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Abstract: The large-scale ecological damage caused by growth societies calls for economic degrowth in terms of a radical decrease in matter/energy throughput. This article examines the role of modern technology in degrowth with a focus on the question of agency and its ethical implications. After conceptualising technology as practice, the paper finds that while technological practice encompasses an agency for social change, it is restricted to transforming the non-human world to human-made objects. This is because in technological practice the world and its objects unfold as a standing-reserve for human use. Due to this calculative and anthropocentric thinking, technological practice does not and cannot support the emergence of a kind of agency that either does or can let things be. Moreover, the more technological the practice, the more objects are utilised. The paper concludes that technological practice does not support the transition to degrowth, because it directs its agents towards the continuous transformation of non-human-made objects into human-made objects resulting in an increase in cumulative throughput. The paper thus suggests that an ethos of releasement is needed to attain, as well as to live in, a degrowth society. The rationale provided for refraining from the technological practice in order to contribute to ecologically sensible social change is the chief contribution of this paper.

Journal of Cleaner Production; Available online 14 July 2016
Part of a special issue on degrowth and technology