Less Is More
This aptly named work by Jason Hickel carries a powerful message — or rather, a series of messages. The academic papers that Jason normally produces are admirably short, to the point and oft published in peer-reviewed journals.
This work, however, is an expansion of his themes — initially prompting this reviewer to fear that more might be less. But that is not how this book will strike the minds of readers unfamiliar with his remarkably frequent and incisive outputs. And for those already partly engaged, Less Is More will go a long way to unpacking his recent Twitter observation quoting Silvia Federici:
“Capitalism will always be racist and sexist because it has to mystify its core contradiction — the promise of prosperity vs the reality of widespread poverty — by denigrating the ‘nature’ of those it exploits: colonial subjects, women and the dispossessed.”
Jason’s journey to the production of this book started with questions that arose a decade ago. The prevailing assumptions that were inadequately questioned (or not really questioned at all) at that time have returned to haunt us during the current pandemic, but now with an even greater focus on our planet’s future.
The short, sharp, papers — the visible indicators of Jason’s train of thought — turn out to have been merely uncontainable by-products of Jason’s journey to ‘Less Is More’. Surely, they were but gems discovered along the way. Students will find the book’s End Notes valuable references for essential reading — and not just for those studying economics or politics. These are messages that need to be absorbed in all walks of life, in all understandings by all shades and creeds of humanity.
The book has two main parts.
Part 1, ‘More Is Less’, provides the oft forgotten (or determinedly denied) history and generally unquestioned assumptions about capitalism. These three chapters set the sorry scene and fuel the increasingly urgent need for widespread re-education.
Part two, ‘Less Is More’, probes pathways towards recovery from the almost universal addiction to endless economic growth — growthism. Jason navigates routes towards the reclaiming of ‘the common’ and explores how societies (and the planet) can flourish without that ideological constraint. Jason’s five rule/assumption-changing steps illustrate pathways to a post-capitalist world, reviving Keynesian thinking about jobs and exposing the knee-jerk presumption that ‘degrowth’ might lead to scarcities whereas, in reality, capitalist economies and all their disbenefits are sustained by artificially creating them.
For once, the quoted commendation on the cover is so very true: ‘A powerfully disruptive book for disrupted times’ — Kate Raworth. Like so many others before, Jason may have hesitated on this road — not daring perhaps to espouse degrowth. That he has arrived, and with such confidence, is a tribute to the rigour of his studies.
‘Less Is More’, together with Kate’s ‘Doughnut Economics’, should be required reading for students from Year 9, age 14, onwards and can serve as a solid foundation for urgent curricula development.
Less Is More: Jason Hickel, ISBN 978–1–785–15249–8