Productivity and Prosperity: A Historical Sociology of Productivist Thought

Productivity and Prosperity: A Historical Sociology of Productivist Thought

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By Karen R. Foster
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2016
World Rights
304 Pages
ISBN 9781487520571
Published Sep 2016
Online discount: 15%
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ISBN 9781487500788
Published Sep 2016
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781487511821
Published Oct 2016
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Despite Canada’s economic success over the past thirty years, the country’s ranking in productivity has continued to decline when compared to other industrialized nations. Economic experts and pundits repeatedly call for means of improving productivity, arguing that it is the lynchpin to prosperity. However, there is growing evidence to the contrary.

In Productivity and Prosperity, Karen Foster zeroes in on the paradox of productivity: that it is the key to economic prosperity and yet its connection to well-being and median incomes has all but disappeared.  Drawing together three case studies including the development of Statistics Canada, the National Productivity Council, and the evolution of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Foster argues that there is a ‘productivist regime’ guiding policy development in Canada and abroad. By analyzing and critiquing the inherent assumptions of productivism the author destabilizes the myth that economic growth is essential for quality of life.

Karen Foster is Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Rural Futures for Atlantic Canada and an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University.



1. The Discovery of Productivity

2. Managing and Measuring Productivity

3. The Dominion Bureau of Statistics

4. The National Productivity Council

5. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

6. The Decline of Productivity?

7. Conclusion: Productivity’s Future and the Limits of Growth



Productivity and Prosperity is a thoughtful and creative intellectual tour de force that challenges long-held assumptions and notions around productivity, and offers insights that challenge these prevailing assumptions.”

Dimitry Anastakais, Professor of History, Trent University

“Karen R. Foster effectively and persuasively brings together vastly diverse literatures in an ambitious study that forces us to think differently about fundamental questions of economic and social organization.”

Fred Block, Research Professor of Sociology, UC Davis

John Porter Prize awarded by the Canadian Sociological Association (Canada) - Commended in 2017