DeGrowth – Décroissance for Xmas anyone?

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Décroissance, or degrowth, is a story of hope amidst adversity. Just like Xmas.

Born of the adversities of a poisoned and plundered planet, degrowthers say “No! No More! Let’s get out of the Old National Market Hall of Sickly Scarcity and into the New Global Banquet Hall of Happy Abundance…

Yes, contrary to first impressions, Degrowth is not about less, but about less being more, about quality over quantity.

“By de-enclosing social goods and restoring the commons” , argues Jason Nickel, “we can ensure that people are able to access the things that they need to live a good life without having to generate piles of income in order to do so, and without feeding the never-ending growth machine. “Private riches” may shrink, as Lauderdale pointed out, but public wealth will increase. In this sense, degrowth is the very opposite of austerity. While austerity calls for scarcity in order to generate growth, degrowth calls for abundance in order to render growth unnecessary. Degrowth, at its core, is a demand for radical abundance.”  read the whole article here

“Degrowth… explores another direction for society, one where ecological and social justice become possible, along with more meaningful lives.” Write François Schneider and Joanna Pope of Uneven Earth.

“First, degrowth is … a rigorous objection to dominant ideas about how economies and societies function. … (It) challenges the the ideology of … (GDP) growth from a range of different perspectives, from political economy, sociology and happiness studies, to ecofeminism, social ecology and post-development theory. … (GDP-) Growth does not improve our lives. Instead, the pursuit of infinite economic growth on a finite planet has led to both vast social inequality and ecological destruction.

Degrowth also rejects claims (for which there is no empirical evidence or theoretical justification) that we would be able continue to pursue infinite … (GDP) growth without accelerating the global ecological crisis .. (and) challenges the pessimistic belief that ecological collapse is inevitable, that all we can do now in response to the global climate crisis (and many other crises) is to close our communities and borders to those in need.

Secondly, degrowth … is not a passive critique, but an active project of hope …  Degrowth is not afraid to envision a utopian future for our world. The degrowth society is just, ecological, sustainable, democratic, participatory, internationalist and localized with rich cultural, ethnic and ecological diversity in each locality, and simultaneously open and global. …

Thirdly, Degrowth offers a set of paths for societal transformation in order to make these utopias possible. … Rather than presenting a silver bullet solution, degrowth proposes a web of change  … (toward) an equitable, planned downscaling of production and consumption, … to shrink some sectors, while simultaneously expanding and transforming others for the better, while the sum is a move to the reduction of material and energy flow and to simpler and more meaningful lives. …

Degrowth … involves a fundamentally non-violent, … collective project in which we empathize with the deep needs of everyone. To this end we need highly democratic processes to give voice to what is not expressed in order to build degrowth narratives: narratives which make us realize that meeting the needs of all is part of the realm of what is possible.”   read the whole unevenearth article here

“How sweet and lovely!” you may say. “But what planet are they from?”

“This planet. That’s the whole point.” Degrowthers might reply.

There is something airily apolitical about DeGrowth at times. But this naivete needs to be put in perspective.

As Benedikt Schmitt  politely reminds us “Scholarship on transformation … is challenged to formulate how change beyond growth-dependent and “capitalist” modes of social organization might unfold. Trapped between the double utopia of the current situation:  While it is clearly an illusion that society can continue , fundamental change beyond capitalism seems equally implausible.”

Perhaps even more poignantly, the naiveties of alternative imagined futures should be compared to those of the present “realistic” status-quo-forever unfolding. Like imagine the existing global GDP economy progressing nicely and greenish along the present trajectory to eradicate poverty at $1.25 a day. Apparently it would take more than 100 years. And at a slightly more real $5 a day level, it would take 207 years.  “Global GDP would have to increase to 175 times its present size, ” writes  Jason Nickel, “…driving global per capita income up to $1.3 million. In other words, the average income would have to be $1.3 million per year simply so that the poorest two-thirds of humanity could earn $5 per day.” This “extremely optimistic scenario” is the best we can expect from the business-as-usual trajectory of the development industry.”

Naive or not, the money media have taken note. DeGrowth showed up on Bloomberg recently. Not a one off, either. There was John Cassidy‘s article in the NewYorker : “Can We Have Prosperity Without Growth?”  ,  Forbes recently declared that “The critique of economic growth, once a fringe position, is gaining widespread attention in the face of the climate crisis” and, perhaps setting it all off, was a an  HBR article by Thomas Roulet and Joel Bothello explaining Why Degrowth Shouldn’t Scare Businesses :

With today’s climate crisis, debates around degrowth have been reinvigorated: many major figures such as Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis and Anthony Giddens have expressed support for the idea. Others, especially business leaders, view degrowth as completely unthinkable, arguing that growth is an economic necessity and any threat to that not only undermines business, but basic societal functioning. The problem is, the degrowth movement has already begun: at a grassroots level, consumer demand is actively being transformed, despite political and corporate reticence. This opens new opportunities for firms, if they act now.”

“Beware the embrace of Capital!” David Harvey might frown, Wolfgang Streeck nodding, “Ja eben”.

“Yes Sir!” degrowthers might reply, “We are aware!”

Read here Why degrowth should scare business.  And as far George Kallis is concerned “… degrowth is an anti-capitalist approach to ecological sustainability”, writes  Stefania Barka  “Its focus is a radical shift in the dominant economic ideology and social imaginary: from growth to redistribution of the surplus, from production to reproduction and care, and from acquisitive to sharing and commoning values. As such, degrowth should be fully embraced by the Left, Kallis argues, abandoning once and for all the productivist and Keynesian credos which the climate crisis has made obsolete.”

