We can’t allow growth to continue forever, simply because the Earth is finite. But can we stop it? And if so how? And anyway, growth of what?
Not only do many people agree we need to change our economic system, many are already doing really good things, like forming cooperatives or firms with a social purpose, promoting repair and recycling, growing healthy local food, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and so on. But all these good efforts struggle against the ever-rising tide of ‘growth’. What if our economic system supported the good things instead of subverting them? Could that be possible?
Prior to the twentieth century, science had built up a picture of the universe as a giant clockwork. Starting with an investigation of mechanics by Galileo, a series of “laws” had been inferred, and these laws were extremely successful in describing the physical world. It seemed that the world had been reduced to causes and effects that were precisely known, and therefore it would tick inexorably along according to those laws. This view was very discomforting to philosophers and theologians, among others, because it seemed to eliminate free will, and to imply that our fates were all sealed at the beginning of time. The neoclassical theory of free markets is firmly of the clockwork universe kind.
However science underwent three revolutions during the twentieth century, revolutions that profoundly changed scientists’ views of the universe.