Abstract: Can the degrowth project contribute to rediscovering the meaning of democracy? Can the establishment of a real democracy lead to building a degrowth society? And last, has the project of a “democratic degrowth” a real chance to succeed, from a political point of view? If not, how should degrowth be re-thought to foster democracy? These are the questions entertained in this opinion essay. My thesis is that the currently dominant formulation of degrowth and its relationship to democracy are highly problematic. The degrowth proposal reproduces a central paradox of modernity concerning democracy: degrowth does not aspire to restore collective “legein”; it only works like a “teukein”, offering techniques that will allow the human species merely to “stay alive”. Moreover, there is a political problem: while the need for degrowth is presented as very urgent, the tactic for spreading the idea is one of an elitist strategy of voluntary simplicity, which can only work very slowly. The moralistic ideal of voluntary simplicity runs counter to the dominant de-modernized human subject that is becoming prevalent in our societies; as a result, degrowth cannot connect to real social processes and to the emotions of the large part of the population. To make degrowth feasible and to restore democracy, we need to deflate modern subjectivity. Drawing inspiration from Mediterranean anthropologies, I propose a foundation of degrowth on a human subject of “de-thinking” and I discuss the political pathways for such an alternative degrowth project.
Futures, Volume 44, Issue 6, August 2012, Pages 582–589, Special Issue: Politics, Democracy and Degrowth