Not sure that would convince those who argue that degrowthers fail to appreciate the full implications of a steady-state economy  being “… incompatible with the process of expansion and continual enlargement inherent to capitalism” or allay their suspicion that degrowth ultimately promotes “a vision of social pacification and … the preservation of capitalist power relations.”  (Maria Markantonatou : Growth Critique in the 1970s and Today )

In “The Degrowth Illusion”   Leigh Phillips  goes further : To abandon growth is to declare an end to progress. Socialists must reject the politics of eco-Thatcherism”

Others feel equally strongly that “It is very important for the left to reject Ecomodernism. The extreme technical implausibility of this faith … is also theoretically and strategically wrong-headed.” argues Ted Trainer. “It not only offers no guidance for revolutionary action, it advocates the capital-intensive tech-fixes such as nuclear energy and carbon capture that the corporations would be delighted to have us spend trillions on.”  read the whole article below

I like to think that much of the debate is about “conceptual (male) ego” rather than any fundamental difference? Certainly nothing as fundamental as the shared objection to the status quo.

Andrea Grainger  seems to agree. “Leigh’s article attacks some of the bad forms of the degrowth ideology but misses much of the positive parts of the movement. Rather than presenting degrowth and socialism as rivals, I believe a better approach is to try to synthesise socialist and degrowth ideas, and bring these communities together.”  read the whole article here

In his comprehensive review of the debate : “We-Are-All-Degrowthers_We-Are-All-Ecomodernists” Kevin Carson argues:

“The fighting over emotional imagery associated with the words “growth” and “degrowth” makes it difficult even to distinguish legitimate areas of disagreement from swatting at verbal phantasms. Although there are real areas of substantive disagreement, at least as much of the dispute can be traced to something of a “two cultures” problem.”  And Carson concludes his excellent article: “The actual “debate,” if there is one, comes down more to a rhetorical sleight of hand by which “degrowth” is associated with “Malthusianism,” “austerity,” or outright neoprimitivism than to disagreements in material terms. If there’s disagreement in material terms, it’s over secondary questions like whether degrowth in resource consumption can be decoupled from growth as measured by GDP, whether GDP is even a significant measure of anything but waste and resource consumption, or whether there’s sufficient waste production at present to reduce resource consumption without affecting real standards of living. So we are all agreed, or should be agreed, both that 1) resource extraction should be limited to sustainable levels, and 2) we should pursue both economic rationalization and technological development in order to use the specified level of resource inputs to generate the maximum possible quality of life. In this sense, we are all degrowthers and we are all ecomodernists.”  Read the whole paper here

There is an echo of the “productivist” versus “Malthusian” arguments within the wider degrowth umbrella. Having  reviewed Giorgos Kallis and Kate Raworth , Stefania Barka concludes: “Reading these two books together … gives a clear sense that degrowth and doughnut economics, as well as other radical concepts that they incorporate (environmental justice, Buen Vivir, community economies, and others), are not engaged in a battle of ideas against each other in the same fashion as different currents of Marxism were used to. The point is not to pick the right one, but rather to make use of them as different tools to create a global political strategy for tackling climate change – one that a majority of the world population might identify with and struggle for.”

Indeed, Beth Stratford  suggests in her article that these debates are missing the point altogether: “The question we should ask is: can those who care about economic and environmental justice on either side of this divide — growth optimists and growth sceptics — agree on a basic set of demands that can stop us hurtling toward ecological collapse? I believe that we are closer to a consensus than might immediately seem to be the case. …  Most green growth advocates will admit that GDP is a poor predictor of health, well-being, and other social outcomes. Nevertheless many recoil at the idea of a politics of ‘less’, arguing that it “has little capacity to speak to the needs of the vast majority of workers ravaged by neoliberal austerity”.

I’ve tried to show that the policies necessary to end our dependence on growth speak directly to the needs of those suffering precarity, exhaustion and exploitation under the current system. Ending our dependence on growth is about diffusing the power of rentiers, expanding economic democracy, and establishing entitlements to a basic share of our common wealth. It’s about freeing up time for leisure, caring for one another, arts, education and democratic deliberation. It’s about protecting people from extractivism, just as environmental regulations protect the Earth’s living systems from it.

Of course there will be people on both sides of green growth debate who will reject the possibility of consensus — those, as Gareth Dale puts it, whose positions become supercharged with morality and aesthetics – “on one hand a fetishism of technology and a dogma that ‘growth is good’; on the other, a zeal for frugality”.

But the vast majority should recognise the necessity and possibility of working side by side. Some of us will focus our energies on the case for technological/infrastructural change, some on the need for resource caps and environmental protections, and some on the fight for the economic justice that would end our growth dependence.

Given the scale of the challenge ahead, it is naive to think that any one of these tasks can be neglected. So, let us reach a truce and build a mass movement to take on the real enemies of environmental justice. The stakes are too high to do anything else.”

read the whole article here

I am all for building movements but not so sure about enemies. The enemy is The System. Aren’t individuals as-in-the-system just Charaktermasken? Positionholders. Nothing is more distracting than personal virtue positioning. The idea has to be to prioritise the goals and diversify the pathways.  The System needs to be re-analysed as the geo political economy it actually is, from the perspective of a global anyone. You could say the social sciences are trying. Ecologists have done more. They have succeeded in establishing a whole web of global but granular physical flow parameters and measurements. This could be very relevant to some future egalitarean objectification of value by something other than the market price. Money backed by the ultimate commoditiy of “Planet Earth”, perhaps, divided into 10 billion or so allotments?

