Degrowth ( French : decay ) is a political, economic, and social movement is based ecological economics , anti-consumerist and anti-capitalist ideas. [1] It is also considered an essential economic strategy responding to the limits-to-growth dilemma (see The Path to Degrowth in Overdeveloped Countries and Post-growth ). Degrowth thinkers and activists advocate for the downscaling of production and consumption -the contraction of economies -arguing that overconsumptionat the root of long term environmental issues and social inequalities . Key to the concept of degrowth Is That Reducing consumption does not require individual martyring gold Decrease in well-being . [2] Rather, „degrowthists“ aim to maximize happiness and well-being through non-consumptive means-sharing work, consuming less, while devoting more time to art, music, family, nature, culture and community.


The movement arose from concerns over the perceived consequences of the productivism and consumerism associated with industrial societies (whethercapitalist or socialist) including:[3]

  • The source of energy sources (see peak oil )
  • The declining quality of the environment (see global warming , pollution , threats to biodiversity )
  • The decline in the health of flora and fauna upon which humans depend (see Holocene extinction )
  • The rise of negative societal side-effects (see a sustainable development , poorer human health , poverty )
  • The ever-expanding use of resources by first-world countries to satisfy the needs of the world (see neocolonialism )

Resource depletion

Main article: Resource depletion

As economies grow, the need for resources grows accordingly. There is a fixed supply of non-renewable resources, such as petroleum, and these resources will inevitably be depleted. Renewable resources may also be depleted if not extended. For example, this has occurred with ‚caviar‘ production in the Caspian Sea. [4] There is much concern as to how growing demand for these resources will be reduced. Many organizations and governments look to energy technologies such as biofuels, solar cells, and wind turbines to meet the demand gap after peak oil. Others have argued that none of the alternatives could effectively replace versatility and portability of oil. [5] Authors of the book Techno-Fixcriticism of technological optimism for the problem of agricultural technology and social challenges arising from growth. [6]

Proponents of degrowth argue that decreasing demand is the only way of permanently closing the demand gap. For renewable resources, demand, and therefore production, should also be brought to the fore. Moving towards a society that is not dependent on it is essential to avoid societal collapse when non-renewable resources are depleted. [7] „But degrowth is not just a quantitative question of doing less of the same, it is also more fundamentally, about a paradigmatic re-ordering of values, in particular the (re) affirmation of social and ecological values. (re) politicization of the economy „. [8]

Ecological footprint

Main article: Ecological footprint

The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems. It compares human demand with planet Earth’s ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate the resources of humans. According to a 2005 Global Footprint Network report, [9] inhabitants of high-income countries live off 6.4 global hectares (gHa), while those from low-income countries live off a single gHa. For example, while each inhabitant of Bangladesh lives off of what they produce from 0.56 gHa, in North Americanrequires 12.5 gHa. Each inhabitant of North America has 22.3 times as much land in Bangladesh. According to the same report, the average number of global hectares per person was 2.1, while current consumption levels reached 2.7 hectares per person. In order for the world’s population to reach the standard of living, the planet earthswould be required. In order to achieve greater economic efficiency, they would have to reduce their standard of living through degrowth. The eventual reduction of all available resources would lead to a forced reduction in consumption. Controlled reduction of consumption would reduce the trauma of this change assuming the growth of the planet’s carrying capacity.

Degrowth and sustainable development

Degrowth thought is in opposition to all forms of productivism (the belief that economic productivity and growth is the purpose of human organization). It is, thus, opposed to the current form of sustainable development . [10] While the concern for sustainability does not contradict degrowth, sustainable development is rooted in mainstream development Ideas that aim pour augmenter capitalist growth and consumption. Degrowth as a sustainable development as an oxymoron , [11] as any development based on growth in a finite and environmentally stressed world is seen as inherently unsustainable. Critics of degrowth argue that a slowing ofeconomic growth would result in increased unemployment , increase poverty and decrease income per capita. Many who understand the devastating environmental consequences of growth still advocates for economic growth in the South, even if not in the North. Aim, a slowing of economic growth would fail to deliver the benefits of degrowth-self-sufficiency, material responsibility-and would indeed lead to decreased employment. Rather, degrowth proponents advocate for a complete abandonment of the current (growth) economic system, suggesting that relocalizing and abandoning the global economy in the Global Southwould allow people to become more self-sufficient and would be able to exploit the resources of the North. [11]

