What is Degrowth?Complementarity in diversity Federico Demaria firstname.lastname@example.org Research & Degrowth www.degrowth.org Environmental Science and Technology Institute, Autonomous University of Barcelona www.eco2bcn.es
IndexI] The post-political conditionII] Degrowth: a proposal for radical change - Sources - StrategiesIII] Conclusions
How can we criticize politics without falling into the post-political? How can we criticize economic growth in a context of economic growth crisis?
I] Post-political conditionThere are no debate and controversies:- among ideologies, because there is only one (Consensus);- over the causes of the crisis, no in depth analysis;- over the responsibilities (in fact the responsibles are the ones legitimized to propose solutions);- among solutions (managerial approach to government).Europes post-democratic era by Jurgen Habermas. The Guardian, 10/11/2011.
I] The economic crisis → Debtocracy!Mythologies: debt, spread and speculators (markets)But... Why do we have such large private and public debts? Who holds them? Are they legitimate? What would happen if we dont pay? What about publicly auditing the debts? Etc...- Economic crisis → confusion- Psychological terrorism: catastrophe → fearMario Monti (05/12/2011) referring to the adjustment plan:“Outside the euro and of the common European house there are only abyss and poverty”“There is no alternative”In reality: defense of the status quo and neo-liberal capitalism
I] Multi-dimensional crisisEconomic, social, political and ecological.Urgent and structural.Consequences of the 2008 economic crisis:- Economic: recession, debts,...- Social: unemployment, dismantling of welfare state;- Political: debtocracy;- Environmental: some improvements.So, how do we interpret it?With GDP? Or a Multi-criteria of physical and well-being indicators?
II] How can we go back to the political and to democracy?Degrowth: a proposal for radical changeProject of voluntary societal shrinking of production and consumption for social justice and ecological sustainability.
II] History of the termThe term Décroissance:- 1972 by André Gorz (and Sicco Mansholt, Pres. EU Commission);- 1979 by Georgescu Roegen.Activist slogan and social movement:- 2001: France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere.Concept discussed in the academic literature:- 2008: 1º Int. Degrowth Conference, Paris;- 2010: 2º Int. Degrowth Conference, Barcelona;- 2012: 3º Int. Degrowth Conference, Venezia.
II] Social movement theoryDegrowth: not an ideology, not (yet) a new paradigm, but...Interpretative frameDef. Interpretative frames generalize a given problem or individual life experience and produce new definitions, demonstrating its link and relevance with wider processes, events and conditions of other social groups.Framing process1) Diagnosis: What is the problem? Who is responsible for it? Sources2) Prognosis: What has to be done? How? Strategies
II] SourcesDiversity of arguments which can bedeployed to argue in favour of degrowth.Streams of thought: 1) Ecology; 2) Critics to Development and Anti-utilitarianism; 3) Meaning of life and well-being; 4) Democracy; 5) Justice; 6) Ecological Economics.Degrowth: River basin where different streams (of thought) and strategies converged.
1) Ecology1.1 Ecosystems have values in and of themselves1.2 Industrial systems VS EcosystemsDegrowth as a different relation with Nature:- accept intrinsic value of Nature and right to exist;- challenge resource-intensive institutions.
2) Critics to Development...The core of the Western imaginary (not open to debate) → growth or progress should be able to continue indefinitely, constant growth of production will make the future self-evidently better.A concept constructed within a particular history and culture − → a social construction to be deconstructedDegrowth- to decolonize (liberalize) the hegemonic imaginary;- to imagine alternatives.Authors: Arturo Escobar, Gilbert Rist, Vandana Shiva, Wolfgang Sachs,...
2) Anti-utilitarianismCritique of Homo Economicus:against self-interest and utility-maximization as the ultimate driving force of human behavioragainst the dominating influence of markets on human relations and society (”commodification of human relations”)Degrowth in that sense calls for more ample visions giving importance to economic relations based on gifts and reciprocity, where social relations and conviviality are central.Change in:- values structure and value-articulating institutions;- a change of culture and a rediscovery of human identity which is disentangled from economic representations.Authors: Alain Caille and the MAUSS (Anti-utilitarian movement in social sciences).
3) Meaning of life and well beingCritique of life-styles that are based on the mantras of working more, earning more and selling more.Happiness and economics:disassociation between incomeincrease and satisfactionwith life over time. Easterlins ParadoxSearch for:- coherence and unity between contradictory social roles,- Voluntary simplicity.Authors: Ghandi, E.F. Schumacher, Henry David Thoreau and Pierre Rabhi.
4) DemocracyCall for a deeper democracyi.e. Technology:given threshold technology can no longer be controlled by people. Technique is a system that grows without democratic feedback and follows a path of its own.Degrowth is thus a response to the lack of democratic debates on economic development, growth, technological innovation and advancement.Self-institutionalizing society: democracy can only exist by and with self- limitation.Authors: Ivan Illich, Jacques Ellul, Castoriadis
5) JusticeJustice in all its:- forms: economic, social and environmental;- time-lines: intra-generational and inter-generational.Critique of the idea of economic growth and trickle down effect.Redistribution (degrowth of inequalities).Environmentalism: rich or poor people?If western society used less natural resources and wealth was equally distributed, misery could be overcome and equality would be feasible.
6) Ecological EconomicsNon-equivalent descriptions of the economyThe economy is seen as a carroussel between consumers and producers. They encounter each other in markets for consumer goods or in markets for the services of production factors (like selling labour time for a wage). Prices are formed, quantities are exchanged.This is CHREMATISTICS. Macroeconomic accounts (GDP) aggregate the quantities multiplied by the prices.The economy may be described in a different way, as a system of transformation of (exhaustible) energy and materials (including water) into useful products and services, and finally into waste.This is BIOECONOMICS / ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS(from N. Georgescu Roegen 1966, 1971, Herman Daly 1968, A. Kneese and R.U. Ayres, 1969, Kenneth Boulding, 1966).
