Abstract: A critical scrutiny is presented of the ethical assumptions of growth and degrowth theories with respect to distributive justice and the normative conditions for a ‘good human life’. An argument is made in favor of Sen’s and Nussbaum’s ‘capabilities approach’ as the most suitable theoretical framework for addressing these questions. Since industrialization economic growth has played a key-role as an attraction pole, around which issues of social justice, political stability, and welfare protection seemed to gravitate. Accordingly, it is considered as a necessary condition for both intragenerational and intragenerational justice. These assumptions have been subjected to substantial critique by degrowth-thinkers, according to which economic growth is rather a threat than a condition for intragenerational and intergenerational justice. However, a theoretical underpinning of these assumptions is missing so far. In the paper I analyze the ethical and moral assumptions in both approaches by focusing on the theories of justice that are implicitly laid down as a background for their arguments (welfarism, resourcism, and the capabilities-approach). In a detailed analysis of the main critical points formulated by degrowth advocates I take the capabilities approach perspective and show why it can offer a more adequate normative underpinning for the conceptualization of a degrowth society.
Futures, Volume 44, Issue 6, August 2012, Pages 535–545, Special Issue: Politics, Democracy and Degrowth