Gross Domestic Problem

The Politics Behind the World's Most Powerful Number

Lorenzo Fioramonti


Lorenzo Fioramonti takes apart the 'content' of GDP - and reveals the powerful political interests that have allowed it to dominate today's economies.
Gross domestic product is arguably the best-known statistic in the contemporary world, and certainly amongst the most powerful. It drives government policy and sets priorities in a variety of vital social fields - from schooling to healthcare. Yet for perhaps the first time since it was invented in the 1930s, this popular icon of economic growth has come to be regarded by a wide range of people as a 'problem'. After all, does our quality of life really improve when our economy grows 2 or 3 per cent? Can we continue to sacrifice the environment to safeguard a vision of the world based on the illusion of infinite economic growth?

Lorenzo Fioramonti takes apart the 'content' of GDP - what it measures, what it doesn't and why - and reveals the powerful political interests that have allowed it to dominate today's economies. In doing so, he demonstrates just how little relevance GDP has to moral principles such as equity, social justice and redistribution, and shows that an alternative is possible, as evinced by the 'de-growth' movement and initiatives such as transition towns.

A startling insight into the politics of a number that has come to dominate our everyday lives.

Author Bio

Lorenzo Fioramonti is Jean Monnet Chair in Regional Integration and Governance Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pretoria (South Africa), where he directs the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation. He is also Senior Fellow at the Centre for Social Investment of the University of Heidelberg and at the Hertie School of Governance (Germany) as well as Associate Fellow at the United Nations University. He is the author of How Numbers Rule the World (Zed 2014) and is also the director of a short film documentary on GDP and climate change, which can be viewed at his blog,

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: The world's most powerful number
  • 1. The history of GDP: from crisis to crisis
  • 2. The Frankenstein syndrome
  • 3. The global quest to dethrone GDP
  • 4. Change from below
  • Conclusion: Supremacy and resistance


'This book is long overdue. Finally, the political interests behind the GDP mantra have been unveiled, forcing us to rethink mainstream economic views and build a more just and sustainable world. It is indeed the most important struggle of our generation.'
Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director

'As the planet's ecosystems and local and national economies collapse, going beyond GDP has become a survival imperative. This is the challenge that Fioramonti has taken up in Gross Domestic Problem..'
Vandana Shiva

'This inspiring book by Fioramonti provides a much needed history of the development of GDP and an analysis of how it has been (mis)used to define progress. An excellent read for academics and activists alike.'
Saamah Abdallah, New Economics Foundation

'Never before has one single measure shaped our world so profoundly. Incisively illuminating the politics behind its numbers, Fioramonti has reinforced the urgent need to reset our coded image of ourselves.'
Simon Zadek, award-winning author of The Civil Corporation

'Fioramonti reveals the insanity that rules economic thinking by giving us a simple, clear account of "the world's most powerful number," while also surveying the superior alternatives.'
Richard Heinberg, author of The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality

'Fioramonti illuminates the politics of GDP like no one else has. This is a singular contribution on a vitally important subject.'
Lew Daly, Senior Fellow, Demos (USA), author of Beyond GDP: New Measures for a New Economy


Publication Date: 17 January 2013
208 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781780322728
Hardback: 9781780322735
eBook ePub: 9781780322759
eBook PDF: 9781780322742
eBook Kindle: 9781780322766

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