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Consumerism and the Growth Economy (ENST90019)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeENST90019
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This interdisciplinary course focuses on theoretical, empirical, and policy issues surrounding the core ideas of consumerism, economic growth, and sustainability. Drawing on sociology, psychology, ecology, normative ethics, economics, and politics, students will critically engage questions about why people consume, how consumption and economic growth impact on the environment, and what influence institutions and public policy have, or could have, on consumption patterns in society. Attention will also be given to counter-cultural ‘alternatives’ to consumerism and the growth economy, such as the voluntary simplicity movement, transition towns, and the steady-state economy. By providing interdisciplinary perspectives on these and other issues, the aim is to enable students to recognise the complex relationship between consumption, growth, and sustainability, and to develop the skills needed to effectively confront the various social, ecological, economic, and political issues raised by consumerism and growth in today’s world.

Topics include:

  • What is Sustainable Consumption?
  • Cheap Energy and the Origins of Consumerism.
  • An Early Critique: The Case of Henry Thoreau.
  • The Income-Happiness Paradox: Is More Always Better?
  • Consumption, Growth and Externalities: Where Economy Meets Ecology.
  • Stuff is Not Just Stuff: Consumption as Meaning and Identity.
  • The Political Economy of Consumption: The Growth Paradigm.
  • Resisting Consumerism: Voluntary Simplicity and Transition Towns.
  • Examining Structure: Willing Consumers or Locked In?
  • Policies for Sustainable Consumption.
  • Policies for Post-Growth Economics.
  • Beyond Consumerism and the Growth Paradigm.

Intended learning outcomes

  • Gain advanced analytical skills related to contemporary environmental issues.
  • Become familiar with current debates in contemporary environmental issues.
  • Expand their knowledge of environmental theories.
  • Research an individual topic in the specialised area of study of this subject.

Generic skills

  • Independent research on topics relevant to the subject.
  • Participate successfully in group discussions.
  • Further develop their critical thinking though readings, class discussions, collaboration and assessment.
  • Further develop analytical approaches and knowledge in contemporary environmental issues.

Last updated: 16 August 2019