But that’s money talk.

Happy as I am with the radical abundance of degrowth, I am missing the money.

As Alf_Hornborg  writes in his article “How to turn an ocean liner”:  “Although soon reduced to a heterodox and marginalized position, the critique of growth has continued to challenge mainstream dogmas of economics and policy for over four decades. Countless debates have raged on what exactly is the problem of sustainability, whether the design of taxes and subsidies, the choice of energy sources, the internal contradictions of capitalism, or even the biological essence of the human species. Considering the centrality of the focus on the economy, it is remarkable how little attention has been paid to the phenomenon of money. Mainstream economists certainly do not question money, but neither do most Marxists or ecological economists. Even Georgescu-Roegen (1971), who is recognized as the origin of both ecological economics and the proposal for degrowth, wrote a 457-page book on the contradiction between economics and thermodynamics without once asking if the cultural convention we know as money might in fact be the elephant in the room.”

The elephant, and how to morph it into a snail perhaps, will have to wait for a future blog on degrowth and money.

Just follow the money or watch Jason Nickel before you go has a lot of articlesdegrowth.orgResearch and Degrowth (R&D)  An academic association dedicated to research, training, awareness raising and events organization around degrowth   WEAll is a collaboration of organisations, alliances, movements and individuals working towards a wellbeing economy, delivering human and ecological wellbeing.

degrowth articles + updates  (5/2022) 2021 Frugal consumption, an alternative in times of crisis? A reflection on the responsible factors – by Hasna Sidmou

…”In conclusion, financial accessibility and voluntary simplicity, in a particular capacity,are therefore the main engine of a transformation process whereby frugal innovations can gain greater acceptance from wealthier groups in society and become agents of change. …”… 2016 A design for life? Degrowth and the rough road to utopia by Andreas Mayert

Abstract – Although the goal of degrowth is a complete transformation of the economic system and society, it is difficult to translate the actual contents of degrowth into a unified theoretical building. Is degrowth therefore only a kind of political wake-up call to a fundamental reconsideration or can a genuine social alternative concept be derived from the multitude of approaches? This paper attempts to evaluate the core contents of degrowth. Firstly, it is analysed whether degrowth has to offer a convincing development path to a sustainable society and economy. Secondly, it is examined whether degrowthhas convincing solutions to offer, how a transformation to a degrowth society can be initiated and how it can be socio-economically stabilised.

Environmental Sustainability, DeGrowth, Steady-State Economy, Degrowth, Ecological Economics, Evolution of Economics, Sustainable Lifestyles, Behavioral Change, Human Development, Evolution of Consciousness, Intentional Communities, Grassroots MovementsPeak Oil Capitalism, DegrowthReal UtopiasDegrowth Sustainable Lifestyles  7/2021  What is ‘degrowth’ and how can it fight climate change? – The cure for a changing climate could be a stagnant economy.  by Sara Kiley Watson

“There’s no other way to put it—as climate change envelops more and more of our daily lives, we are going to have to change the way we live. That will mean prepping for weirder weather, shifting our diet, and using cleaner energy. But, a growing economic idea is also brewing: Could a slower-growing or stagnant economy be the key to combating climate change?…”…   2021  The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More  – by Annie Raser-Rowland, Adam Grubb   28/10/2021 Degrowth: why some economists think abandoning growth is the only way to save the planet – podcast  by Daniel Merino, Gemma Ware, Beth Stratford, Lorenzo Fioramonti, Samuel Alexander

patreon/SteveKeen  23/10/2021  From Economic Fantasy to Ecological Reality on Climate Change  Steve Keen

This was an invited talk to the Oxford Department of International Development “Climate Change and the Challenges of Development Lecture Series”, on my criticisms of the application of neoclassical economics to climate change. I focus on the new paper by Dietz et al. that allegedly calculates the economic costs of tipping points …  Upon closer examination, this paper fails to consider tipping points in any credible way, and this is obvious in its incredible claim (in the original sense of the “not credible”), that:

“Tipping points reduce global consumption per capita by around 1% upon 3°C warming and by around 1.4% upon 6°C warming”

This is ridiculous: the tipping points they consider are: Arctic summer sea ice, the Greenland Ice Sheet, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (“Gulf Stream”), the Amazon Rainforest, the Indian Monsoon, Permafrost, and Ocean methane hydrates. If all 8 of these tripped–especially with a temperature 3-6°C above pre-industrial levels, we would be experiencing a climate utterly unlike anything Earth has seen for tens of millions of years.  The thought that this would just reduce global consumption by just 1.4%–compared to what it would be if none of these tipping points were triggered–doesn’t pass what Nobel Laureate Robert Solow once called “the smell test”: “every proposition has to pass a smell test: Does it really make sense?”. I show why this paper stinks in Solow’s sense.”  9/2021 Green growth’ doesn’t exist – less of everything is the only way to avert catastrophe – It is simply not possible to carry on at the current level of economic activity without destroying the environment  – by George Monbiot  2020  A degrowth perspective on the coronavirus crisis  by Nathan Barlow, Constanza Hepp, Joe Herbert, Andro Rilović, Joëlle Saey-Volckrick, Jacob Smessaert, Nick von Andrian

The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has caused upheaval across the world, high death tolls among the most vulnerable, border closures, financial market crashes, curfews and controls on group gatherings, among many other devastating effects.

