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Productivism is the belief that measurable economic productivity and growth is the purpose of human organization (e.g., work), and that "more production is necessarily good".

Arguments for productivism

Although productivism is often meant pejoratively as a general problem in politics and economics, it remains that most countries and economies are productivist in nature. While critics of productivism and its political/economic variants, notably capitalism and socialism, challenge the notions of conventional political economy, and argue for an economic policy more compatible with humanity, these views are often dismissed as 'utopian' by economists and political scientists, who hold that there is no conflict between the role of the worker and of the citizen, father and mother, etc. That is, that conventional economics and particularly macroeconomics already accounts for the relationship between productivity and the freedom to enjoy that productivity.

Criticism of productivism

Anthony Giddens defines Productivism as:

an ethos in which “work”, as paid employment, has been separated out in a clear-cut way from other domains of life.
Further stating:
[work] defines whether or not individuals feel worthwhile or socially valued.

Although 'productivism' can be considered pejorative, as it is unacceptable to many individuals and ideologies it describes, these same individuals and ideologies often use phrases like "productivity", "growth", "economic sense" and "common sense" without argument, presupposing the primacy of industry(Giddens, 1994). Many people, including Alan Greenspan and George W. Bush, have been criticized as productivists; however, it is difficult to find any ruler or central banker in the modern world who does not favor measurable growth factors over un-measurable ones.

According to those who use the term 'productivism', the difference between themselves and the promoters of conventional neoclassical economics is that a productivist does not believe in the idea of "uneconomic growth", i.e. the productivist believes all growth is good, while the critic of productivism believes it can be more like a disease, measurably growing but interfering with life processes, and that it is up to the electorate, worker and purchaser to put values on their free time and decide whether to use their time for production or their money for consumption.

A key academic critic of productivism is Amartya Sen, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Economics. His theory of "development as freedom" is one of several human development theories, that states that the growth of individual capital, that is, "talent", "creativity" and "personal ingenuity", is more significant than the growth of many other measurable quantities, e.g. production of products for commodity markets.

See also


  • Giddens, A. (1994). Beyond left and right: the future of radical politics. Polity Press, Cambridge.

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