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Abstract: The concept of degrowth has refuelled the criticism of unchecked economic growth. The purpose of this paper is to identify the central themes of the 21st century growth critique. Qualitative content analysis is conducted for three contemporary classics of the expanding degrowth literature: Peter Victor’s Managing without growth: Slower by design, not disaster, Serge Latouche’s Farewell to Growth and Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without growth: Economics for a finite planet. The analysis reveals three central themes, which provide different perspectives on growth: 1) Growth as a phenomenon, focusing on the forms and impacts of growth and degrowth; 2) Growth as an institution, investigating institutions that either support or depend on growth; 3) Growth as an ideology, perceiving economic growth as an overwhelming and hegemonic political goal above other goals and the need for emancipation. The themes complement each other. Together they provide a new framework for understanding the diverse aspects of growth and degrowth. The analysis shows that the growth critique is essentially a critique of growth societies, not only a critique of GDP growth and that the growth critics are more elaborate in describing what they oppose than what they support. An inner tension within growth critique regarding attitudes to agrowth and degrowth is also revealed.

Journal of Cleaner Production, Available online 20 October 2015