Mental Infrastructures: How Growth Entered the World and Our Souls

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In light of the recent ecological, financial and economic crisis, criticizing the all-powerful paradigm of economic growth is necessary. But growth as will and representation not only pervades corporate headquarters, stock exchanges and ministries, but also our heads. Material goods no longer serve just our basic needs for food, housing, health, education and vitality. Indeed, they shape our sense of belonging and identity. The idea of endless growth has been embedded in our emotional and cognitive lives since the Industrial Revolution. Economic innovations won’t be sufficient to make economy and society sustainable. The essay of Harald Welzer is a piece of enlightenment at its best. It makes the mechanisms and principles distinct on which our ideals and wishes are based, and clears the way for change.

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This publication is also available in German

About the author

Harald Welzer is the director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Memory Research at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities in Essen and Research Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Witten/Herdecke. His main foci of research and teaching are on memory, group violence and socio-cultural climate impact reserach. Welzer is the author of numerous publications, most recently: Soldaten. Protokolle vom Kämpfen, Töten und Sterben (Soldiers. Protocols of Fighting, Killing and Dying), with Sönke Neitzel, Das Ende der Welt, wie wir sie kannten (The End of the World as We Know It) with Claus Leggewie and Climate Wars.


Preface and introduction
1. Growth as mental infrastructure
2. From external constraint to self-constraint
3. Infinite growth
4. Energy and mobility
5. Work and growth
6. Finite resources and death
7. The global and flexible personality
8. Consumerism – what products say about us
9. The locked-in effect
10. What is the meaning of “transforming the carbon-based society”?
11. How would we like to have lived?