Abstract: Hannah Arendt’s three-fold conceptualization of human activity offers a useful base for understanding the necessity of degrowth and the kinds of activities required to achieve it. The article argues that the different roles of labour, work, and action should be acknowledged and scrutinized in detail to appreciate the underpinnings of contemporary over-production and over-consumption, as well as to prompt the organization of an alternative society. While following the Arendtian analysis on the origins of meaningful political change, which emphasizes the utmost importance of ‘action’, the article also underscores the importance of a different conception of ‘labour’ through physical activity, such as community supported agriculture, and ‘work’ through social activity such as building off-grid energy systems. The study aligns itself with Arendt’s key insight that the origin of most contemporary problems relates to the disappearance of ‘action’, which for her is political, but also argues that the distinction between ‘paid’ and ‘non-paid’ activity has to be carefully considered in the context of degrowth. The article concludes that non-paid activities, particularly in the form of Arendtian ‘action’, have great potential to contribute to the degrowth movement. Demonetized activities are important for degrowth, as monetary transactions in capitalist societies based on interest and debt tend to contribute to economic growth, which is deemed ecologically unsustainable.
Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 211, February 2019, pp. 555-565