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Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  392 ratings  ·  68 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
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published May 28th 2010 by Penguin Press
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Keith Akers
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is so hard to rate. It basically tries to be three books in one: an economics monograph that exposes the fallacies and dangers of neoliberal trade-off economics; a lifestyle guide that advocates for improving our lives by changing how we consume, produce, and otherwise interact with the market and the environment; and an environmentalist argument for the free circulation of knowledge. These are all critically important projects, with life-and-death stakes; but the unfocused format means tha ...more
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
I got to interview the author of this book on my Pathways radio show (which is podcast at Divination.com). 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
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jay French
I can summarize as 1. Everyone is bad, 2. Americans are especially bad, 3. There are lots of ways to be good. I appreciated the book for the options that it described to counter some of the negative effects of growth from a green/progressive perspective. I didn’t see many paths to implement the options, though. This was more of a “the world would be better if we just did this” argument. For instance, the author suggests one option is nationalizing patents deemed by the government as important in ...more
Jan 12, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Morgan Siem
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-live-by
"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
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am not sure how people who are not already on board with the idea of minimizing, and constantly struggling with their impacts on the deteriorating environment would feel about this book. But because I am all about minimizing and have terrible guilt about my ecological footprint I loved this book. I found it inspiring and informative, but rooted in economic theory and facts so it actually felt useful.
Phil Sykora
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The question of well-being will begin to solve itself. In addition to, and perhaps more important than, the question of whether we are better or worse off in a quantitative sense - the issue to which the literature is addressed - we will discover that we are different. We will have brought our way of living into alignment with what most of us care about most, promoting health and well-being for humans, other species, and the planet."

"The most revealing fact about the contemporary apparel market
Apr 12, 2022 rated it it was ok
There are some interesting ideas here, and some innovative ways of gathering data, like shipping container weights. I also agree with the ideas in general. There are two significant flaws.

One is just that the information goes in too many directions. Given the scope of what affects and is affected by the topic, that is understandable, but it makes the book less effective. I say that not being sure how I would solve it.

The other thing is that with all the optimism of some of the growing developmen
Dorothy Nesbit
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
An awful lot has happened since Schor's book was first published in 2010. We have both moved forward AND failed to embrace fully the need for a radically new approach to economics. Schor points to the failure of our economic systems to factor in the cost of our business activities on the environment and the need to do so. But her message is far from "hair shirt". She also points the way towards true wealth - organising ourselves around meeting needs. A welcome read. ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
I am on board with Juliet Schor's ideas but thought the book too short. Granted, many of her assertions and insights have been proven true ten years on but I found myself wishing for more. 4 stars for ideas, research and references but 3 stars for overall reading experience. ...more
Oct 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Many of the themes touched in this book have yet to be taken up by main stream society. we, as humans, just don't seem to care very much about our future. Community, minimalism, working less, creating more and trying to be happy are just some of the things covered in this book. ...more
Rebecca Fernandez-Worthington
Must read!
Ideas are interesting on a marco level. Not something an individual can really put into practice.
Greg Pettit
Mar 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, library
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
Kasey Jueds
Sep 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Tyler Lowery
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Plenitude takes on the "Business as Usual" way of economics and proposed as ecological economics model that focuses on re-evaluating our current state of economics and environmental degradation and proposed a number of radical changes that could help alleviate the harm we're causing to our environment and our economy. The book focuses on sustainability and free alternatives to the current BAU ways of production.

School puts a great deal of emphasis on the benefits of
Jun 03, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Nick Klagge
Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
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
An interesting book to read especially if you wanted to learn about environmental economics. The author stresses on Business as usual (BAU) concept that is a basic foundation of how current businesses are being run today. There are 5 chapters in the book that was covered by the author and how i sum it each chapter based on my understanding.
1.The materiality Paradox.
- Consumer Culture vs. necessities. Do you really need it or do you buy it because it's cheap -- A question that was often ignored
Sep 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jim Kahn
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Jul 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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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

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“Measurement aside, there are two reasons aggregate growth might matter. The first is to create jobs to assimilate the unemployed and anticipate increases in population. The second is to improve living standards. Economic logic does not require overall expansion to achieve either of these objectives. An expanding labour force can be accommodated if hours of work fall. And it's productivity growth, rather than the overall size of the economy, that drives improvements in living standards. Getting bigger doesn't necessarily yield wealth; improving productivity does.” 0 likes
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