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Degrowth as a project for societal transformation: its science and its relevance (Barbara Muraca)

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Lecture by Dr. Barbara Muraca from the University of Oregon with Q&A. Recorded at the first Dutch degrowth symposium in Utrecht on 28th of june 2019.

Lezing door Dr. Barbara Muraca van de University of Oregon met Q&A. Opgenomen tijdens het eerste Nederlandse degrowth symposium in Utrecht op 28 juni 2019.

Find a summary of the event here: https://ontgroei.degrowth.net/utrecht-degrowth-symposium/

Published in: Environment
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Degrowth as a project for societal transformation: its science and its relevance (Barbara Muraca)

  1. 1. Degrowth as a project for societal transformation: its science and its relevance Barbara Muraca Degrowth Symposium June 28, 2019
  2. 2. 0. Degrowth: a project of radical societal transformation
  3. 3. 2. Critique of Growth
  4. 4. 2. Critique of Growth ➡Critique of Monetary growth --> GDP ‣ GDP —> measures only money exchange for new products (feminist & ecological economics) ‣ no distinction between good and bad expenses ‣ GDP-Growth based on material flows —> impact on resources and sinks increases (limits of dematerialization)
  5. 5. ➡Critique of Material growth ‣ material & energy flows analysis ‣ (Over)exploitation of resources & sinks beyond conditions of regeneration (social-ecological economics, ecology, climate science), & of labour (political economy, sociology) ‣ Critique of how benefits & burdens are distributed (political ecology) 2. Critique of Growth ➡Critique of Monetary growth --> GDP ‣ GDP —> measures only money exchange for new products (feminist & ecological economics) ‣ no distinction between good and bad expenses ‣ GDP-Growth based on material flows —> impact on resources and sinks increases (limits of dematerialization)
  6. 6. 2. Critique of Growth
  7. 7. ➡Critique of socio-cultural growth ‣ growth as mental infrastructure ‣ neoliberal regulation of subjects and behaviors, expectations, and interactions in neoliberal societies ‣ self as a investment portfolio --> risks & responsibilities privatized (health, skills, …) ‣ paradigm of 'better' not only of 'more': ‣ enhancement, self-realization, improvement… ‣ overexploitation & expropriation of life energy, creativity, emotions, hopes, fears, life data —> platform economy 2. Critique of Growth
  8. 8. ➡Critique of socio-cultural growth ‣ growth as mental infrastructure ‣ neoliberal regulation of subjects and behaviors, expectations, and interactions in neoliberal societies ‣ self as a investment portfolio --> risks & responsibilities privatized (health, skills, …) ‣ paradigm of 'better' not only of 'more': ‣ enhancement, self-realization, improvement… ‣ overexploitation & expropriation of life energy, creativity, emotions, hopes, fears, life data —> platform economy 2. Critique of Growth ➡Critique of Structural growth ‣ Fixation on continuous & exponential economy growth as only way of securing living standard & social stability (sociology, political science, philosophy)
  9. 9. 2. Critique of Growth-Societies…
  10. 10. ➡ Structural Role of Growth: logic of expansion is a structural condition for the stabilization & reproduction of modern, capitalistic societies ≠ byproduct! 2. Critique of Growth-Societies…
  11. 11. ➡ Structural Role of Growth: logic of expansion is a structural condition for the stabilization & reproduction of modern, capitalistic societies ≠ byproduct! 2. Critique of Growth-Societies… Dynamic Stabilization by growth
  12. 12. ➡ Structural Role of Growth: logic of expansion is a structural condition for the stabilization & reproduction of modern, capitalistic societies ≠ byproduct! 2. Critique of Growth-Societies… Dynamic Stabilization by growth ‣ Political stability and social pacification ‣ output legitimation of democracy
  13. 13. ➡ Structural Role of Growth: logic of expansion is a structural condition for the stabilization & reproduction of modern, capitalistic societies ≠ byproduct! 2. Critique of Growth-Societies… Dynamic Stabilization by growth ‣ Political stability and social pacification ‣ output legitimation of democracy ‣ Securing & Increasing Prosperity ‣ Poverty Reduction & employment creation ‣ Securing & Increasing Prosperity ‣ Tax revenue --> Welfare State
  14. 14. 2.1 … in Crisis: end of ‘easy’ growth
  15. 15. ➡Capitalistic growth imperative <--> constraints for further growth: 2.1 … in Crisis: end of ‘easy’ growth
  16. 16. ➡Capitalistic growth imperative <--> constraints for further growth: 2.1 … in Crisis: end of ‘easy’ growth ‣ Internal Contradictions: ‣ Undermines its own conditions of reproduction ‣ Promise of prosperity holds no longer ‣ Crisis of output-legitimation of modern democracies
  17. 17. ➡Capitalistic growth imperative <--> constraints for further growth: 2.1 … in Crisis: end of ‘easy’ growth ‣ Internal Contradictions: ‣ Undermines its own conditions of reproduction ‣ Promise of prosperity holds no longer ‣ Crisis of output-legitimation of modern democracies ‣ External Thresholds: ‣ Ecological ‘Limits’ (resources & sinks) ‣ Social & personal thresholds: ‣ Creating new needs to trigger growth ‣ Intensification of the pace of life —> competition
  18. 18. 3. Crisis Scenarios
  19. 19. 3. Crisis Scenarios ➡ Transition to a new growth model ‣ Neoliberal marketization of ecological crisis ‣ Green Capitalism & Green Economy?
  20. 20. ➡ Peak Capitalism? Collapse ‣ Crisis of Capitalism as global ecological system —> margin of profit declines, no further expansion possible 3. Crisis Scenarios ➡ Transition to a new growth model ‣ Neoliberal marketization of ecological crisis ‣ Green Capitalism & Green Economy?
  21. 21. ➡ Peak Capitalism? Collapse ‣ Crisis of Capitalism as global ecological system —> margin of profit declines, no further expansion possible ➡ Capitalism without Growth --> Refeudalization Scenarios ‣ Economic Shrinking as inevitable destiny, recession, inequality ‣ neo-fascism, global competition, exacerbation of conflicts 3. Crisis Scenarios ➡ Transition to a new growth model ‣ Neoliberal marketization of ecological crisis ‣ Green Capitalism & Green Economy?
  22. 22. ➡ Peak Capitalism? Collapse ‣ Crisis of Capitalism as global ecological system —> margin of profit declines, no further expansion possible ➡ Capitalism without Growth --> Refeudalization Scenarios ‣ Economic Shrinking as inevitable destiny, recession, inequality ‣ neo-fascism, global competition, exacerbation of conflicts 3. Crisis Scenarios ➡ Degrowth beyond Capitalism? Degrowth as social transformation ‣ Radical Transformation of institutions, practices, & imaginary ➡ Transition to a new growth model ‣ Neoliberal marketization of ecological crisis ‣ Green Capitalism & Green Economy?
  23. 23. 3.1 Neoliberal Green Economy
  24. 24. 3.1 Neoliberal Green Economy ➡Circular/ Green economy ‣ undermined by logic of capitalistic accumulation as a growth ‣ Parasitic regeneration of production factors & sinks ‣ Multiplication of waste as tradable commodity (for profit) ‣ Narrative of waste-less society fuels illusion of zero-waste ‣ legitimizes planned obsolescence ‣ enhances the desire to consume more without guilt ‣ unleashes rebound effects
  25. 25. 3.1 Neoliberal Green Economy ➡Circular/ Green economy ‣ undermined by logic of capitalistic accumulation as a growth ‣ Parasitic regeneration of production factors & sinks ‣ Multiplication of waste as tradable commodity (for profit) ‣ Narrative of waste-less society fuels illusion of zero-waste ‣ legitimizes planned obsolescence ‣ enhances the desire to consume more without guilt ‣ unleashes rebound effects ➡Depoliticization of sustainability ‣ narrative of win-win & market-logic as agents of change ‣ conceals social & environmental conflicts globally ‣ Who bears the burden of affordable circular production (recycling, reusing, consuming) & decarbonization (Lithium; Water Dams)?