Despite observations that pollution and emissions have reduced (McGrath, 2020; Myllyvirta, 2020; NASA, 2020), the sudden, unplanned, and chaotic downscaling of social and economic activity due to COVID-19 is not degrowth. Instead, it constitutes a clear example of why degrowth is needed, as it highlights the unsustainability and fragility of our current economic system and social structure. Additionally, the various responses to COVID-19 have shown that degrowth is actually possible, because societies and states have demonstrated a remarkable ability to change their modus operandi in response to a major crisis.

This letter will consider these three points in further detail: first, how the COVID-19 crisis is by no means degrowth; second, how COVID-19 shows that degrowth is needed; and finally, why COVID-19 indicates the potential for a degrowth transformation.   2019  “Geographies of degrowth: Nowtopias, resurgences and the decolonization of imaginaries and places” (Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 2019) Introduction to the Special Issue. By Federico Demaria, Giorgos Kal, Karen Bakker.

The term ‘décroissance’ (degrowth) signifies a process of political and social transformation that reduces a society’s material and energy use while improving the quality of life. Degrowth calls for decolonizing imaginaries and institutions from-in Ursula Le Guin’s words-‘a one-way future consisting only of growth’. Recent scholarship has focused on the ecological and social costs of growth, on policies that may secure prosperity without growth, and the study of grassroots alternatives pre-figuring a post-growth future. There has been limited engagement, however, with the geographical aspects of degrowth. This special issue addresses this gap, looking at the rooted experiences of peoples and collectives rebelling against, and experimenting with alternatives to, growth-based development. Our contributors approach such resurgent or ‘nowtopian’ efforts from a decolonial perspective, focusing on how they defend and produce new places, new subjectivities and new state relations. The stories told span from the Indigenous territories of the Chiapas in Mexico and Adivasi communities in southern India, to the streets of Athens, the centres of power in Turkey and the riverbanks of West Sussex.     PDF here   28/7/2021 Pope Francis Laudato Si’ calls us to radical abundance through economic ‘degrowth’  – by Alex Mikulich

…”While the Club of Rome found that the current myopic focus on economic growth is unsustainable, it was joined by other scholars and activists who articulated paradoxical ways of living in radical abundance and harmony with the planet without economic growth. In his recent primer on degrowthLess Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World, economic anthropologist Jason Hickel explains:

Degrowth begins as a process of taking less. But in the end it opens up whole vistas of possibility. It moves us from scarcity to abundance, from extraction to regeneration, from dominion to reciprocity, and from loneliness and separation to connection with a world that’s fizzing with life.

Growth for its own sake, Hickel laments, creates more “illth than wealth,” when the ongoing pursuit of growth in high-income nations produces more inequality and instability, stress and depression from overwork, and increasing pollution and ill health. ….

We need a different measure of well-being. The genuine progress indicator (GPI), for example, includes not only GDP, but also negative results of economic growth, such as resource degradation, to assess the overall benefit to society. Degrowth economists employ a different visual image to convey their goal. The objective is not to make the proverbial economic elephant leaner, but to turn the elephant into a snail, as an international consortium devoted to degrowth, which includes Catholic organizations, puts it. Turning the elephant into a snail means creating an economic metabolism in harmony with diverse ecologies that serve the full flourishing of all of our human and nonhuman kin.

The term degrowth is employed as a way to decolonize our thinking, that is, to shift from assuming that there is only one way of thinking — growth — and turn away from values of domination and exploitation toward values of conviviality, cooperation and reciprocity. Whereas capitalism seeks to control and extract value from the web of ecological relations that make life, many cultures deemed “primitive” by the modern West celebrate radical interdependence and reciprocity within diverse webs of life.

The Anishinaabeg, whose original lands were in northeastern America (now Canada), have the word minobimaatisiiwin, which means “a continuous rebirth of reciprocal and cyclical relations between human and other life.” In southern African regions, Bantu languages have ubuntu, meaning human fulfillment through togetherness, and the Shona have ukama, which indicates “the interrelatedness of the entire cosmos, including the biophysical world.” The Chinese shi-shi wu-ai and Maori term mauri express “interrelatedness through the entire life force of the cosmos.” (These terms are drawn from Raj Patel and Jason Moore, The History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet.)

Perhaps paradoxically, degrowth is not about living in Scrooge-like misery — it is about living in the radical abundance of God’s creation. There are scriptural visions of degrowth, principally the Hebrew law of jubilee (Leviticus 25), which calls for the cancellation of debts every seventh year. In an era of ecological devastation, Hickel celebrates the Jubilee Debt Campaign‘s debt cancellation proposals as a “vital step toward ecological sustainability.”

The problem of living by values of consumerism and infinite economic growth is not only do our economic values violate love of God and neighbor, but growth itself destroys God’s creation and all of life as we know it. Degrowth offers a different way that celebrates the radical abundance of the whole of God’s creation while caring for all of our human and nonhuman kin. 1/2021  Growth without economic growth  –  Economic growth is closely linked to increases in production, consumption and resource use and has detrimental effects on the natural environment and human health. It is unlikely that a long-lasting, absolute decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures and impacts can be achieved at the global scale; therefore, societies need to rethink what is meant by growth and progress and their meaning for global sustainability.   6/2020  Constructive criticism of degrowth is NOT support for growth: a response to Forbes By Vandana Sharma, Gabriela Cabaña

In a recent article for Forbes, Corbin K Barthold makes several allegations against the idea of degrowth without having a clear understanding of the concept. He also includes some quotations – originally reported in a different article (by Aaron Timms) – from a vibrant classroom discussion which took place at the 2019 Degrowth Summer School hosted by the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB). Barthold presents the quotes completely out of context in order to support his own argument for growth-led economic thinking.  2020  What does the notion of degrowth cover? What are its history and current influence? How does a degrowth mindset impact the sustainability or CSR strategy of an organization? Let’s take a closer look.

