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Citations Needed

Apr 29, 2020

"Economists' forecasts for GDP growth in 2020 vary widely," says The Economist. "Algeria's GDP growth falls to 0.8% in 2019," one Reuters headline reads. "GDP — the broadest measure of economic activity — grew at an annual rate of just 1.9% during the third quarter," NPR warns. Everywhere we turn for economic news, the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, is held up as the key proxy for prosperity and sound fiscal policy. 
Since its codification as the new gold standard for measuring prosperity at the Bretton Wood conference in 1944, the GDP has been the most popular metric used by American and British media when measure a nation’s prosperity. The GDP, and its close cousin, the Gross National Product, have not been without its critics for decades, but prying it from its top position as The Most Important Policy Goal has been an impossible task. Despite many labor activists, environmentalists and economists leveling critiques at its myopic, capitalist ideology, the metric has remained central to how the media and lawmakers determine fiscal policy. 
But what is the GDP exactly? How did it become the go-to proxy for prosperity in Western media? What are its ideological inputs, and how did post-war notions of colonialism and extractivism helps cement its place in our collective mindset? And what, more importantly, do activists argue we should replace it with? On this episode of Citations Needed we will explore these questions and examine how centralizing Gross Domestic Product––by its very design––obscures climate crisis, labor abuses, racism, drudgery, and a whole host of society's ills. 
We welcome economic anthropologist Dr. Jason Hickel back to the show.