is constantly evolving. Post-growth deals with all aspects of self and society (such as psychology, human nature, human evolution, cultures, social systems and economies) and their interactions. Post-growth solutions are also relative to place, time and cultures.
The postindustrial society is marked by a shift from a manufacturing-focused to service-based economy. The term was coined by American sociologist Daniel Bell in 1973 in his book The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting.
According to Bell, there exists three stages of economic progress defined by which sector of the economy has the largest workforce:
1. Pre-industrial : agricultural-based economy
2. Industrial: manufacturing-based economy
3. Post-industrial: service-based economy
More specifically, the characteristics he attributes to a postindustrial society are as follow:
- Atransition from the production of goods to the production of services, with very few firms directly manufacturing any goods.
- The replacement of blue-collar manual labourers with technical and professional workers.
- The replacement of practical knowledge with theoretical knowledge.
- Greater attention being paid to the theoretical and ethical implications of new technologies, which helps society avoid some of the negative features of introducing new technologies, such as environmental accidents and massive widespread power outages.
- The development of newer scientific disciplines—such as those that involve new forms of information technology, cybernetics, or artificial intelligence—to assess the theoretical and ethical implications of new technologies.
N.B. – On this website, I have used “postindustrial” to mean the model of a society that comes after the industrial phase; i.e. a society focused on production. As David Bell himself noted, in the “postindustrial” society, industry and manufacturing still exist, simply they have been outsourced to an industrial society. In a global perspective I find this definition of postindustrial a little misleading and I have chosen (for now) to define the term by its literal chronological meaning (post-industrial: what comes after the industrial society). This meaning may be closer to what is defined as the Post-growth Economy. I may start using this term from now on.
A steady-state economy is an economy with stable or mildly fluctuating size. The term typically refers to a national economy, but it can also be applied to a local, regional, or global economy.
Though Adam Smith was the first to put forward the concept of a stationary state of an economy (Smith conjectured that any national economy in the world would sooner or later settle in a final state of stationarity), the term of steady-state economy is more often associated to Herman Daly, one of the founders of the field of ecological economics in the 1970s and a leading critic of neoclassical growth theory. He defines a steady state economy as:
“An economy with constant stocks of people and artefacts, maintained at some desired, sufficient levels by low rates of maintenance ‘throughput’, that is, by the lowest feasible flows of matter and energy from the first stage of production to the last stage of consumption.”
The theory of steady-state economy has re-emerged in the last few years due to the growing concern that the global economy is oversized for the natural environment in which it evolves (Earth).
Furthermore, according to steady-state economic theory, since continuous growth and sustainable scale are incompatible, growth cannot be relied upon to fully eradicate poverty. If the total wealth of the economy is not increasing, then “fair” distribution is necessary to alleviate poverty.