…”Degrowth: A Simple Definition – The term degrowth refers to an economic situation during which the economic wealth produced does not increase or even decrease. This concept is to be distinguished from the recession, a simple observation of a negative growth rate in the context of a productivist economy. The concept of degrowth is a voluntary process and not a reality. It is based on the principle of awareness of a finite world, with limited resources, and on the idea that only a reduction in global production and consumption can ensure the future of humanity and the preservation of the planet…” …  2019 Cutting back: how the degrowth movement could save the planet  Sophie Perryer  3/2021 Degrowth in the Age of Dickens

John Stuart Mill was a man of immense principle who helped lay the foundations of modern liberalism. In On Liberty, he used the utilitarianism of his mentor Jeremy Bentham to craft a manifesto against strictures on freedom of thought or private action. His book The Subjection of Women, which expanded on the writings of his wife Harriet Taylor Mill, was a powerful assault on an inequality that he viewed as a relic of the past. He also campaigned in favor of racial equality. Although he was enough a man of his time to embrace the idea of colonization, he attacked colonial practice. In his writing on the economy, he favored income, inheritance, and excess-consumption taxes. And his views anticipated modern liberalism with regard to both animal welfare and the environment.

One more way that Mill’s writings from a century and a half ago feel distinctly of the moment is in his views on economic growth. In his Principles of Political Economy, Mill wrote a chapter “Of the Stationary State.”[1]In it he argued that the need for economic growth in the richest countries had run its course.

The modern degrowth movement has adapted to a time when population expansion has stalled or reversed in many countries and the threat of mass famine has receded: rather than decrying health care or food aid for the world’s poor, it has returned to a level of humanity closer to Mill’s than the neo-Malthusians. It embraces an approach of floors and ceilings: redistribution to ensure everyone worldwide can have access to infrastructure, education, and health care even while the rich are taxed to fund the safety net and reduce overall consumption. Economist Kate Raworth labels this “donut economics,”[20]where all of humanity lives within a “safe and just space” between having too little for necessities and consuming too much for the environment. The movement champions many policies that liberals of all persuasions should surely support, including taxation to finance greater global equality of opportunity and regulation to reduce pollution. Such policies are a central reason that past economic growth has been associated with a higher quality of life, and are even more important to ensure the same for future growth.

Just because past technological progress has saved us from Malthusian doom (or millenarian misery, if I may) does not mean it always will. There are reasons to believe that the rate of innovation is slowing just as global environmental problems become more severe. Given that the world looks so different from 170 years ago, statements that were before their time back then might well be right today. Indeed, the increasingly “weightless” nature of both production and consumption (labor productivity growth driven by bigger ideas rather than bigger machines, consumption growth driven by services, not goods) suggests we might be reaching a potential saturation point of needs and desires when it comes to physical products in rich countries.”   23/2/2021   Degrowth:  Solving the Impasse by Magical Thinking    Branko Milanovic outlines the ideological divides and rhetorical tactics distinguishing degrowers and growers.  01/2020   Degrowth and critical agrarian studies  Julien-François Gerber

Abstract:  Degrowth refers to a radical politico-economic reorganisation that leads to smaller and more equitable social metabolisms. Degrowth posits that such a transition is indispensable but also desirable. However, the conditions of its realisation require more research. This article argues that critical agrarian studies (CAS) and degrowth can enrich each other. The Agrarian Question and the Growth Question should be addressed in concert. While degrowth should not fall into the ‘agrarian myth’, CAS should not embrace the ‘myth of growth’, even when green and socialist. Ideas of one philosopher and four agrarian economists are presented, with illustrations from Bhutan, Cuba and North America, hoping to offer a preliminary research agenda for ‘agrarian degrowth’.

Introduction: Compounding growth, environmental degradation, and widespread alienation are the three most dangerous contradictions for our time.  David Harvey (2015, 57–8)   If the spectre of communism was haunting Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, even though ‘all the powers of old Europe [had] entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre’ (Marx and Engels 2011 [1848], 61), it is perhaps the spectre of degrowth that is today haunting the industrialised world, while all the imperial powers tend to deny the urgency of the situation (Akbulut et al. 2019). For the economic élites, the lack of growth is a most frightening idea, but for other people, degrowth may represent a way out, a ‘concrete utopia’ (Latouche 2009; Muraca 2017) from which alternatives can be rethought. – amsterdam-doughnut-economics/        22/01/2021  Amsterdam Is Embracing a Radical New Economic Theory to Help Save the Environment. Could It Also Replace Capitalism? CIARA NUGENT  “In cities that are grappling with the immediate social and economic effects of COVID-19, though, the doughnut framework is proving appealing, says Joshua Alpert, the Portland-based director of special projects at C40. “All of our mayors are working on this question: How do we rebuild our cities post-COVID? Well, the first place to start is with the doughnut.” …”

CasP   10/2/2021  Living the good life in a non-growth world – Investigating the role of hierarchy   by  Blair Fix            read or download here

Humanity’s most pressing need is to learn how to live within our planet’s boundaries — something that likely means doing without economic growth. How, then, can we create a non-growth society that is both just and equitable? I attempt to address this question by looking at an aspect of sustainability (and equity) that is not often discussed: the growth of hierarchy. As societies consume more energy, they tend to become more hierarchical. At the same time, the growth of hierarchy also seems to be a key driver of income/resource inequality. In this essay, I review the evidence for the joint relation between energy, hierarchy and inequality. I then speculate about what it implies for achieving a sustainable and equitable future.

