Consumerism and the Growth Economy

Subject ENST90019 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 25-Jul-2016 to 23-Oct-2016
Assessment Period End 18-Nov-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 05-Aug-2016
Census Date 31-Aug-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 23-Sep-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Two and a half hours of lectures/seminars per week.
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Samuel Kirk


Subject Overview:

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.
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.

Research Essay 50% (3,000 word research essay, due approximately a week after final class).
Assignment 50% (1,500 word policy statement plus 5 minute presentation, due approximately in week 10).

Prescribed Texts:

The subject coordinator will provide a list of required readings.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
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.

Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Climate Change
Education and Social Change
Environment and Public Health
Governance, Policy and Communication
Governance, Policy and Markets
Public Health
Sustainable Forests
Sustainable Forests
Tailored Specialisation
Tailored Specialisation

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