Degrowth – A vocabulary for a new era, 19pp

Growth in the developed economies might be coming to an end. This might be due to diminishing marginal returns (Bonaiuti, 2014), the exhaustion of technological innovations (Gordon 2012) or limits in creating effective demand and investment outlets for capital accumulating at a compound interest rate (Harvey 2010)…

From a degrowth perspective, the current economic crisis is the result of systemic limits to growth. It is not a cyclical crisis or fault in the credit system…

As the late Eric Hobsbawm (2011: 12) put it very late in his long life, ‘there is a patent conflict between the need to reverse or at least to control the impact of our economy on the biosphere and the imperatives of a capitalist market: maximum growth
in search for profit’. Two premises underlie this statement. The first was defended in Section 3.1: economic growth unavoidably increases throughput and negatively impacts the biosphere (against the argument of proponents of green growth or green capitalism that it is possible to both grow and reduce environmental impact). The second is that growth is an imperative under capitalism…

3.2 Degrowth and autonomy
The fact that there are limits and growth is coming to an end is not necessarily bad. For many degrowthers, degrowth is not an adaptation to inevitable limits, but a desirable project to be pursued for its own sake in the search for autonomy

Autonomy was a keyword for thinkers such as Illich, Gorz and Castoriadis, but it meant something slightly different to each. Illich (1973) meant freedom from large techno-infrastructures and the centralized bureaucratic institutions, public or private, that manage them. For Gorz (1982) autonomy is freedom from wage-labour. Autonomous is the sphere of non-paid work where individuals and collectives enjoy leisure and produce for their own use, instead of money. For Castoriadis (1987) instead,
autonomy means the ability of a collective to decide its future in common, freed from external (‘heteronomous’) imperatives and givens, such as the law of God (religion), or the laws of the economy (economics).

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