Several recent contributions have discussed the feasibility of establishing a non-growing or a degrowth society within capitalism (Brand, 2014; Foster, 2011; Hahnel, 2012; Klitgaard, 2013; Magdoff & Foster, 2010). These analyses come to the conclusion that capitalism and degrowth are not compatible. A first set of reasons is connected to central dynamics of capitalism, in particular market competition and profit-maximization. The second obstacle is based on the political economy of capitalism: Necessary changes for a social-ecological transformation are impossible to be implemented because they contradict the interests of the oligarchy. At the same time, there is an absence of investigations into the necessary changes of the capitalist system in order to facilitate a degrowth society. The solutions proposed most of the time remain at the abstract level of a „full-scale social-ecological revolution“ (Foster et al., 2011, p. 118). This paper investigates which changes in capitalist institutions would facilitate a degrowth transformation. Different conditions are developed based on Marx’s analysis of „competitive capitalism“ (Sweezy, 1942, p. 273) and the theory of monopoly capitalism (Foster, 2014). Central issues are (1) the collectivization of firm ownership, (2) the implementation of diseconomies of scale, (3) prevention and regulation of the sales effort and (4) government taxation and spending. It is discussed in how far such changes can tackle both the drive towards capital accumulation and the issue of political economy.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „From Capitalism Towards Degrowth“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.