DOUGHNUT ECONOMICS – A ROADMAP FOR A THRIVING SUSTAINABLE CITY   Dr. Azmizam Abdul Rashid   read PDF and comments (live)

From_growth_to_degrowth_to_a_steady_state.pdf     What If a Shrinking Economy Wasn’t a Disaster?   The degrowth movement is building a vision of a society where economies would get smaller by design—and people would be better off for it.  The concept of degrowth is now widely researched and practiced across Europe, but so far remained largely unexplored in the Netherlands. The first Utrecht Degrowth Symposium was organized to change this and to introduce degrowth thinking to the larger public. An interest in alternative, not growth-addicted pathways to sustainable future turned out to be high, as the event attracted more than 300 people from all over the Netherlands and from diverse sectors of the economy – academia, NGOs, public institutions, businesses. For those who could not come, we present below summaries of the three presentations. If you wish to watch the entire lecture yourself, video recordings can be found at the end of each summary.

Décroissance: A Project for a Radical Transformation of Society   by Barbara Murcaca  10/2019  Cutting back: how the degrowth movement could save the planet  by Sophie Perryer

“Constant growth may not be the marker of success it’s cracked up to be. The degrowth movement promotes an active downscaling of the economy as a pathway to environmental sustainability and a more fulfilling lifestyle …

The term ‘degrowth’ was first proposed in the 1970s by the Franco-Austrian philosopher André Gorz, but it did not emerge as a movement until the late 2000s, when the first international degrowth conferences were held in Paris and Barcelona in 2008 and 2010 respectively. “These were landmark events that cast this radical movement onto the global stage,” Brendan Gleeson, Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, told European CEO.  Some of the ideas associated with the degrowth movement have since entered mainstream socioeconomic debate, particularly in connection with sustainability. For example, Sara Fromm, a sustainability activist and member of Research & Degrowth, has noticed the term being used by the Spanish media …

During the two-year Finnish UBI programme, participants were given €560 per month, no strings attached. While UBI was not found to affect the participants’ ability to find work, it did have a positive impact on the health, stress and concentration levels of those receiving it compared with those in the control group. “Those in the test group were also considerably more confident in their own future and their ability to influence societal issues,” noted the researchers who carried out the study.”

Jason Nickel  2018  The contradiction of the sustainable development goals:  Growth versus ecology on a finite planet

There are two sides to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which appear at risk of contradiction. One calls for humanity to achieve “harmony with nature”… The other calls for continued global economic growth equivalent to 3% per year … The SDGs assume that efficiency improvements will suffice to reconcile the tension between growth and ecological sustainability. This paper draws on empirical data to test whether this assumption is valid, paying particular attention to two key ecological indicators: resource use and CO2 emissions.  The results show that global growth of 3% per year renders it empirically infeasible to achieve … (rapid enough) … reductions in aggregate.  … The paper presents alternative pathways for realizing human development objectives that rely on reducing inequality … rather than aggregate growth.   Breakdown or breakthrough? Degrowth and the Great Transition  We have already surpassed the known limits to growth, so degrowth is our only option.   Zack Walsh   wellbeing-is-more-than-gdp-so-how-can-we-measure-it     Is Degrowth an Alternative to Capitalism? JANUARY 5, 2020  GÜNEY IŞIKARA

“The newest book by Giorgos Kallis, one of the most prolific degrowth advocates is entitled Limits: Why Malthus Was Wrong and Why Environmentalists Should Care. It is a short and accessible read which contains some important and unconventional arguments. In what follows, I will first briefly summarize the core arguments of the book, which promises to provoke important discussions on the matter of limits and subjects. Then I will reflect on the fuzziness of the primarily cultural conceptualization of capitalism, and argue that neither self-limitation nor degrowth qualifies as a mode of production, such that they could constitute an alternative to capitalism.”

tandfonline   Degrowth and critical agrarian studies  Julien-François Gerber Jan 2020

Compounding growth, environmental degradation, and widespread alienation are the three most dangerous contradictions for our time. – David Harvey (2015, 57–8)

…For the economic élites, the lack of growth is a most frightening idea, but for other people, degrowth may represent a way out, a ‘concrete utopia’ (Latouche 2009; Muraca 2017) from which alternatives can be rethought.  …The current state of our Biosphere does not indeed look good, and the measures taken are grossly insufficient. … On the socioeconomic front, things look hardly better. Disconnected from ecological reality, capitalism continues to deploy its inbuilt tendency to grow and seek new accumulation opportunities, both virtually (financialization) and materially (extraction and production). Debts and derivatives have reached unparalleled levels worldwide, increasing the risk of economic meltdown (Durand 2017). Relative poverty is on the rise everywhere (WIR 2018), while global GDP shows no sign of absolutely decoupling from ecological impacts (Hickel and Kallis 2019). Not unsurprisingly, then, more and more people and movements are starting to question the world’s trajectory of maldevelopment …  This article argues that critical agrarian studies (CAS) and degrowth can bring essential elements to each other, and that the bridges have so far remained too rare …”    read paper here

Green Political Economy Policy Analysis Framework : A REDD+ Study in the Brazilian Amazon   by Tiago Reis   “A strong State approach for REDD+ is indicated as the best model to prevent forest commodification, ensuring positive outcomes for forest dwellers, landholders, forest ecosystems as well as a cost-effective mitigation strategy for climate change.”    read or download PDF here

Institutional_change_for_strong_sustainable consumption  H. Spangenberg 2014

The environmental space concept illustrates that socially unsustainable underconsumption must be overcome and environmentally unsustainable overconsumption must be phased out. The planetary boundaries help to quantify the “ceiling,” while the social protection floor concept operationalizes the linea de dignidad, the minimal conditions for a dignified life. In order for Western societies to respect these limits, significant institutional change is needed with re-spect to both orientations and mechanisms. For the ceiling, this article suggests a shift to an orientation of “better but less” for affluent groups, and toward “enough and better” for those still living in poverty. The corresponding mecha-nisms include a redistribution of income and wealth, a cap on income, an unconditional minimum income, and a strengthening of democracy. The choice of instruments has to take into account that consumption is to a large degree not an individual but a social act and to employ informational, financial, and legal measures that overcome the prefer-ence of decision makers for market instruments. Implementing these changes would alter the fabric of our societies. Important first steps can be taken here and now.   read or download PDF here  Feasible alternatives to green growth : Can job creation and sustainability coexist in a post-growth economy? 2020/ From degrowth to decolonisationrg

“How can we use the principles of degrowth to shape a truly decolonized future?

Something about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Message from the Future didn’t sit right with me. …  In this iteration of the future, it is taken for granted but not explained how the oppressed and those oppressing could co-exist in harmony. Why was this overlooked in the mainstream discourse surrounding this beloved viral video? …  analysis would in fact show that no previous large-scale attempts—capitalist or socialist—were able to remain within ecological limits. Perhaps these holes stood out to me because I had been engaging with the framework of degrowth.”

theguardian 19/01/2021  europe-relationship-africa-colonial-racism   Europe can only fix its relationship with Africa if it exorcises its colonial ghosts  by   Shada Islam  have-your-doughnut-and-eat-it-too/Circular Economy

“How do we define growth, today? Is it social justice, wealth, technology, health? … It’s no secret that GDP … dictates modern economics, but GDP cannot account for the widespread inequality and change our planet is facing. Simon Kuznets, who first defined this measurement, warned early on that “The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of its national income.”

It’s certainly hard to argue that wealth equates to welfare when today, 2 out of 3 countries have worse living conditions than they did 40 years ago. Poverty, injustice, and climate crisis exist on an unprecedented scale, and the richest 1% of the population own half the global wealth.”     Wellbeing is more than GDP ⁠— so how can we measure it?  Opinion: after experiments with different indicators, there is still no clear winner    This opinion article was written by Aisling Irwin, a journalist covering science, development and environment at the EU Horizon Magazine, and was originally published by the EU Horizon Magazine. For more like this, see our economic development newsfeed.  can-europe-make-it/limit-growth-liberate-degrowth/

De Growth – Taking Stock and Reviewing an Emerging Academic Paradigm – Martin Weiss, Claudio Cattano

Sustainability perspectives from the European Semi-periphery  Rumiana Stoilova  Mladen Domazet  Dinka Jerolimov  Jelena Puđak  Mislav Zitko    This edited volume brings together 12 original contributions and an editorial theoretical framing, from 14 authors of different disciplines and training. The main framework of its theoretical and empirical contributions is determined by the relationship between environmental, social and economic systems. In elucidating this relationship the theoretical and empirical insights (based on an analysis of empirical data on the attitudes and values of nationally representative samples) reflect the specific views from the ‘European semi-periphery’, both in theoretical explorations, positioning along global development and impact indices, and analyses of public opinion survey data. This is important in the context of the role of European centres of development paradigm viewed from the global perspective of common environmental limits, and its reflection in numerous societies on the semi-periphery. Theoretical contributions elucidate the understanding and significance of sustainability …”          read or download PDF here

Why power is not a peripheral concern: Exploring the relationship between inequality and sustainabilityDanijela Dolenec, Mladen Domazet and Branko Ančić investigate the correlations between levels of inequality within the said European countries and personal concern, activation and sacrifice commitments within their populations. They expand the models and instruments from the article “Prosperity and environmental sacrifice in Europe: Importance of income for sustainability-orientation” with measures of social inequality and international indicators of material deprivation. Whilst acknowledging the strong influence of income in support for environmental conservation among general population, this chapter exposes the fallacy behind the expectation that only affluent European societies hold value orientations important for the switch to sustainability.        Read or downlod PDF here

The Social Case for Degrowth Jack Herring Oct 13, 2019 · 9 min read

The underlying premise of the social case for degrowth is that endless growth would not be desirable even if it were to become compatible with ecological sustainability. Exploration into the two arguments behind this claim — that a) growth is inherently based on exploitation and injustice and b) that beyond a certain level growth does not lead to improvements in well-being — illuminate the social case for degrowth.

Social ecology, horizontalism, bioregionalism – a brief tour around the theories that back up a return to the local

architectural-review    On the money: the merits of degrowth  by  Phineas Harper  and  Maria Smith

Jason Nickel  Outgrowing growth: why quality of life, not GDP, should be our measure of success

History of the Future of_Economic_Growth  12-2020   Iris Borowy   Matthias Schmelzer

History of the Future of Economic Growth
The future of economic growth is one of the decisive questions of the twenty-first century. Alarmed by declining growth rates in industrialized countries, climate change, and rising socio-economic inequalities, among other challenges, more and more people demand to look for alternatives beyond growth. However, so far these current debates about sustainability, post-growth or degrowth lack a
thorough historical perspective. This edited volume brings together original contributions on different aspects of the history of economic growth as a central and near-ubiquitous tenet of developmental strategies. The book addresses the origins and evolution of theb growth paradigm from the seventeenth century up to the present day and also looks at sustainable development, sustainable growth, and degrowth as examples of alternative developmental models. By focusing on the mixed legacy of growth, both as a major source of expanded life expectancies and increased comfort, and
as a destructive force harming personal livelihoods and threatening entire societies in the future, the editors seek to provide historical depth to the ongoing discussion on suitable principles of present and future global development.”

read or download PDF here     History of the Future of_Economic_Growth      Iris Borowy   Matthias Schmelzer


Julio Linares and Gabriela Cabaña / demurrage money  “Towards an Ecology of Care: Basic Income Beyond the Nation-state”

Green growth is trusted to fix climate change – here’s the problem with that


Who owns the Green New Deal? Making sense of remote ownership problems and place-based governance   Geoff Garver
February 4, 2020  degrowth-and-perspectives-about-it-from the south       Dorothy Grace Guerrero

Value_Growth_Development_South_American Lessons for a New Ecopolitics  2017  by Eduardo Gudynas   
ABSTRACT – Current debates on politics and ecology in South America offer a number of lessons on the
controversy concerning ecosocialism and degrowth. Some recent experiments on the South American left show a strong emphasis on socialism while deploying conventional developmentalism including decisive social and environmental impacts. In this dispute the different conceptions of value are very clear. Original perspectives on Buen Vivir as a radical critique of development point to alternatives that are at the same time post-capitalist and post-socialist, alternatives in which the recognition of the intrinsic value of the non-human is a core component.

Green_economy_and_carbon_markets  for conservation and development –  a critical view   2015  Kathleen McAfee

Green economy aims to use economic rationality and market mechanisms to mute the most ecologically damaging effects of globalized capitalism while reviving economic growth in the global North, fostering development in the South, and decoupling economic growth from environmental decline. An archetypal application of green econ- omy is transnational trade in ecosystem services, including reduced emissions for defor- estation and degradation (REDD?). By compensating developing countries for maintaining forests as carbon sinks, this approach is meant to transcend politics and circumvent conflicts over the responsibilities of industrialized and ‘less-developed’ countries that have stymied global climate policy. However, carbon-offset trading is unlikely to result in lower greenhouse gas emissions, much less combined conservation and development gains. The troubled record of payment for environmental services and other schemes or commodification of nature illustrates that living ecosocial systems do not fit the requirements of market contracts. Disputes over proto-REDD? projects point to the dangers that REDD? will disadvantage or dispossess rural communities and distract attention from underlying causes of forest and livelihood loss. Two decades of all-but- futile climate negotiations have shown that global warming cannot be managed by means of technocratic expertise nor dealt with separately from the politics of inequality and the paradox of economic growth. The deceptive promise of greening with growth can blind us to these realities. Counter-hegemonic discourses to growth-centered green economy under the headings of buen vivir, mainly in the global South, and degrowth, mainly in the global North, therefore merit attention.

Re-thinking oil: compensation for nonproduction in Yasuní National Park challenging sumak kawsay and degrowth – 2020
Lucía Gallardo Fierro    “In this article I argue that understanding the Initiative as an environmental matter and not as a problem of oil rent dependency exemplifies the limits of sumak kawsay and degrowth as proposals for an alternative to development. Results from Yasunı´ show that the Initiative ended up reproducing the fictions of nature valuation instead of delinking nature from the valuation process.”        Read PDF here

Core tenets of the theory of ecologically unequal exchange 12-2020  Dr. Martin Oulu     Read PDF here

“In this article, core tenets and claims of the theory of ecologically unequal exchange (EUE) are synthesized. EUE theory postulates a net flow of natural resources from peripheral developing to core industrialized countries through international trade, a situation which undermines the development of the periphery while enhancing that of the core. The key claims and EUE mechanisms are categorized and discussed under three topics: 1) the structure of the capitalist world-economy, 2) monetary valuation, and 3) equity and justice. The treadmill logic of capitalism in which capital extracts ecological resources and release waste in an endless pursuit of profits creates an expansionary dynamic which draws peripheral countries into exploitative market relations. This peripheralization is supported by ‘free trade’ economic policies, while nation-states and other political-economic institutions such as the WTO and IMF provide the regulations which ensure proper functioning of the system. Monetary valuation caps it by obscuring the inverse relationship between thermodynamics and economics, in which low-entropy energy and materials indispensable in economic production processes are lowly priced while processed goods which have dissipated most of their matter-energy are highly priced, ensuring that biophysical resources and profits accumulates in the industrialized Northern countries. This EUE framework is applied to the EU’s Raw Materials Initiative from the vantage point of policy as implicit theory. By challenging mainstream policies and their underlying theories, the EUE perspective demonstrates that alternatives to neoliberal policy prescriptions exist and policy can play a crucial role in bringing about the necessary structural changes”

Look inside   Is low economic growth a sign of success? Yes, says Dietrich Vollrath, an economics professor, in a new book

washingtonpost   Let’s celebrate slow economic growth   by Charles Lane

Annual Revies   2018   Annual Review of Environment and Resources  Research On Degrowth
Giorgos Kallis, Vasilis Kostakis, Steffen Lange, Barbara Muraca,  Susan Paulson and Matthias Schmelzer

see also