Juliet Schor
Boston College sociologist and economist

Austerity in a Recession Is a Bad Idea

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As a society, we need to invest in areas and activities that we’ve been neglecting: our communities, our families, and our planet.

Juliet Schor

Juliet Schor is a professor of sociology at Boston College.  Her research over the past decade has been focused on issues pertaining to trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the relationship between work and family, women's issues and economic justice. She is the author of several books, and is currently working on a project about the commercialization of childhood. she is also interested in issues of environmental sustainability and its relation to Americans' lifestyles.
Question: Why is austerity a bad idea right now?

Juliet Schor: What we really need to do as a society is invest in a series of activities and areas that we’ve been neglecting. The average American is working longer hours today than he or she has, you know, at any time since you know, for many, many decades. 

What this mean is that as we have sort of over invested in money and consumer goods and so forth, we’ve let other sources of wealth erode.  We’ve neglected our communities, our families, and our planet.  So, austerity is really not addressing that issue.  We’ve got to actually take our effort, our money, and our effort to investing in the things which we have eroded. Because hollowing out our communities, hollowing out our families, long-hour lifestyles and so forth, undermine well-being and they undermine our ability to actually have a more plentiful and abundant future.  

One of the ways to think about it is that from the ecological point of view, it’s pretty clear we need a major shift to a whole new set of technologies.  The technologies of the industrial revolution which took nature as if it were endless and in free supply and we could pollute the atmosphere without paying attention to it, pollute our rivers, cut down all our trees, and so forth.  Our technology, our economic system, the way we value things, it’s all based on that idea, which is a crazy idea and the sort of the chickens are coming home to roust on that as we’ve befouled the climate, run down our ecosystems and so forth to get to a new kind of production and consumption system which actually respects and restores the Earth, it means we’re going to have to do a lot of investing. 

But that’s investing at a local scale; at a smaller scale.  It’s a whole different economic model than the one we’ve been using.

Recorded on June 2, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman