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Abstract: From a degrowth point of view, organic farming, re-localization of production, alternative supply-chains are part of a socio-ecological transition in agri-food systems to reduce social metabolism. Similarly, back-to-the-landers choosing a simpler, autonomous, and close-to-nature agrarian life are seen as practitioners of that transition by re-working the imaginaries, building other food regime, and “escaping” labor alienation. I argue that these normative aspects are based in a simplistic understanding of how agri-food downscaling and back-to-the-land works. From a case-study in the Basque Country with back-to-the-landers engaged in agro-ecology and alternative food networks, I show that any transition is constrained by conditions as the access to land or the general costs of living. Those barriers also limit “escaping” labor alienation. I conclude that this implies obstacles to individual agency and that any transition depends on the success of political networks to change the institutions that govern access to land and costs of living.
Key-words: Back-to-the-land, agri-food downscaling, degrowth transition
Narrative step: Building strategies for transformation