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Abstract: Degrowth cannot be realised from within a capitalist society, since growth is the sine qua non for capitalism. But, societies are no blank slates; they are not built from scratch. Putting these two thoughts together seems to make degrowth logically impossible. In this paper we argue that this paradox can be solved with the use of classical and contemporary concepts from the social sciences. We illustrate the use of these concepts with reference to studies on current practices and patterns of food production and consumption. The concept of social mechanism is used to illustrate how social practices can simultaneously reinforce and challenge the dominant (food) regime. We argue that current discussions on degrowth fail to envision how such contrasting developments are linked, and that the degrowth paradox originates in the idea of capitalism and the steady-state economy as alternative systems. The paradox dissolves with studies of mechanisms and social practices that show how the two systems are not autonomous, but ‘hybridised’ and come into existence and gain shape as reactions to each other.

Environmental Values, Volume 22, Number 2, April 2013, pp. 171-189(19)