Post-Growth Work : Employment and Meaningful Activities within Planetary Boundaries book cover
1st Edition

Post-Growth Work
Employment and Meaningful Activities within Planetary Boundaries

ISBN 9781032034577
Published September 9, 2021 by Routledge
234 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book argues that society must rethink the notion of formal employment and instead introduce and spread the notion of "meaningful work" so that societies can become independent of economic growth. 

The excessive consumption of natural resources and the immense emissions resulting from our growth-oriented economic system surpass the planetary boundaries. Despite this, society and the economy still strive for economic growth in order to generate jobs, to finance the social security system and to assure tax income. However, these expectations are increasingly unrealistic, not least because technological developments such as digitalisation and robotisation will change and limit formal employment opportunities as well. Against this backdrop, the book introduces the notion of meaningful activities that embrace various kinds of work, paid and unpaid, sequential or in parallel, which are meaningful for the worker as well as society as a whole. At the same time, the authors argue in favour of reduced working time in formal employment. Furthermore, the book also describes the necessary transformations in companies and for consumers, for social and tax systems, for social services and agriculture.  

Innovative and timely, this book will be a key resource for professionals and scholars interested in sustainability, economics, work, transformation and post-growth studies.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Tim Jackson

Foreword by the Editors


1. Employment, Meaningful Activity and the Post-Growth Society

Irmi Seidl and Angelika Zahrnt

Part 1: The Basics

2. On the Historical Development of Work

Andrea Komlosy

3. Value-Orientation and Meaningful Activity in the Post-Growth Society

Ernst Fritz-Schubert

4. Revaluations of Work: Enabling and Combining a Diversity of Activities

Stefanie Gerold

Part 2: Employment and Meaningful Activities: Actors

5. The Role of Consumers: Social Participation Beyond Work and the Market

Corinna Fischer and Immanuel Stieß

6. The Role of Businesses in the Creation of Sustainable Work

Gerrit von Jorck and Ulf Schrader

7. Employment in the Tension between Ecology and Distributive Justice: The Role of Trade Unions

Norbert Reuter

8. Voluntary Charitable Activity: Motivation, Prerequisites, Accomplishments

Theo Wehner

Part 3: Employment and Meaningful Activities: Sectors

9. Formal and Informal Care Work

Jonas Hagedorn

10. Meaningful Activities in Agriculture: Agro-Culture as a Guiding Principle

Franz-Theo Gottwald, Irmi Seidl, and Angelika Zahrnt

11. Digitalisation and Concepts of Extended Work

Linda Nierling and Bettina-Johanna Krings

Part 4: The Socio-Economic Context

12. Social Security in the Post-Growth Society

Gisela Kubon-Gilke

13. An Employment-Friendly Tax System

Angela Köppl and Margit Schratzenstaller

14. Work in Developing and Newly Industrialised Countries

Georg Stoll


15. The Prospects for Practical Action

Irmi Seidl and Angelika Zahrnt

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Irmi Seidl is Head of the Research Unit Economics and Social Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland.

Angelika Zahrnt is Honorary Chair of Friends of the Earth Germany and Fellow at the IÖW – Institute for Ecological Economy Research, Berlin.


"Wonderful book on post-growth work! It highlights work and meaningful activities as key areas of transformation for achieving a growth-independent economy. I applaud the strong emphasis on reforming the tax system: putting higher duties on the use of environmental resources, and in turn relieving wages from taxes. That also helps reduce social inequality."

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Honorary President of the Club of Rome, past-Co-Chair of UNEP’s International Resource Panel


"In a time of massive ecological overshoot, when economic growth is still largely material, expansion means wealth destruction. This calls for a redefinition of work: we want work that enables all to thrive while fitting within our planet’s biophysical boundaries. Therefore, I congratulate the authors of Post-Growth Work for their farsighted study on work. Their arguments are at the core of dismantling the destructive growth paradigm and offer a way forward that gets us out of overshoot by design, rather than into disaster."

Mathis Wackernagel, Ph.D., Founder and President of Global Footprint Network


"Irmi Seidl and Angelika Zahrnt address key issues of our times: not only how do we work in a more sustainable and healthy manner, but how do we find lasting meaning within our work and more broadly in our lives.  This is especially relevant when things around us are shifting so rapidly and we’re witnessing the effects of system shocks, like the COVID-19 pandemic, and the effects of climate change that are already being felt worldwide."

Mark Lawrence, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany, and Honorary Professor at the University of Potsdam, Institute for Geography and Environmental Science


"This book is both timely and urgent. It exposes work as intertwined with the crises of our time: climate and ecological crises, economic turmoil, frayed social safety nets, care, values, development, and solidarity. It shows how work could be transformed in a post-growth society, to form the foundation of meaningful life within planetary boundaries."

Julia Steinberger, Institute for Geography and Development, University of Lausanne, Switzerland


"Post-Growth Work takes the key stumbling block of post-growth conceptions head on: what is the alternative to full time paid employment if productivity continues to grow on a planet within its boundaries? The authors introduce the concept of meaningful activities to partially replace formal employment. Popular support for such a change is a precondition for politically successful post-growth strategies."

Sven Giegold, Member of the European Parliament, Speaker of the German Green Delegation inside the Greens/EFA Group


"The most important argument for continuing growth is the creation of jobs - regardless of whether they are ecologically justifiable or useful. At the same time, there is a great need for meaningful work, for example in the care sector. It is time to stop focusing on formal employment alone and instead to create the necessary conditions for various kinds of meaningful activity. This book by Irmi Seidl and Angelika Zahrnt and their co-authors identifies what needs to change for this to happen and how it can be done."

Maja Göpel, Research Director at the New Institute, Hamburg, Scientists for Future, Member of the Club of Rome, Honorary Professor at Leuphana University, Lüneburg