Bhutan: Blazing a Trail to a Postgrowth Future? Or Stepping on the Treadmill of Production?

Bhutan is a rare case of a state with a development objective, Gross National Happiness (GNH), that emerged out of a critical perspective on economic growth as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, Bhutan is not immune from pressures that have led other states to see economic growth as a core political imperative. It thus represents a valuable case to examine the possibilities and challenges facing an ecological politics of sufficiency that questions the infinite growth of production and consumption. In addition to providing an overview of the GNH development approach, the article examines how ideas of sufficiency have been incorporated into that approach and asks whether pursuit of GNH actually represents a break with logic of a growth-based economic system. Although a sufficiency-based critique of consumerism and endless growth remains present, this “strong GNH” formulation increasingly contends with a “weak GNH” that is more in line with contemporary pressures for growth and greater consumption.

Jeffrey Wilson