„The rebound effect“

Main article: Rebound effect (conservation)

Technologies designed to reduce resource use and improve efficiency. Degrowth literature, however, warns about these advances to the “ rebound effect „. [12] This concept is based on the observation that when a resource is comprehensive, technology is introduced, the behavior of the technology can change , and that it can increase the potential savings. [13]In light of the rebound effect, proponents of degrowth hold that the only effective ’sustainable‘ solutions must involve complete rejection of the growth paradigm and a move toward a degrowth paradigm. There are also fundamental limits to the technological solutions in the pursuit of degrowth, as all engagements with technology increase the cumulative matter-energy throughput. [14] HOWEVER, the convergence of digital commons of knowledge and design with distributed manufacturing technologies arguably hold May degrowth potential for building future scenarios [15]

Origins of the movement

The contemporary degrowth movement can trace its roots back to the anti-industrialist trends of the 19th century, developed in Great Britain by John Ruskin , William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement (1819-1900), in the United States by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), and in Russia by Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910). [16]

The concept of „degrowth“ proper appeared during the 1970s, proposed by André Gorz (1972) and intellectuals such as Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen , Jean Baudrillard , Edward Goldsmith and Ivan Illich , whose ideas reflect those of earlier thinkers, such as the economist EJ Mishan , [18] the industrial historian Tom Rolt , [18] and the radical socialist Tony Turner . The writings of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and JC Kumarappa also contain similar philosophies, particularly regarding his support of voluntary simplicity.

More generally, degrowth movements of humanism , enlightenment , anthropology and human rights . [19]

Club of Rome reports

In 1968, the Club of Rome , a think tank headquartered in Winterthur , Switzerland , asked researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a report on practical solutions to global problems. The report, called The Limits to Growth , published in 1972, became the first important study that indicated the ecological perils of the unprecedented economic growth world at the time.

The reports (also known as the Meadows Reports) are not strictly the founding texts of the degrowth movement, as these reports only advise zero growth , and have been used to support the sustainable development movement. Still, they are considered the first official studies in the field of environmental growth as a result of global pollution, such as pollution, shortage of raw materials, and the destruction of ecosystems . A second report was published in 1974, and together with the first, drew considerable attention to the topic. quote needed ]

Lasting influence of Georgescu-Roegen

Georgescu-Roegen is recognizable as the main intellectual figure inspiring the degrowth movement

The degrowth movement recognises Romanian American mathematician , statistician and economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen as the main intellectual figure inspiring the movement. [20] : 13-16[21] : 548f [22] : 1742 [23] : In his magnum opus on The Entropy Law and the Economic Process , Georgescu-Roegen argues that economic scarcity is rooted in physical reality; that all natural resources are irreversibly degraded when put to use in economic activity; that the carrying capacityof Earth-that is, Earth’s capacity to sustain human populations and consumption levels-is bound to decrease sometime in the future as Earth’s finite stock of minerals is presently being extracted and put to use; and consequent, that the world economy is heading towards an inevitable future collapse. [24]

Georgescu-Roegen’s intellectual inspiration to degrowth goes back to the 1970s. [25] When Georgescu-Roegen delivered a lecture at the University of Geneva in 1974, he made a lasting impression on the young and newly graduated French historian and philosopher Jacques Grinevald , who had earlier been introduced to Georgescu-Roegen’s magnum opus by an academic advisor. Georgescu-Roegen and Grinevald soon made friends, and Grinevald started devoting his research to a closer study of Georgescu-Roegen’s work. As a result, in 1979 Grinevald published in a translation of Georgescu-Roegen’s articles entitled Tomorrow Decay: Entropy – Ecology – Economics(‚Tomorrow, the Decline: Entropy – Ecology – Economy‘). [26] Georgescu-Roegen, Who spoke French fluently, Personally approved the use of the term decline in the title of the French translation. The book gained influence in French intellectual and academic circles from the outset. Later, the book was expanded and republished in 1995, and once again in 2006; However, the word Tomorrow (‚Tomorrow‘) was removed from the title of the book in this second and third editions. [22] : 1742 [26] [27] : 15f

By the time Grinevald suggests the term decay to form part of the title of the translation of Georgescu-Roegen’s work, this term had already been disseminated through French intellectual circles since the early 1970s to signify a political deliberative action to downscale the economy on a permanent basis and voluntary basis. [3] : 195 Simultaneously, indépendamment purpose hereof, Georgescu-Roegen HAD criticised the ideas of The Limits to Growth and Herman Daly ’s steady state economy In His pointed and polemical section is Energy and Economic Myths, delivered as a series of readings from 1972 and onwards at various places, but not published in print before 1975. In this article, Georgescu-Roegen stated the following view:

[Authors who] were set up exclusively on proving the impossibility of growth … were easily deluded by a simple, now widespread, but false syllogism : Since exponential growth in a world leads to disasters of all kinds state. The crucial error is not only that of growth, but also of zero-growth state, which is not converging toward annihilation. [28] : 366f
… [T] he important, yet unnoticed point [is] that the necessary conclusion of the arguments in favor of that vision [of a stationary state] is that the most desirable state is not a stationary, but a declining one.Undoubtedly, the current growth must cease, nay, be reversed. [28] : 368f [Emphasis in original]

When reading this particular passage of the text, Grinevald realised that no professional economist of any orientation Grinevald also realizes the striking conceptual resemblance between Georgescu-Roegen’s viewpoint and the French debates progressing by the time; this resemblance then transformed into the title of the French edition. Taken together, the translation of Georgescu-Roegen’s work into French Both fed it and gave further Top impetus to the concept of decay in the country-and everywhere else in the Francophone world-thereby Creating something of an intellectual feedback loop. [22] : 1742 [27] : 15f [3] : 197f

By the 2000s, When Decrease Was Usually Declined for the New Social Movement, The Decline Usually Refers to an Unexpected , unwelcome and temporary economic recession , something bad to be avoided or quickly overcome. Instead, the neologism ‚degrowth‘ was coined to signify a deliberate political action to downscale the economy on a permanent and voluntary basis-as in the prevailing, or so followers believe. [21] : 548 [27] : 15f [29] : 874-876

When the first international conference of its kind was held in Paris in 2008, the participants bestowed a generous amount of credit and appreciation on Georgescu-Roegen and his work. [30] : 15f, 28, and passim Further, in his manifestoon Small Treaty of the Farewell to Growth, leading French champion of the degrowth Serge Latouche has credited Georgescu-Roegen as a theoretical source of degrowth. ‚ [20] : 13-16 Likewise, Italian degrowth theorist Mauro Bonaiutihas considered Georgescu-Roegen’s work to be one of the leading cornerstones of the degrowth perspective. [23] : xi

Serge Latouche

Serge Latouche , professor of economics at the Paris-Sud 11 University , has noted that:

If you try to measure the growth of the environment and its consequences on our natural and cultural heritage, you will obtain a result of zero or even negative growth. In 1991, the United States spent $ 115 billion, or 2.1% of the GDP on the protection of the environment. The Clean Air Act increased this cost by 45 or $ 55 million per year. […] The World Resources InstituteThe world is one of the world’s most important countries in the world, with an eye towards sustainable development. For Indonesia, it found que le taux de growth entre 1971 and 1984 Would Be Reduced from 7.1 to 4% Annually, and That Was by Taking only three variables into consideration: deforestation , the reduction in the reserves of oil and natural gas, and soil erosion . [31] [32]

Schumacher and Buddhist economics

EF Schumacher’s 1973 book is a great predicate to unified degrowth movements. In this book he criticizes the neo-liberal model of economic development, arguing that an increasing „standard of living“, based on consumption, is absurd as a goal of economic activity and development. Instead, under what we are referring to as Buddhist economics , we should be able to maximize well-being while minimizing consumption. [33]

Ecological and social issues

In January 1972 Edward Goldsmith and Robert Prescott-Allen-editors of the Ecologist journal-published A Blueprint for Survival , which called for a radical program of decentralization and deindustrialization to prevent what the authors referred to as the breakdown of society and the irreversible disruption of the life-support systems on this planet „ .

