Degrowth; Proposals and QuestionsPresentation Transcript
2nd Conference on Economic Degrowth Barcelona, 26th-29th March 2010 Interrogations and proposals Some inconvenient questions about degrowth Joaquim Sempere Universitat de Barcelona
Individuals, community, State
To foster a sustainable economy we need civil society organizations and initiatives from below .
But State must also have a stronger role to (1) check the power and resistance of plutocracy and to (2) enforce the generalized adoption of good practices.
The notion of productivity must be revised. Instead of stressing productivity of labour with its high requirements in material and energetic resources, it is the productivity of natural resources which should be stressed: to get the same services with less resources (= eco-efficiency ).
But eco-efficiency is not enough.
Given the uncertainties about future availability of energy, it will be necessary to look for a more frugal economy: reducing consumption of biophysical resources and adopting habits and priorities in accordance with it.
Some inconvenient questions
[Not easy to answer, but necessary to think about]
Is it realistic to envisage a return to the country and a rise of agriculture in a sustainable economy?
Is it realistic to envisage reduction of work-time?
Is it possible to sustain a Welfare State with a reduced GDP and reduced tax-incomes?
Return to country?
Ecological agriculture requires more labour for equal output. Sustainable economy will require a mass return from town to country and/or a new scheme of rural/urban relationship.
Agricultural income must be enhanced
Family exploitation must be protected
Rural environment must become more attractive.
Is reduction of work-time a realistic prospect? (1)
In a more sustainable economy, instead of use-and-reject we need saving, reusing, recycling and repairing activities, which will consume less material and energetic resources.
The labour productivity of these activities will be reduced, and more labour will be required.
Is reduction of work-time a realistic prospect? (2)
Is minor labour productivity compatible with a reduction of human effort?
We must check carefully the prospect of a reduction in work-time, even in a less consuming society . (Perhaps we must distinguish: ( a ) paid labour in formal economy, and ( b ) unpaid labour in informal and reciprocal economy.)
Welfare State and degrowth
Is it possible to have equal GDP (and equal tax income) with less material requirements?
If this is not possible, if economy will function with less currency, public tax income in money will be reduced. What about Welfare State benefits in such case?
Probably such a situation would require more voluntary and non-remunerated work: a new design of social welfare . (This poses a serious question in gender distribution of jobs.)
One more question about consumerism
The need of financial resources for transition to sustainability could be an opportunity to mobilize popular savings, from consumerism to investments for a sustainable society (ecological food, renewable energy, bioclimatic buildings...), laying the foundations of an economy more and more freed from capitalism.
I think it important to consider that transition to sustainability will not be a smooth and easy journey, with only advantages and without conflicts.
We must have a non demagogic discourse (not hiding difficulties). And be prepared to face hard confrontations.