The paper presents a dense overview of suggestions concerning (wage) labor in the international degrowth discourse and related discussions. Methodically, it is based on an extensive and critical literature review. Both empirical results as well as conceptual frameworks are analyzed and evaluated.
It is argued that many degrowth concepts tend to neglect the persistent role of wage labor and instead focus on alternative economic niches and projects as prototypes for transition. As a result, degrowth may fall short of successfully meeting the interests and worries of the majority of dependent employees. Therefore, these questions need to be taken more serious.
Besides identifying common grounds in the relevant literature about work – such as the crucial role of a decline in working hours or the necessary reduction of the ecological impact of (wage) labor – the paper will especially focus where authors differ. Indeed, conceptual contradictions are used in order to elucidate key questions that remain unclear or disputed yet.
The paper identifies three controversies: 1) While some authors seem to expect and welcome further increases in labor productivity (Jackson, Victor), others predict and prefer an actual decline due to peaks of fossil fuels and lower ecological impacts of less productive work (Kallis et al., Santarius); 2) There is a controversy about whether work sharing shall be intensified (Schor) or be withdrawn (Paech) as transitioning into degrowth; 3) At last, some argue for a strong third sector of formalized (care) work (Reuter, Dörre) to lower energy demand and growth rates, whereas others prefer community-based subsistence work as a solution (Bennholdt-Thomsen).
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „The Work Controversies in the Degrowth Literature“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.