Treadmill of production

The Treadmill of Production (ToP) is a theoretical model developed by Allan Schnaiberg, which offers an explanation of the expansion of environmental problems in the modern era. According to the ToP model, advances in technology, primarily induced by owners of the means of production seeking to increase profits, drive the expansion of production and consumption synergistically. This process leads to a cycle of production necessitating more production, because all sectors of society (the state, organized labor, and private capital) depend on continued economic growth to solve problems, such as unemployment generated by mechanization, which are created by growth itself. ToP theorists argue that environmental problems cannot be solved in such a system, since growth puts ever-increasing demands on the environment by extracting natural resources and generating pollution. Thus, achieving environmental sustainability requires radical restructuring of the political economy and a move away from growth dependence.

Further Reading

  • Schnaiberg, Allan. 1980. The Environment: From Surplus to Scarcity. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 019502611X
  • Schnaiberg, Allan and Kenneth A. Gould. 1994. Environment and Society: The Enduring Conflict. New York: St. Martin’s Press. ISBN: 0312102666


York, R. (2006). Treadmill of production. Retrieved from


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