HARCOVER | MAY 2015 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691166520 | 416 PP


In one lifetime, GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, has ballooned from a narrow economic tool into a global article of faith. It is our universal yardstick of progress. As The Little Big Number demonstrates, this spells trouble. While economies and cultures measure their performance by it, GDP ignores central facts such as quality, costs, or purpose. It only measures output: more cars, more accidents; more lawyers, more trials; more extraction, more pollution—all count as success. Sustainability and quality of life are overlooked. Losses don’t count. GDP promotes a form of stupid growth and ignores real development.

How and why did we get to this point? Dirk Philipsen uncovers a submerged history dating back to the 1600s, climaxing with the Great Depression and World War II, when the first version of GDP arrived at the forefront of politics. Transcending ideologies and national differences, GDP was subsequently transformed from a narrow metric to the purpose of economic activity. Today, increasing GDP is the highest goal of politics. In accessible and compelling prose, Philipsen shows how it affects all of us.

But the world can no longer afford GDP rule. A finite planet cannot sustain blind and indefinite expansion. If we consider future generations equal to our own, replacing the GDP regime is the ethical imperative of our times. More is not better. As Philipsen demonstrates, the history of GDP reveals unique opportunities to fashion smarter goals and measures. The Little Big Number explores a possible roadmap for a future that advances quality of life rather than indiscriminate growth.


"GDP is not just a number but is code for a set of economic values and principles that we're not supposed to question. Philipsen breaks that taboo by critically assessing the origins and impacts of our overreliance on this flawed metric. Anyone who wants to understand our economy's weaknesses--and how to make them better--needs to read this book." - Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff and executive director of Greenpeace USA

"Philipsen brilliantly exposes the skeleton hiding in the economist’s closet—the dangerously misleading talisman of GDP. He uncovers the extraordinary story of how good intentions morphed into the monstrous misconception of public progress and economic value that reigns over politics and public opinion. If society fails to heed Philipsen’s message about developing new ways to measure economic gain and loss, the sustainable future is not going to be possible."- William Greider, author of The Soul of Capitalism

"The Little Big Number makes the case that GDP has become counterproductive and we need better goals and measures of progress. An excellent and timely book." - Robert Costanza, Australian National University

"Philipsen presents a well-researched, persuasively written book on what is wrong with the economic system we live in and live by. Showing that the GDP measure binds all the different fallacies of our economic world together, he offers a call to action on what we need to change now." - Floris Heukelom, Radboud University

"The Little Big Number demonstrates that the reigning measure of economic policymaking worldwide is not only inadequate but perverse in its impact on any possibility for sane social and economic discourse. This impressive and lively book will become the authoritative text for critiquing GDP."- Thad Williamson, University of Richmond


[Philipsen's] comprehensive history of the measure and its uses ... written in a prose style that alternates between book-reportese and high Molotov outrage, ... is keyed into how a culture that once burgeoned can implode. As the quantitative symbol of a growth-based ideology, G.D.P., poses an existential threat to both the planet and our happiness." - Katy Lederer, The New Yorker

"[The Little Big Number] takes the anti-GDP case even further. . . . Philipsen argues that not only is GDP a flawed statistic in need of replacing--but the whole notion of open-ended economic growth needs to go, too." - Kevin Hartnett, Boston Globe

"Some efforts are already underway, most notably the 'Beyond GDP' initiative by the European Commission, but much remains to be done. Philipsen's book is a clarion call." - Seeking Alpha

"[Philipsen's] call for a dialogue about setting new goals--sustainability, democratic accountability, and economic viability - should command our attention. So should his suggestion that we 'break the GDP spell' and establish measures, structures, and regulations that support these goals." - Glenn C. Altschuler, Huffington Post

"Dirk Philipsen's The Little Big Number, couldn't have come at a better time." - Douglas Beal, Huffington Post

