Elements crucial to understanding the drive for growth under capitalism, as well as other mechanisms and forces that are endemic to it, are missed by mainstream ecological economics. This is not due to faulty analysis, but simply because such elements are not included to begin with due to particular choices in the ‘pre-analytic vision’. The inclusion of certain concepts, tools and categories drawn from the Marxian tradition to the pre-analytic vision of ecological economics can improve it by allowing it to analyse and criticise elements hitherto invisible to it.
The inability of mainstream ecological economic theory to address matters such as the source of profit or the cause of the drive towards growth weakens both the explanatory and predictive power of it. It also, I believe, reduces the ability of its normative elements to stand as a feasible alternative to the prevailing paradigm. A direct inquiry into the driving force behind economic growth ought to be one of the central puzzles of ecological economics. Marxian tools enable this and allow us to closer scrutinize and firmly understand growth; an understanding which I believe to be a basic requirement in order for degrowth to be possible.
I argue that the use of such Marxian tools reveals that there are characteristics of capitalism that make it pre-disposed towards growth, making any kind of steady-state or degrowth economy problematic in the sense that it would contradict a basic drive of capitalism. The ecologically sound ideas of degrowth and steady-state require instead a series of social, political and economic changes that would bring society out of the capitalist mode of production.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Growth and Accumulation Under Capitalism and the Impossibility of Degrowth“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.