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Title: Critiques of growth in classical political economy: Mill's stationary state and a Marxian response
Authors: Dale, G
Keywords: 'Stationary state';John Stuart Mill;Karl Marx;'Growth paradigm';Progress
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Citation: New Political Economy, 18(3): 431 - 457, (2013)
Abstract: In recent political-economic theories of ‘nature’, Mill and Marx/Engels form important reference points. Ecological economists see Mill's ‘stationary state’ as seminal, while Marxists have ‘brought capitalism back in’ to debates on growth and climate change, sparking a Marxological renaissance that has overturned our understanding of Marx/Engels' opus. This article explores aspects of Mill's and Marx/Engels' work and contemporary reception. It identifies a resemblance between their historical dialectics. Marx's communism is driven by logics of ‘agency’ and ‘structure’ (including the ‘tendency of profit rates to fall’). In Mill's dialectic a ‘thesis’, material progress, calls forth its ‘antithesis’, diminishing returns. The inevitable ‘Aufhebung’ is a stationary state of wealth and population; Mill mentions countervailing tendencies but fails to consider their capacity to postpone utopia's arrival. Today, Mill's schema lives on in ecological economics, shorn of determinism but with its market advocacy intact. It appears to contrast with the ‘productive forces expansion’ espoused by Marx/Engels. They stand accused of ‘Promethean arrogance’, ignoring ‘natural limits’ and ‘gambling on abundance’. But I find these criticisms to be ill-judged, and propose an alternative reading, arguing that their work contains a critique of the ‘growth paradigm’, and that their ‘cornucopian’ ends do not sanction ‘Promethean’ means.
Description: This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in New Political Economy, 18(3), 431 - 457, 2013, copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:
ISSN: 1356-3467
Appears in Collections:Dept of Social and Political Sciences Research Papers

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