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Title: Measuring progress towards a socially sustainable steady state economy
Author: O'Neill, Daniel W.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2746 0314
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2012
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Within this thesis, I investigate how progress towards a socially sustainable steady state economy could be measured at the national scale. Following a review of four possible approaches, I suggest that separate biophysical and social indicators represent the best approach, but that a unifying conceptual framework is required to choose appropriate indicators and interpret the relationships between them. I propose a framework based on ends and means, and a set of bio- physical and social indicators within this framework. The biophysical indicators are derived from Herman Daly's definition of a steady state economy, and measure the major stocks and flows in the economy-environment system. The social indicators are based on the stated goals of the degrowth moment, and measure the functioning of the socio-economic system, and how effectively it delivers human well-being. I use these indicators to measure how close -180 countries are to the idea of a steady state economy over a ten-year time period (1997-2007), and explore whether there is any relationship between a country's proximity to such an economy and its overall social performance. I find that the majority of countries ~ the world are biophysical growth economies, although a small number of countries achieve biophysical stability over the analysis period (e.g. Denmark, France, Japan, Poland, Romania, and the United States). In general, I find that countries with stable stocks and flows perform better on social indicators than countries with either growing or de growing stocks and flows. However, I also find that social performance is higher in countries with greater per capita resource use. Taken together, these findings suggest that while a biophysically stable economy may be socially sustainable, the level of resource use required for a "good life" may be too high to extend to all people on the planet without surpassing ecological limits.
Supervisor: Foxton, Tim ; Steinberger, Julia ; Victor, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available