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Abstract: While degrowth is about reducing energy and material flows in the economy while sustaining basic human needs, capitalism fosters the opposite trend. How then is degrowth to be implemented on a large scale? In line with different critical intellectual traditions, we argue that degrowth is unlikely to occur within an economy based on capital accumulation and free market of assets. Our objective is then to preliminarily investigate the links between economic structures, democratic principles, and degrowth. We do this, firstly, by briefly exploring some of the main theoretical models of economic democracy in order to find out their potential for achieving sustainable degrowth. In our view, models of self-managed socialism have the best potential for this. Secondly, we intend to learn some empirical lessons from a countrywide experience: Cuban agroecology, today’s largest real-life experience of agroecological “degrowth”. Our hypothesis is that the Cuban economy, which limits the private accumulation of capital and of productive assets, is in a better position for achieving forms of sustainable degrowth than capitalist economies, but that it would be even more so with more democracy. The Cuban agricultural system faces the challenge to free itself from the central planning tradition. This could be achieved by following the current process of giving increasing autonomy to small producers. Specifically, we argue that small-scale farmer cooperatives have the best potential for achieving the degrowth-oriented goals of agroecology.

Futures, Volume 44, Issue 6, August 2012, Pages 600–607, Special Issue: Politics, Democracy and Degrowth