The Logic of Sufficiency

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What if modern society put a priority on the material security of its citizens and the ecological integrity of its resource base? What if it took ecological constraint as a given, not a hindrance but a source of long-term economic security? How would it organize itself, structure its industry, shape its consumption?

Across time and across cultures, people actually have adapted to ecological constraint. They have changed behavior; they have built institutions. And they have ...

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Overview

What if modern society put a priority on the material security of its citizens and the ecological integrity of its resource base? What if it took ecological constraint as a given, not a hindrance but a source of long-term economic security? How would it organize itself, structure its industry, shape its consumption?

Across time and across cultures, people actually have adapted to ecological constraint. They have changed behavior; they have built institutions. And they have developed norms and principles for their time. Today's environmental challenges-at once global, technological, and commercial-require new behaviors, new institutions, and new principles.

In this highly original work, Thomas Princen builds one such principle: sufficiency. Sufficiency is not about denial, not about sacrifice or doing without. Rather, when resource depletion and overconsumption are real, sufficiency is about doing well. It is about good work and good governance; it is about goods that are good only to a point.

With examples ranging from timbering and fishing to automobility and meat production, Princen shows that sufficiency is perfectly sensible and yet absolutely contrary to modern society's dominant principle, efficiency. He argues that seeking enough when more is possible is both intuitive and rational-personally, organizationally, and ecologically rational. And under global ecological constraint, it is ethical. Over the long term, an economy-indeed a society-cannot operate as if there's never enough and never too much.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A "detailed and engaging history of the efficiency principle and its role in supporting the paradigm of unlimited economic growth." Robert Costanza Nature

"...an admirable and timely book... a first-rate effort at breaking new ground in the consumption debate." Norman Myers Science

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262162326
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Princen explores ecological and economic sustainability at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Treading Softly: Paths to Ecological Order and The Logic of Sufficiency (both published by the MIT Press).

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Table of Contents

Preface vii
Acknowledgments xv
1 The Idea of Sufficiency 1
I Sufficiency in Principle 21
2 Ecological Rationality: Management and Self-Management in an Ecologically Constrained World 23
3 Efficiency: A Brief and Curious History 49
4 Whose Ratios? From Technic to Rhetoric 87
5 Enough Work, Enough Consumption 125
II Sufficiency on the Ground 157
6 The Pacific Lumber Company: The Evolution of a Idea 159
7 Monhegan Lobstering: Self-Management Meets Co-Management 223
8 Toronto Island: Resisting Automobility 291
9 Making Ecological Sense 341
Notes 367
Index 393
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