Doughnut Economics: Seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist

A review of 'Doughnut Economics: Seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist' by Kate Raworth (Random House Business Books, 2017, 372pp, £14.99)

At the heart of Green politics is the understanding that prevailing mainstream economic models have failed both people and planet, contributing to the existential ecological and social challenges of the 21st century that we now face. 

Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics lays out an ambitious roadmap for breaking out of the neoliberal economic straightjacket that constrains new ways of economic thinking. 

Departing from the assertion that mainstream economics has become divorced from real-life issues and problems, Raworth, an inter-disciplinary economist, maintains that what is necessary is to bring economics back into the service of human needs and respect for ecological boundaries. Where the current economic model produces negative consequences, it is down to a failure of economic design, and new economic systems, such as the circular economy, must be embedded into the wider network of dynamic and complex natural systems on which human society depends. 

Raworth illustrates simply what a new economic model needs to address using the concept of the ‘doughnut’, with a ‘hole’ of critical human deprivation in the middle below a social foundation representing the minimum amount of well-being for humanity, an ecological ceiling in an outer ring representing planetary resource limits, and between both of these is a safe and just space for humanity. 

From designing local currencies such as the Torekes in the run-down district of Rabot in Ghent, where small individual plots of land can be rented using the currency and all money goes back into social and environmental projects, to using visual ‘nudges’ such as those used in Denmark where green footprints were painted on the pavements leading up to rubbish bins, reducing litter by 46 per cent, Raworth offers a variety of simple ways that economics can be brought back into the service of human needs. 

Doughnut Economics is a creative, thought-provoking and radical call to arms that does not lack optimism, for all of its dire warnings, for economists and those of us in the Green movement, and draws a roadmap to a more sustainable future that meets the needs of both people and planet.