Growth, Institutions and Social Interactions

Growth, Institutions and Social Interactions
Licence Économie et gestionParcours International economics and management


The evidence on the causes and consequences of well-being, as measured through people’s evaluations of their own lives as a whole (subjective well-being), indicates fruitful ways to promote sustainable development, a target that so far proved elusive. Knowledge from studies on subjective well-being suggests that social and environmental sustainability is not only vital, but also possible. This course will discuss the theory and empirical evidence explaining why economic growth fails to deliver satisfactory lives that are socially and environmentally sustainable, in favour of lives where the quality of life depends closely on material possession and consumption. Special attention will be placed on quality of growth, that is on the conditions that can decouple consumption from well-being, and promote high quality lives that are also socially and environmentally sustainable.

Plan of the lecture:

I.             The course in a nutshell

II.            Economic growth, social relations and well-being

III.          Defensive growth: theory and evidence

IV.          Economic growth and sustainability

V.           Neo-humanism: the virtuous cycle

Compétences requises

Classes are held in English. Students are required to attend all classes. Credits will be awarded for active participation, an oral presentation during the classes and the final exam. 

Compétences visées

Students will gain a thorough understanding of the theory and empirical evidence on:

1. the limits of economic growth as a measure of progress ;

2. the role of well-being in productivity, and pro-social and pro-environmental behavior;

3. the possibility of decoupling well-being from consumption;

4. how to reconcile environmental and social sustainability with the possibility of leading satisfying lives.

Modalités d'organisation et de suivi

Active participation: students are expected to attend the classes regularly, read the assigned articles, prepare questions and comments for discussion, and contribute to the discussion. All texts will be made available through google drive. Active participation will be worth 25% of the grade.

Oral presentations: students will present selected articles in the classes. Each presentation is prepared by a pair of students. Presentations will be worth 25% of the grade.

Final exam: on the last day of the course, students will answer in written to a series of questions related to the material covered during the classes. The final exam is worth 50% of the final grade.


  • Sciences économiques
  • Sciences de gestion et du management


1.    Aknin, L. B., Whillans, A. V., Norton, M. I., & Dunn, E. W. (2019). Happiness and prosocial behavior: An evaluation of the evidence. World happiness report, 2019, 67-86.

2.    Bartolini, S. (2019). Unhappiness as an engine of economic growth. The Economics of Happiness: How the Easterlin Paradox Transformed Our Understanding of Well-Being and Progress, 271-301.

3.    Fioramonti, L., Coscieme, L., Costanza, R., Kubiszewski, I., Trebeck, K., Wallis, S. & De Vogli, R. (2022). Wellbeing economy: An effective paradigm to mainstream post-growth policies?. Ecological Economics, 192, 107261.

4.    Haberl, H., Wiedenhofer, D., Virág, D., Kalt, G., Plank, B., Brockway, P., ... & Creutzig, F. (2020). A systematic review of the evidence on decoupling of GDP, resource use and GHG emissions, part II: synthesizing the insights. Environmental research letters, 15(6), 065003.

5.    Helliwell, J. F., Aknin, L. B., Shiplett, H., Huang, H., & Wang, S. (2017). Social capital and prosocial behaviour as sources of well-being.

6.    Michel, C., Sovinsky, M., Proto, E., & Oswald, A. J. (2019). Advertising as a major source of human dissatisfaction: Cross-national evidence on one million Europeans. The Economics of Happiness: How the Easterlin Paradox Transformed Our Understanding of Well-Being and Progress, 217-239

7.    Peroni, C. and Sarracino, F.(2023), Productivity and Subjective Well-Being in Roger Fernandez-Urbano and Hilke Brockmann,Encyclopedia on Happiness, Quality of Life and Subjective Well-being, Edward Elgar.

8.    Sarracino, F. (2019). When does economic growth improve well-being?. The Economics of Happiness: How the Easterlin Paradox Transformed Our Understanding of Well-Being and Progress, 355-370.

9.    Sarracino, F., & O’Connor, K. J. (2021). Economic growth and well-being beyond the Easterlin paradox. A Modern Guide to the Economics of Happiness, 162-188.

10. Sarracino, F., & O’Connor, K. J. (2023). Neo-humanism and COVID-19: Opportunities for a socially and environmentally sustainable world. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 18(1), 9-41.

11. Zawadzki, S. J., Steg, L., & Bouman, T. (2020). Meta-analytic evidence for a robust and positive association between individuals’ pro-environmental behaviors and their subjective wellbeing. Environmental Research Letters, 15(12), 123007.

Autres contacts

Name of the lecturer: Francesco SARRACINO