  26. 26. 3.3 Re-feudalization: shrinking under BAU
  27. 27. 3.3 Re-feudalization: shrinking under BAU ➡End of (easy) Growth —> New Feudal Capitalism ‣ From accumulation of Capital to cumulation of Wealth (non- productive capital) ‣ investments in luxury goods: post-capitalistic servant-economy ‣ Increasing global and regional inequality (New-feudalism) —> social conflicts, harsher competition, & social repression
  28. 28. 3.3 Re-feudalization: shrinking under BAU ➡End of (easy) Growth —> New Feudal Capitalism ‣ From accumulation of Capital to cumulation of Wealth (non- productive capital) ‣ investments in luxury goods: post-capitalistic servant-economy ‣ Increasing global and regional inequality (New-feudalism) —> social conflicts, harsher competition, & social repression ➡End of (easy) Growth —> Refeudalization Project: ‣ Adaptation to shrinking & recession under BAU-conditions instead of social transformation: ‣ Multiple jobs, privatization of (gendered) care & services, philanthropy replaces redistribution, immigration control ‣ Voluntary simplicity, cultural & spiritual values + happy poverty? ‣ Increasing inequality & social immobility; patriarchal division of labor; leisure & cultural values for those who can afford them!
  29. 29. 4. Degrowth as social transformation
  30. 30. 4. Degrowth as social transformation ➡Restructuring & radically reimagining society’s basic institutions ‣ independent of (the addiction to) economic growth ‣ reinforcing (input) democracy & social justice ‣ commons-based economy, convivial technology, rethinking labour, UBI, livelihoods sovereignty, …
  31. 31. 4. Degrowth as social transformation
  32. 32. ‣ Shell word: ‣ wedge hitting the core of modern, industrial societies: ➡ Degrowth as 'mot obus' 4. Degrowth as social transformation
  33. 33. ‣ Shell word: ‣ wedge hitting the core of modern, industrial societies: ➡ Degrowth as 'mot obus' ‣unveils the contradictions of the growth logic and questions the economic structure & the cultural infrastructure that justifies it ‣undermines the traditional forms of legitimation of growth societies (instead of output legitimation & social mobility: autonomy, self-determination, & real democracy) 4. Degrowth as social transformation
  34. 34. 4. Degrowth as social transformation
  35. 35. ➡ Structural & Institutional Level: ‣ Economic Relations (Modes of production, Scale, Power) ‣ Institutions: ‣ Time; Space, & Relations; Work; Innovation & Technologies; Infrastructures; Education; (Re)production; … 4. Degrowth as social transformation
  36. 36. ➡ Structural & Institutional Level: ‣ Economic Relations (Modes of production, Scale, Power) ‣ Institutions: ‣ Time; Space, & Relations; Work; Innovation & Technologies; Infrastructures; Education; (Re)production; … 4. Degrowth as social transformation ➡ Social Imaginary: ‣ Set of shared & established values and collective self- understanding that gives sense to societal settings ‣ Legitimation & justification background for practices, actions, & institutions
  37. 37. ➡ Structural & Institutional Level: ‣ Economic Relations (Modes of production, Scale, Power) ‣ Institutions: ‣ Time; Space, & Relations; Work; Innovation & Technologies; Infrastructures; Education; (Re)production; … 4. Degrowth as social transformation ➡ Social Imaginary: ‣ Set of shared & established values and collective self- understanding that gives sense to societal settings ‣ Legitimation & justification background for practices, actions, & institutions ➡ Practices & Social Experiments: ‣ individual, collective, & communal actions with long-term impact ‣ Laboratories of liberation ‣ experimenting & stabilizing novelty --> subversive potential
  38. 38. 5.1 Transforming Institutions
  39. 39. 5.1 Transforming Institutions ➡ Reappropriating democracy & self-determination: ‣ formal conditions for participation ‣ securing substantial & material conditions for participation (reducing inequality) ‣ access to basic services ‣ collective self-determination
  40. 40. 5.2 Transforming Institutions
  41. 41. ➡ Reorganizing production: ‣ Cooperation ≠ competition —> new commons movement ‣ Economic democracy --> democratic shaping of modes of production and consumption ‣ Support to & coordination of local production structures (cooperatives; solidarity economy, CSA, GAS) 5.2 Transforming Institutions
  42. 42. ➡ Reorganizing production: ‣ Cooperation ≠ competition —> new commons movement ‣ Economic democracy --> democratic shaping of modes of production and consumption ‣ Support to & coordination of local production structures (cooperatives; solidarity economy, CSA, GAS) ‣ Qualitative diversification of production on a local scale (≠ mere allocation through markets) + solidarity based exchange ‣ Interventions against in-built-obsolescence 5.2 Transforming Institutions
  43. 43. 5.3 Transforming Institutions
  44. 44. ➡ Reorganizing innovation & infrastructures: ‣ Convivial technologies & innovations (for the common good - viable - small scale - low-risk - empowering ≠ reenforcing dependencies) ‣ Alternative infrastructures ≠ growth expansion strategies: maintenance, conviviality, sharing 5.3 Transforming Institutions
  45. 45. ➡ Reorganizing innovation & infrastructures: ‣ Convivial technologies & innovations (for the common good - viable - small scale - low-risk - empowering ≠ reenforcing dependencies) ‣ Alternative infrastructures ≠ growth expansion strategies: maintenance, conviviality, sharing ➡ Reorganizing education & knowledge: ‣ Inter- & Transdisciplinarity beyond operationalization ‣ Whose knowledge? Indigenous knowledge, people’s science ‣ Knowledge how? Commons, P2P, cooperation instead of competition ‣ Value-oriented & value-orienting knowledge + practical skills --> self-production & solidarity ‣ Self-determination, diversification, autonomy, solidarity 5.3 Transforming Institutions
  46. 46. 5.4 Transforming Institutions
  47. 47. ➡ Reorganizing Work & Politics of Time: ‣ Beyond the separation between time for work & time for life ‣ Decoupling revenue & access to services from income & work (UBE; DIA) ‣ Renegotiating the gender division of labour & the distinction between so-called productive and (re)productive activities 5.4 Transforming Institutions
  48. 48. ➡ Reorganizing Work & Politics of Time: ‣ Beyond the separation between time for work & time for life ‣ Decoupling revenue & access to services from income & work (UBE; DIA) ‣ Renegotiating the gender division of labour & the distinction between so-called productive and (re)productive activities 5.4 Transforming Institutions ➡ .... DIA + RMA: ‣ DIA (Unconditional Autonomy Allowance - Dotation Inconditionnelle d'Autonomie) ‣ RMA (Maximum Acceptable Income- Revenue Maximum Acceptable)
  49. 49. 5.5 Transforming desire & imagination
  50. 50. ➡ Subversive practices & laboratories for liberation: ‣ protected zones for experimenting and experiencing alternatives as possible! ‣ social experiments as laboratories where to reappropriate and liberate desire 5.5 Transforming desire & imagination
  51. 51. ➡ Subversive practices & laboratories for liberation: ‣ protected zones for experimenting and experiencing alternatives as possible! ‣ social experiments as laboratories where to reappropriate and liberate desire ➡ Undoing Growth/ Undoing Capitalism? ‣ prefigurative & performative practices --> envision & embody alternative modes of living together ‣ shifting, twisting, re-signifying dominant 'norms' and meanings ‣ learning from radical queer practices 5.5 Transforming desire & imagination
  52. 52. ➡ Subversive practices & laboratories for liberation: ‣ protected zones for experimenting and experiencing alternatives as possible! ‣ social experiments as laboratories where to reappropriate and liberate desire ‣ New Social Movements --> care for relations, bodies, emotions ‣ Niches of resistance --> spaces for autonomy ➡ Undoing Growth/ Undoing Capitalism? ‣ prefigurative & performative practices --> envision & embody alternative modes of living together ‣ shifting, twisting, re-signifying dominant 'norms' and meanings ‣ learning from radical queer practices 5.5 Transforming desire & imagination
  53. 53. bmuraca/at/uoregon.edu Thank you for your attention

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