The politics of the post-GDP agenda: Progress beyond growth?

Chris Holmes | David Yarrow

EMES Conferences Selected Papers Series, ECSP-P16-24

In this paper, we examine the politics of recent attempts to move beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the primary measure of economic progress. After outlining the key tenets of this “post-GDP agenda”, we reflect on the relationship between it and other iterations of thought which seek to challenge the centrality of economic growth to dominant conceptions of political economy.

We argue that many of these other iterations see the challenge to growth as going hand in hand with a broader critique of the measurement of society and environment in market terms. This raises the question of how far initiatives undertaken under the post-GDP banner adopt or draw upon this broader critique. We go some way toward answering this question by examining two different approaches taken to post-GDP statistical reform: those which seek to change conceptions of economic value through the modification of national economic accounts, and those which seek to supplement GDP with other measurements such as subjectively reported wellbeing, access to education, leisure time etc.

We demonstrate that, while these all pose distinctive challenges for the market view of society, the methodologies through which they have been articulated in fact often fall back on and re-inscribe a conception of economic value as dependent on price forming markets, and reify a set of institutional arrangements associated with market society.

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