Immaterial Growth: Energy and Economics in the American Century


ACLS Fellowship Program




How and why have economists come to calculate economic growth without accounting for finite planetary resources? Economists have not always abstracted the natural world from their analyses, nor have they always assumed infinite growth to be possible. This project examines how, when, and why the “dismal science” became so optimistic over the twentieth century, focusing on the ways economists developed theories of growth that paid little attention to energy and the environment. In doing so, this study recasts contemporary sustainability debates that frequently assume that the divisions between economics and ecologists are inevitable, rather than the product of historical choices.