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Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  218 ratings  ·  57 reviews
At a moment of ecological and financial crisis, bestselling author and economist Juliet B. Schor presents a revolutionary strategy for transitioning toward a richer, more balanced life.

In Plenitude economist and bestselling author Juliet B. Schor offers a groundbreaking intellectual statement about the economics and sociology of ecological decline, suggesting a radical c
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 13th 2010 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published 2010)
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Keith Akers
Plenitude argues for an "ecological economics" which turns a lot of what we think about wealth upside down. I agree with many of her basic ideas, but a number of details left me uncomfortable.

Schor argues for a view of wealth or "plenitude" which values four things: time, "self-provisioning" (self-reliance), "true materialism" (conserving the environment on which the economy depends), and investments in relationships. Her basic insight is quite important: despite having a lot of "things," we ar
This book was initially published in 2010 under the title Plenitiude. Schorr has a degree in economics from U-Mass Amherst, and currently teaches sociology at Boston College. I first became aware of her when she published The Overworked American in 1993. She writes about work and leisure, consumption and sustainability. This book, written for a popular audience, addresses those topics. The data she presents here, by and large, are not new, but she brings together a lot of information in service ...more
Paulo O'Brien
I got to interview the author of this book on my Pathways radio show (which is podcast at By a Boston College sociology professor, this is a positive and practical treatment on how we can re-orient our values away from a monetary-based way of thinking (and the “poverty consciousness” that comes with it).

First, the author shows how “business as usual” (which she refers to as “BAU”) is coming to an end, whether we like it or not. There is just no way that five percent of the worl
One of our current major problems on the Left is that we, for the most part, have a poor grasp of economics, partly because economic debates have become excessively econometric so get bogged down in arcane number crunching, partly because we spent many years in struggles based around identity and cultural politics, partly because economics as a field of work has been overtaken by not just neoclassical economics but by neoliberal economics. As a result, someone like Juliet Schor is all too rare i ...more
Morgan Siem
"These, then, are the individual principles of plenitude: work and spend less, create and connect more."

"But Plenitude is not thriving only because it is fiscally intelligent. It is also growing because it repairs our fractured lives, heals our souls, and can make us truly wealthy in ways that have little to do with money and consumption. And as it does, it begins to build, step by step, a better way of human being. In the process, it promises to restore the bounty and beauty of our miraculous p
Very interesting. I think she makes some good points but it seems very idealistic to me. She concedes that working fewer hours is not a viable strategy for low-income families or poor countries. She advocates open source information -- I agree it is great, but somehow the people doing research and coming up with ideas have to get paid. They can't work for free forever. She doesn't really discuss how that will happen. I agree that the economic model of "grow or die" is unsustainable. Worth readin ...more
Alice Starr
TL;DR: Nice idea, good overview of ecological economics, uneven writing, and too technical at times for the overall "let's live sustainably to save the earth" tone.

Plenitude takes an optimistic look at the state of modern economies and the growth-is-everything approach to business, and suggests a way to reduce poverty, increase benefit to people, and turn around the on-going destruction of the planet, through reduced work hours, increased self and community reliance, and a focus on sustainable o
Apr 11, 2015 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2015
This book is fantastic. Everyone needs to read it. If you already care/read about overdevelopment, deep ecology, livable scale, actual community, or a humane pace of life, there may not be a lot of new information. But Schor provides a unified/unifying vision of what we can do and what the future offers, from shorter working hours to community owned 3D printers.

If you're already in the thick of this work, read this anyway because it is a nice reminder of all the great work other people are doin
Jim Kahn
Plenitude starts with a data-heavy take down of the current world economic model (Business as Usual or BAU) and how it is inevitable that the combination of running out of cheap energy, climate change from C02, and exhaustion of soil resources will require a significant change to what she dubs 'Plenitude.' Rather than focus on the accumulation of dollars through long hours of work, this model focuses on acquiring enough cash only for the essentials but using one's free time to focus on skills to ...more
Greg Pettit
The first third of this book seemed a little silly. "Plenitude" was mentioned so often, with a sort of vague definition, that it sounded like a sideshow barker selling snake oil. "What's the idea that will change the world? Plenitude! What's the solution to all our ills? Plenitude!" It got to be a bit much.

Fortunately, that toned down after a while so that the middle third of the book discussed the problems of our current situation. This section was informative, but depressing. The combination
I should note that this book is much more technical and intensive than I was expecting. There were a lot of statistics and historical data. For the most part, this is great. However, listening to it on audio made me zone out more than I'd like to admit. I really liked what she had to say about the current movement to slow and intentional living. I also was stunned silent over the increasing problems in our world, and how our system is just not working. She didn't give as many tips for starting a ...more
Heather G
An accessible read on degrowth/Environmental-economics and a nice complement to concepts related to voluntary simplicity. Schor tackles criticisms to degrowth (will it wreck the economy?) and puts forward the premise (among others) that reduced work hours per person can raise employment for all (making room for others to take up the slack, e.g., through job-sharing, etc.) Her ideas require a paradigm shift - a confrontation with consumerism. Are Americans willing to get by on just a little less ...more
Nick Klagge
Perhaps I should stop reading popular economics books, because I seem to always end up disliking them for being popular economics books, which isn't really fair. I was especially disappointed in this book because it treats a number of topics that I find quite interesting, including work hours, optimal scales of production, and self-provisioning. Maybe I would have felt differently if I were not someone already interested in these topics, but it usually felt quite superficial, like a breathless c ...more
Kasey Jueds
Probably the first book about economics I've read voluntarily, and the only one I'd describe as "inspiring." Plenitude is partly about the need to include the environment in our thinking about the economy (traditionally the two have been entirely separate fields), and partly about very practical ways in which we can do this--essentially, how we can live well and take care of ourselves and the earth now that we've thoroughly messed up the economy AND the planet. Juliet Schor isn't quite this dire ...more
Personally speaking, I see how the principles of plenitude work on an individual level. Although my DH has not cut back his hours, we are into self-provisioning where we can and we do spend time building social capital (read "being involved in the community and/or church, and spending time with friends). We biodiesel, we keep bees, we have a (small) garden, we like to make our own bread when we have time. I really am coming to think that living a plenitude-friendly life helped insulate us from t ...more
The key concepts in Plenitude are:
(a) new allocation of time, reduced hours of market work
(b) self provisioning
(c) true materialism, low cost, low (ecological) impact but high satisfaction consumer life
(d) enhanced relationships i.e. revitalization of community and social connection

It argues that the current economic model of ignoring/ downplaying ecological impact is not sustainable and offers a new model of Plenitude.

I also find the following concepts interesting ( that are being discussed in
Hard economic take on the unsustainable Business As Usual model of wealth and growth. This book is not as easy to grasp as The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and our Health—and a Vision for Change but it is not full of jargon and formulas either. There is much data thrown at you but the vast majority is understandable. I like that it goes deeper in the economic facts than most books I've read on the subject matter. The data shown here makes ...more
I listened to an interview with Juliet Schor on Sunday Morning with Chris Laidlaw on Radio New Zealand in 2010.

So when I saw the book at the library I decided to read it.

Although it had been a while since I listened to the interview, I think I enjoyed the interview more than reading the book. It's quite a hard read I thought, partly because of my lack of economics training, partly because it's not structured/subheaded in a particularly easy-to-read fashion
A book about living a richer, more creative life during a time of ecological and economic crisis. "We devalue the material world bu excessive acquisition and discard of products. The plenitude principle of true materialism reverses this attitude."

The author believes that keeping energy costs high is the key to reducing our consumption of energy. She believes we work way too much. We would all be better off with less hours as businesses could hire more employees. That is not part of BAU (Business
Kate Lawrence
Schor begins by documenting why our current lifestyles are unsustainable, then presents information on various innovations and solutions to move us in a more planet-friendly direction. A few ideas were new to me, such as fab labs and wall gardens, but I'd mostly heard it before. Schor sees the society of the future as being more satisfying than today's business-as-usual. She's upbeat, downplaying what I anticipate will be a tremendous social upheaval in moving from present consumption levels to ...more
Oct 29, 2014 Liz rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: finance
Interesting, but I think a little outdated in 2014. I thought it was a little weak on economic solutions, taking a rather sociological view of how the economy was turning out to be from a 2009/2010 perspective.
Jul 24, 2014 Monica added it
Perhaps this should have been a really long essay, rather than an entire book. It felt like the whole first half was all "introductory" information that could have been summarized more concisely. It was also lacking in real, concrete ways to implement the kind of lifestyle advocated. Still, lots of interesting ideas presented.
I just read this a second time through, slowly--I used it as my "bathroom book."

Schor strikes me as sensible and wise, and the book hits the right note--neither wildly alarmist, not bullish on "getting back to normal," but clear-eyed about the challenges we face in the future and how our society can evolve and change.

One thing I really like about this book is that Schor looks at what can be done at all levels--from the macrolevel of government, to the mid-level of towns and communities, to the
Andrew Long
A little long winded, but the basic idea is right on the money: we have to switch into a degrowth or steady-state economy, we should consider working less so more people can be employed, we should get more efficient and more effective and use more engineering and smart technology to improve conditions and decentralize power generation. Schor is an economist, and it's good to see an economist questioning the sacred cow of 'growth above all', but the suggestions in the book are a little lightweigh ...more
Cody Ray
This book was simultaneously inspiring and a slow/challenging read. The author makes a great case that we're doing it wrong (destroying planet, our health, and our communities) by the lives we're living. However, I'm not quite sold on the Plenitude model, as the author refers to it. I'm very much in favor of reducing working hours, high-tech self provisioning, the sharing economy, and building/trading on social capital, but I'm not convinced these four items can solve all the world's problems as ...more
A wonderful book, that provides a great overview. Some of the graphs aren't so great though.
Margaret D'Anieri
This is the best book I've found that addresses the false assumptions in our economy that drive environmental degradation and the need for economic growth as measured by GDP (woefully inadequate on numerous fronts). Love the idea of "time wealth" vs money wealth; material consumption makes us feel the need to keep up with the Jones's and therefore doesn't make us happier, but when others have more time for community and relationships, everyone is happier. Great mix of sociology, economics, ecolo ...more
not bad, don't recall alot about it
Tom Webb
Just began this. It's a proposal for economic renewal for the long-haul which seriously takes into account environmental degradation and depletion of resources caused by measuring economic prosperity by GDP and consumerism unlike many economists who as the authors suggests propose nothing more than BAU (business as usual).

Some pretty revealing remarks re: hyped up marketing schemes and textile fashions, North American consumption habits.

If this is a manifestation of "American exceptionalism" th
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Juliet Schor’s research over the last ten years has focussed on issues pertaining to trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the relationship between work and family, women's issues and economic justice. Schor's latest book is Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Scribner 2004). She is also author of The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure and The ...more
More about Juliet B. Schor...
The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need Born to Buy: A Groundbreaking Exposé of a Marketing Culture That Makes Children "Believe They  Are  What They  Own." (USA Today) The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure Sustainable Planet: Solutions for the Twenty-first Century The Consumer Society Reader

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