Fear of stagnation? A review on growth imperatives

Worldwide economic growth is fostered, despite its severe conflicts with sustainability and despite the tendency of secular stagnation. To study whether this fostering is ‘only’ a question of political and individual will or ‘unavoidable’ to maintain economic stability, we deliver a rather narrow micro level definition of a “growth imperative”. We divide the many alleged growth imperatives into five categories and review them, thereby reducing several reasonings to few core arguments. We conclude that neither commercial competition, nor profit expectations, nor the monetary system are stand-alone growth imperatives. Instead, when technological innovations (based on resource consumption) are introduced, market forces lead to a systematic necessity to net invest due to the interplay of creative destruction, profit maximization, and the need to limit losses. Unemployment is substantially caused by productivity gains, and the societal and political necessity of high employment explains why states ‘must’ foster economic growth. This explanation is culturally and normatively parsimonious and empirically substantiated.



Working paper


 ISSN 2366-7753

Published in

 VÖÖ Discussion Papers

Zoe Authors

  • Dr Oliver Richters

    Post-Doc, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research