Degrowth movement


The movement has also included international conferences, [34] sponsored by the Network Research & Degrowth (R & D), [35] in Paris (2008), [36] Barcelona (2010), [37] Montreal [38] Venice (both 2012), [39] Leipzig (2014) and Budapest (2016). [40]

Barcelona Conference (2010)

The First International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity of Paris (2008) was a discussion of the financial, social, cultural, demographic and environmental crisis caused by the deficiencies of capitalism and the explanation of the principles of degrowth. [41] The Second International Conference of Barcelona on the other hand focuses on specific ways to implement a degrowth society.

Concrete proposals have been developed for future political actions, including:

  • Promotion of local currencies , elimination of fiat money and Reforms of interest
  • Transition to non-profit and small scale companies
  • Increase of local commons and support of participative approaches in decision-making
  • Reducing working hours and facilitation of volunteer work
  • Reusing empty housing and co-housing
  • Introduction of the basic income guarantee and an income ceiling built on a maximum-minimum ratio
  • Limitation of the exploitation of natural resources and preservation of biodiversity and culture by regulations, taxes and compensations
  • Minimize the waste production with education and legal instruments
  • Elimination of mega infrastructures, transition from a car-based system to a more local, biking, walking-based one.
  • Suppression of advertising from the public space [42]

In spite of the real willingness of reform and the development of numerous solutions, the conference of Barcelona did not have a big influence on the world economic and political system. Many criticisms have been made concerning the proposals, mostly about the financial aspects, and this has been refrained changes to occur. [43]

Degrowth around the world

Degrowth, movements using similar concepts and terminologies can be found around the world, such as Buen Vivir [44] in Latin America or Eco-Swaraj [45] in India.

Relation to other social movements

The degrowth movement has a variety of relations to other social movements and alternative economic visions, which range from collaboration to partial overlap. The Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie (Laboratory for New Economic Ideas), which hosted the 2014 International Degrowth Conference in Leipzig, has published a project entitled „Degrowth in Movement (s) [46] “ in 2017, which maps relationships with 32 other social movements and initiatives.


Marxist criticizes

See also: Steady-state economy § Capitalism without growth

Marxists distinguish between two types of growth: that which is useful to mankind, and that which simply exists to increase profits for companies. Marxists consider that it is the nature and control of production that is the determinant, and not the quantity. They believe that control and a strategy for growth that enable social and economic development. According to Jean Zin, while the justification is correct, it is not a solution to the problem. [47] However, other Marxist writers have adopted positions close to the de-growth perspective. For example, John Bellamy Foster [48] and Fred Magdoff, [49] in common with David Harvey , Immanuel Wallerstein ,Paul Sweezy and others focus on capital accumulation as the basic principle and goal of capitalism. This is the source of economic growth and, in the view of these writers, is unsustainable. Foster and Magdoff develop Marx’s own concept of the metabolic rift, something he noted in the exhaustion of soils by capitalist systems of food production, though this is not unique to capitalist systems of food production as seen in the Aral Sea .

Systems theoretical criticism

In stressing the negative rather than the positive side (s) of growth, the majority of degrowth proponents remains focused on (de) growth, thus co-performing and further sustaining the self-criticized unsustainable growth obsession. One way out of this paradox may be in the context of the growth of the concept of growth, which leads to a broader concept of growth for the growth of other systems of society. A corresponding recoding of growth-obsessed or capitalist organizations has recently been proposed. [50]

See also

  • A Blueprint for Survival
  • Anarcho-primitivism
  • Anticapitalism
  • Anti-consumerism
  • Club of Rome
  • Development criticism
  • downshifting
  • Ecological economics
  • Edward Goldsmith
  • André Gorz
  • Ezra J. Mishan
  • François Leaving
  • Genuine progress indicator
  • Growl
  • L-shaped recession
  • The Limits to Growth
  • Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen
  • Political ecology
  • Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World
  • Serge Latouche
  • Simple living
  • Steady-state economy
  • Paradox of thrift
  • Tim Jackson (economist)
  • Transition Towns
  • Uneconomic growth
  • Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt
  • The Path to Degrowth in Overdeveloped Countries
  • Post-consumerism
  • Post growth
  • Productivism


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