"[A] provocative and insightful book. . . . [Through] rich history and engaging storytelling ... the book [is] weaving together a narrative that at once focuses on the core argument, while including a wide array of literature and concepts stretching back to the emergence of political economic thinking in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The focus of this historical digging is to situate for the reader the overarching importance and value of growth, ... as well as Philipsen’s arguments against growth for growth’s sake ... to avoid catastrophic outcomes, such as environmental and social collapse. . . . The book stands on its own as a piece of economic history, but also serves as an important call for social change." - Alex Mitchell, Consumption Markets & Culture



KINDLE / HARDCOVER / PAPERBACK | 1992 | IBSN: 9780822312949 | 392 PP


On the night of November 9, 1989, an electrified world watched as the Berlin Wall came down. Communism was dead, the Cold War was over, and freedom was on the rise—or so it seemed. We Were the People tells the story behind this momentous event. In an extraordinary series of interviews, the key actors in the drama that transformed East Germany speak for themselves, describing what they did, what happened and why, and what it has meant to them. The result is a powerful firsthand account of a rare historical moment, one that reverberates far beyond the toppled wall that once divided Germany and the world.

The drama We Were the People recreates is remarkable for its richness and complexity. Here are citizens organizing despite threats of bloody crackdowns; party functionaries desperately trying to survive as time-honored political prerogatives crumble beneath their feet; an oppressed people discovering the possibilities of power and freedom, but also the sobering strangeness of new political realities. With their success, East Germans encountered the overpowering might of thie Western neighbor--and stand perplexed before the onslaught of real estate agents, glossy consumer ads, political professionalism--and the discovery that a lifetime of social experience has suddenly lost all usable context. They became, in the words of one participant, a people "without biography."
Over all the recent events and unlikely turns recounted here, one thing remains paramount: the sweep of the initial democratic conception that animated the East German revolution. We Were the People brings this movement to life in all its drama and detail, and vividly recovers a historic moment that altered forever the shape of modern Europe.


“This highly successful oral history is enriched by meticulous and intelligent notes and enlightening introductions … sympathetic to what he discovered to have been deep, if hard-to-define, aspirations for a democratic society … revealing texts that challenge any simple notion about the inevitable victory of Western institutions or mores.” - Fritz Stern, Foreign Affairs

This collection of interviews conducted during the extraordinary events of late 1989 allows the reader insight into the feelings and thought of a wide range of GDR citizens. . . . [This is] an invaluable historical source book." - William A. Pelz, New Politics

With “critical intelligence he searches for what went wrong… Philipsen insists that their vision was noble and asks us to remember a moment in history when East Germans had a sense of community” - The New Yorker


HARDCOVER / DIGITAL | 2010 | $109.32 / £80.00 | ISBN: 9781412996846 | 610 PP


A global recession has dampened consumption and business investments, green or otherwise. Yet economic stimulus programs have focused on green economic development based on alternative energy technologies and the infrastructure to support transmission of distributed sources of power, as well as low-tech innovations such as building weatherization. Proponents of green technology believe that public stimulus dollars and private investment have potential to create large numbers of green-collar jobs as well as to increase the overall efficiency of the economy. Action at the national level is mirrored at state and local levels, as governments revise building codes, leading the construction industry to source greener building materials. Large retailers, from Ikea to the supermarket chain Tesco, are eliminating unnecessary packaging and providing product information designed to encourage sustainable purchasing. And the concepts of green business are being applied in sectors beyond manufacturing and retail, including agriculture, where growth continues apace in demand for organic products and food sources from growers who are paid a fair wage and use sustainable farming techniques. Businesses increasingly recognize their capacity to help solve global environmental and social challenges, and the most innovate understand the business case for addressing such issues as climate change, water scarcity, pollution, poverty, hunger, and inequality. Via 150 signed entries, Green Business: An A-to-Z Guide provides an overview of key principles, approaches, strategies, and tools businesses have used to reduce environmental impacts and contribute to sustainability. Entries reflect the expertise of scholars and practitioners from varied fields and provide references to other entries as well as citations for further reading.