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Growth: A Social Ideal and its Ecological Limits


This course is earmarked for PTLJ, PPD, NP


The organic metaphor of growth has been central to modern social, political, and economic thought. Although traditionally associated with progress, the quest for growth has nevertheless been far from wholly benign. Today we confront environmental degradation and a climate crisis driven by unsustainable forms of growth. If the pursuit of more has been disastrous for the environment, must the ideal of growth itself be abandoned to save the planet? Can we in fact disband with growth? And what sorts of far-ranging effects might follow from letting it go? This class examines the history of the idea of growth and its many afterlives. It begins with the concept’s biological and theological underpinnings. The course then traces the growing centrality of growth to modern social, political, and economic thought. Finally, the seminar complicates assumptions about the possibility and desirability of growth by examining contemporary de-growth and post-growth critiques.

Course objectives

This course aims to understand the emergence of the ideal of growth alongside the ecological damage that growth has wrought. By putting earlier appeals to growth in conversation with newly emergent literatures troubling it, the class offers students a broader theoretical lens through which to analyze and situate environmental concerns today.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Participation: 20%
Seminar presentation: 20%
Research Paper: 60%

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

Reading list

The booktitles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where it can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand.


See 'Practical Information'.


See 'MyTimetable'.