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Socio-economic structures and narratives of progress, growth and consumption: an analysis, critique and reimagination SSS17

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: SSS17

As the UN made clear in their most recent Human Development Report, if the world fails to significantly enhance sustainability on a global scale then human progress will be placed in jeopardy. But what if ‘progress’ and related mantras of ‘growth’ and ‘consumption’, as they are commonly conceived, were impediments to human flourishing rather than goals to be achieved? Over the years there have been several efforts to develop alternatives to GDP for measuring the well-being of societies, such as the UN’s own Human Development Index, and there have also been important attempts to challenge the pervasive logics of consumption and growth that inform much human action, such as the ‘Degrowth’ and ‘Buen Vivir’ movements. But despite these efforts the socio-economic structures and narratives of progress, growth and consumption that are endemic in society have remained largely unchanged since modernity. Is this due to intransigence on the part of governments, the power of multi-national corporations and global capital to dictate the course of proceedings, or are most human beings simply unwilling to let go of the dream of progress, the trappings of consumption and/or the guiding rationale of growth?

This project will address these and related questions surrounding the socio-economic structures and narratives of progress, growth and consumption. It will do so in three stages. Firstly, an analysis of prevailing structures and narratives will be undertaken, identifying both the dominant model(s) and key attempts at subversion. This stage of the project will involve a major review of literature but could also include empirical research on/with groups or individuals that have been developing alternative structures or narratives of progress, growth and consumption. The second stage will consist of a critique of both the dominant and subversive structures and narratives, articulating their differences/commonalities, as well as their achievements and failures. In the final stage of the project, the PhD student will be challenged to develop constructive proposals for future action, whether that be at the level of public/social policy, community engagement, student education, activism or in other arenas.

The project is suitable for candidates with a background in the social sciences (e.g. sociology, politics, policy studies, international studies, development studies, environmental studies, human geography, business, economics, psychology) or humanities (e.g. philosophy, history, anthropology, cultural studies). A commitment to enhancing social justice will also be required.

School strategic research priority

The PhD project will be closely aligned with the NTU-wide research theme Sustainable Futures, and in particular the Special Interest Group (SIG) ‘Economic Structures and Narratives of Progress, Growth and Consumption’, which sits within this research theme.

It also aligns with the Centre for Behavioural Research Methods and the Responsible and Sustainable Business Lab.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

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