The entropy law and the economic process (Georgescu-Roegen, 1971)The entropy lawHuman activity transforms energy and materials of low entropy or good quality into waste and pollution which are unusable and have high- entropy.Energy is dissipated and cannot be recycled.Materials are recycled only to a small extent (entropy law).LimitsThe industrial economy depletes resources and overloads the sinks.- Limited resources: Hubbert’s peak oil is approaching.- Limited sinks: Carbon dioxide concentration in atmosphere increasing 2 ppm per year.
The economy does not dematerializePhysical indicators, i.e.:- MFA, Material Flow Analysis;- HANNP, Human Appropriation of Net Primary Productivity);- MuSIASEM, Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism.No decoupling between economic growth and environmental indicatorsTherefore, continuous new search at the “commodity frontiers” to substitute for dissipated energy and materials, and for new supplies.Production function: fallacy of endless substitution (i.e. Pizza)Natural capital cannot always be substituted by human-made capital
Physical indicators: i.e. MFA Material flows: minerals, fossil fuels and biomass Categories: imports, exports, domestic extraction and indirect flowsOften, not only the absolute amount of materials but also material intensity (tons of materials / GDP) is increasing! Indicates pressures on the environment.Convergence to a European average of 16 tons per person/year (only materials, water not counted here) would multiply Material Flows in the world by 3.
Italy (Andreoni, 2009) TMR: Total Material Requirement (Tons)
Energy and Biomass EnergyWe know that energy use per capita is increasing. Convergence towards 300 Gigajoules per capita/year would mean to multiply by 5 the present energy in the world economy. If gas and especially coal are used, also multiply by 4 or 5 the carbon dioxide produced. Also, danger of nuclear civil-military proliferation.The EROI is declining (energy return on energy input) (e.g. oils sands and heavy oils, or agrofuels). BiomassThe HANPP is also increasing – human appropriation of net primary production of biomass. Population growth, soil sealing, meat eating, agro-fuels increase the HANPP.The higher the HANPP, the less biomass available for other species. Indicates loss of biodiversity.
EfficiencyJevons Paradox (Rebound effect):Technological progress that increases the efficiency (i.e. resource productivity) with which a resource is used, tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.i.e. cars
Sources: discussionDegrowth makes sense when all sources are taken into account and combined (i.e. we dont want an eco-dictatoship).Other flows into the river of degrowth: feminism, political ecology, non violence (including the critique of militarism), radical neo- Malthusianism and open borders positions,The diversity within the concept of degrowth is actually a pre- condition for a diversity of strategies and actors involved in its deliberation and implementation.
II] Strategies and actors1) Opposition strategy;2) Alternatives building;3) Political institutions and reforms;4) Research;5) Dissemination;6) Acting at different scales (local, national, global).
Conclusions: 1. An ecologicaleconomics perspective on the crisisThe economy has three levels (Frederick Soddy, 1926):1) Virtual (or financial) economy;2) Real (or productive) economy;3) Real - Real economy: flows of energy and material. → Debt-fuelled economic growth is unsustainable.The financial system confuses expansion of credit for the creation of real wealth, while the real economy of energy and materials cannot grow at the interest rate necessary to pay off debts.As Georgescu-Roegen and Odum explain, the available natural resources are actually decreasing. The increase of private or public debts is thus the perfect recipe for economic crises.
Conclusions: 2. Degrowth of what?Degrowth of the economy. The economy as Chrematistics or the economy as Ecological Economics? The economy described in what terms?Of course, in terms of the real indicators, i.e. in terms of Material Flows, Energy use, and the HANPP (and also use of water).There is consensus that CO2 emissions must decrease by 50 or 60 per cent, while they are growing more than 3 per cent per year (doubling in 20 years).Now, however, given the fact that there is strong coupling between use of materials and energy, and economic growth, given the fact that the HANPP also increases (sometimes) with economic growth (agrofuels, for instance), therefore decreasing the physical indicators will decrease GDP.
Conclusions: 3. Degrowth to repoliticizeThe originality of degrowth:Its power to articulate different sources, streams of thought and strategies, bringing together a vast heterogeneous group of actors. → Degrowth to re-politicize our societiesThe sources, strategies or political proposals it puts forward are often not new, but their juxtaposition and combination is innovative and coherent.
Conclusions: 4. Diversity in complementarityCompatibility and complementarity of different sources and strategies.1) They do not necessarily dismiss each other and can rather be combined if we take a longer time horizon.2) Second, the diversity maintains a sort of tension which stimulates constructive debates and exchanges, an incentive for continuous improvements.Focusing on one aspect only brings failure as each approach and solution alone is incomplete.
Conclusion: 5. What is Degrowth?- Activist slogan- Interpretative frame of a new social movement- Concept (activist-led science)
Conclusione: 5. Una definizione di decrescitaDecrescita socialmente sostenibile éuna riduzione volontaria della produzione e del consumo per migliorare le condizioni ecologiche,per ridurre la pressione sulle risorse e sugli ecosistemi,per consentire una vita semplice e per migliorare il benessere umano,per le relazioni che non sono basati sul mercato,per più democrazia,per la giustizia sociale.
Conclusion: 5. Definition of degrowthSocially sustainable degrowth isa voluntary societal downscaling of production and consumption to enhance ecological conditions,to allow simple life and improve human well-being, for relations that are not market-based,for more democracy,to reduce the pressure on resources and sinks,for social justice and cooperation.