Presentation by Federico Demaria
Degrowth was first used and find its roots in the 1970s debate of the limits to growth. At the beginning of the 2000s it was launched as a slogan by activists, and in the following decade turned into a frame for a social movement as well as a concept debated in academia. Although its origins have been traced (Demaria et al 2013), two main issues remain contested and in need of clarification: 1) its meaning(s) and 2) the appropriateness of the term to express such meaning.
Degrowth was first used in French (décroissance), a word meaning reduction. However, it shall not be understood literally: a call for a reduction of GDP. It was in fact launched as a missile word to strike down the hegemonic imaginary of economic growth. D’Alisa et al 2014 clarify that it does not mean ‘less of the same’ (i.e. recession), but emphasizes the different, a part from the less.
First, this paper aims to clarify the contentious meaning of degrowth. For instance, how shall the less and different be understood? A more nuanced understanding is needed.
Second, this paper intends to articulate a defense of the term itself. Some scholars and activists, despite agreeing broadly with both the diagnosis and prognosis offered by degrowth, challenge its own name (e.g. Raworth, 2015). They highlight issues such as: “good things should grow, and bad ones degrow”, “we need a positive slogan” or “degrowth remains stuck in the same framework, the one of growth” and so on. We argue that most of these objections emerge out of a misunderstanding of what degrowth actually means. In order to do so, we review the literature and mobilize the concept of frame studied by cognitive science and social movement theory