Sustainable Capitalism and the Pursuit of Well-Being

By Neil E. Harrison

© 2014 – Routledge

204 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9781138192553
pub: 2015-11-30
Available for pre-order
US Dollars$53.95
Hardback: 9780415662819
pub: 2013-12-23
US Dollars$145.00

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About the Book

Sustainable development is the central challenge of the 21st Century. How can human civilization continue to develop without destroying the natural systems on which it depends?Environmentalists tell us that capitalism is the problem because it feeds our self-interest. They tell us that we have to restrain ourselves and only consume what the Earth can sustain. Or governments must tell us what we can and cannot buy. This book uses the science of complex systems to explain why governments cannot deliver sustainability or happiness and how self-interest can be used to make society sustainable.

Capitalism won the Cold War; until the Great Recession of 2008, it seemed to be the perfect system. But more of us are unhappy even as it has ravaged the planet. The central problem is the paradigm on which our social systems are founded that more (consumption, production, possessions) is always better. Based on research from political economy, philosophy, and psychology, this book shows that the problem is not self-interest. We are unhappy because we have been taught that our interests are material and that buying 'stuff' will make us happy. Yet, social pressure to consume only prevents us from satisfying our basic psychological needs and fully enjoying life. For that we need to pursue our personal well-being. Because this also reduces our material consumption, environmental sustainability comes from each of us knowing what's truly good for our selves. Even without the constant economic growth that harms the planet and damages our lives, capitalism also is sustainable. This book will be of interest to scholars and students of sustainability;civil societyactivists and social entrepreneurs; thought leaders and policymakers.


Table of Contents

1.The Path of Sustainability 2.The Failure of Authority and Altruism 3.The Complexity of Sustainable Development 4.Consuming Unhappiness 5.Happiness, Well-Being, and Sustainability 6.Needs and Wants 7.Leveraging Wants 8.Changing the Social Paradigm 9.Adapting to Sustainable Capitalism 10.Sustainable Systems

About the Author

Neil E. Harrison is a senior research fellow and executive director of the Sustainable Development Institute and a research associate in the Joseph Korbel Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Sustainable Development

This series uniquely brings together original and cutting-edge research on Sustainable Development. The books in this series tackle difficult and important issues in Sustainable Development including values and ethics; sustainability in higher education; climate compatible development; resilience; capitalism and de-growth; sustainable urban development; gender and participation; and well-being.

Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, the series promotes interdisciplinary research for an international readership. The series was recommended in the Guardian’s suggested reads for Development and Environment.

The series welcomes submissions from established authors in the field as well as from young authors. To submit proposals, please contact the Editor, Khanam Virjee (

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Economic Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Environmental Economics
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy