Chapter 8: Degrowth: between a scientific concept and a slogan for a social movement
Degrowth is a new keyword. It is on the one hand a keyword that has a scientific basis on the recognition that continuous economic growth is not only unsustainable but also undesirable, and on the other, a keyword that aspires to mobilize a social movement, a ‘movement of movements’, that will act politically to stop the self-destructive path of growth economies, creating a better society along the way. The theoretical sources as well as the political background of the different social groups inspired by degrowth make it difficult to speak of ‘one’ social movement, or a ‘degrowth movement’ in the strict sense. Likewise, degrowth is a ‘concept in the making’, and it is equally difficult to find a single comprehensive definition. In its latest academic renaissance, degrowth has been described as the transition – via the gradual and equitable downscaling of production and consumption – to a quantitatively smaller and qualitatively different economy that respects the environment, increases human well-being and aims at social equity (for example, Schneider et al., 2010). Degrowth is also described as ‘an attempt to re-politicise the debate on the much needed socio-ecological transformation’, by becoming a ‘confluence point where streams of critical ideas and political action converge’ (Demaria et al., 2013: 192–3). Degrowth is therefore, at the same time, a critique, a proposed transition process, a vision and a political project (Latouche, 2010).
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