Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
GDP, gross domestic product, is the most powerful number in the contemporary world. In a single figure, it tells us whether a nation is doing well or badly. At least that’s how the economic orthodoxy goes and how the media and politicians present it. In reality, if the GDP is the king of statistics, it is an emperor without clothes. And for a long time a growing number of people have been pointing, indeed yelling, this out.
Gross Domestic Problem: the politics behind the world’s most powerful number provides a strong boost to dethroning the naked emperor. Lorenzo Fioramonti’s most original contribution is perhaps his reconstruction of the story of the invention of this ‘magic’ number and of its installation at the top of the political agenda. This took place in the years between the great depression and the second world war. The book guides us through the history of the criticism of this conceptual and statistical artefact – criticism that began with the very person who invented it, Simon Kuznets.
The case that has piled up against GDP is overwhelming. It fails as an accurate gauge of economic performance, even on the basis of its purely monetary definition of production and wealth. And it is even more flawed in its ability to measure the quality of people’s lives (or happiness, as suggested in Bhutan) and processes of planet depletion. As Bobby Kennedy stated in a memorable speech a few weeks before being assassinated, it measures everything except for everything that makes life worth living.
Recently, especially after the financial crisis, criticism of GDP has influenced the thinking of western leaders. Institutions – not just the UN but the OECD and western governments – have developed agendas of reforming and going beyond GDP.
What’s behind this? Are we really at a turning point? Isn’t there the danger that these strategies for revising GDP in fact lead to further colonisation of worlds not yet incorporated into the market? These are some of the questions Fioramonti tries to answer.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism