Transcription of an oral session by Konrad Ott at the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Barcelona on the topic “Degrowth, Capitalist Institutions and Democracy”.
Introduction: It is a philosophical task to clarify concepts and to determine conceptual relationships. This task shall be performed in this paper. The relationship between an economic and cultural order beyond an orientation toward growth and a democratic mode of political governance should be analyzed in order to ask the question which combinations of de‐growth orientation and democratic policy making might be feasible, attractive or even mandatory. Analysis is, first, about making explicit different conceptions of a) “de‐growth economics” and b) the governance structure called liberal democracy which has been established in the national states that form EU. This structure must be determined to clarify the concept of democratization within democracy. By doing so, a set of combinations will be distinguished. Such distinctions and combinations might be helpful for internal debates in the political camp that favors de‐growth and wishes further democratization of political life inside liberal representative democracies. Such distinctions might also be helpful for external perceptions of this camp – or might make it more difficult for other camps (liberals, conservatives, social democrats) to conceive a “de‐growth democracy” as a horrible and nasty straw‐man.
Thus, the paper distinguishes, first, some variants of de‐growth from a more philosophical and ethical point of view, asking why one should engage in favor of a de‐growth economics or society. This distinction is close to the contribution of J. van den Berg (see contribution this volume). Second, some concepts of democracy are distinguished. This is done in a manner Max Weber dubbed “idealtypisch” without any reference to empirical details of the roughly 130 full liberal or electorate democracies on planet Earth. The focus is on the states forming EU which are regarded as being decent liberal democracies (and not just nasty formal pseudo‐democracies). Afterwards, a Habermasian approach of democratic life is taken into account more closely. At the end of this paper, third, some claims are stated. My basic claim is that rather modest variants of de‐growth strategies and ambitious variants of democracy can, at least in theory, be conjoined to a viable and wishful political strategy for developed countries. I argue, that de‐growth is not a threat to democracy and democracy is not a barrier against de‐growth. Nevertheless, I wish to make some critical points against more radical variants of de‐growth which may sound politically incorrect to some ears.