Archbishop warns against growth at the cost of wellbeing
Published 01 May 2012
Current economic models are so focused on growth that there is little consideration for shared wellbeing, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.
The effect, Dr Rowan Williams said, has been to marginalise the elderly and improve the status of only a minority, while bringing about a possible world of “absolute commodification” in which humans are reduced to property.
Nations have become so deeply committed to a model of growth that they have “long since stopped asking ‘what for?’”.
“And if we have stopped asking this, it is not surprising that so many of the vehicles of ‘growth’ fashionable in the last decade or so have absolutely nothing to do with consolidating shared well-being, whether in any one particular country or across the globe,” he said.
“They have been, once again, essentially abstract matters, the piling up of indices of status for a small minority.”
The tendency to treat monetary accumulation as an “absolute goal”, he continued, has “obscured” the discourse about shared wellbeing and the common good.
“Politics is trapped in discussion about efficiency and the maximising of choice. The West, at least, is dominated by the assumption that the state exists to protect choice and to do so by protecting financial competitiveness in every sphere.”
The Archbishop questioned the “obsessive passion for unceasing improvement” rather than “simply settling for being in reasonable working order” according to age and circumstances.
“The deep anxieties about ageing that surface again and again in our culture are probably the most obvious sign of this.”
He continued: “The social effect of this anxiety is to marginalise and demean the elderly in a variety of damaging ways, to encourage a set of public images and stereotypes suggesting that normative humanity is young and hyperactive.”
Dr Williams said there was a desperate need to rediscover an “intelligible” way of talking about humanity, interiority and mutuality “before we are submerged in barbarism”.
He added: “A barbarism whose chief victims will, as ever, be the poorest, in the West and in the whole globe”.