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Abstract: The degrowth literature is rich in critical debate about the unsustainability of the growth-economies and in normative envisioning of a transition. It lacks analyses on actual materialization and the nature of the change required. There have been calls for research that pay attention to institutional constraints and possibilities of implementing a democratic process of sustainable degrowth. This paper introduces a practice approach to institutional agency as a fruitful tool for future studies and politics of degrowth. The potential of this approach is demonstrated through a struggle between Finnish Timebanking activists and the tax authorities. The cultural and institutional transition promoted by radical bottom-up initiatives requires a disruption of existing institutional arrangements some of which may be very persistent and supported by defenders who want to maintain the present institutional order. In the case example, the authorities and politicians managed to preserve the mechanisms through which certain sanctions are associated with the non-compliance of Timebanking with the income tax law. A practice approach to institutionalization increases our understanding of institutional persistence and makes visible forces that support the present ‘status quo’. It also enhances understanding of the opposing dynamics and gives tools to engage in more effective efforts to change institutions.

Ecological Economics; Volume 128, August 2016, Pages 23–32