The role of work in a sustainable society

“A societal change towards sustainability, can not succeed without a transformation of work and society based around work, so becomes extremely important and fundamental reconsider the current social – economic system, in order to create a path that can lead to a sustainable society, where people and nature can collaborate to find their own spaces, their own times and to listen to their needs, in an equal and common way. Inside this societal model, what would be the role of work?”

Master dissertation in Human Ecology and Contemporary Social Problems (May 2020)

Academia in the time of Covid-19: Our chance to develop an ethics of care

“In writing this opinion article we hope to encourage thinking about how academics may transform our work ethos now and in the future. This disruptive time can become an opportunity to foster a culture of care, refocus on what is most important, change expectations about the meaning of quality teaching and research, and in doing so make academic practice more respectful and sustainable.”

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Economic values, capital accumulation and degrowth

Presentation by Mikael Malmaeus

Historically, value theories used to be at the heart of critiques of capitalism. However, contemporary economists rarely focus on value theories, and the labor theory of value has not been discussed in relation to macroeconomic growth or in the context of degrowth. In this article it is theoretically and empirically demonstrated that economic values at the macroeconomic level are fundamentally determined by the use of production factors, primarily labor and physical capital as predicted by the labor theory of value. Technical innovations or efficiency gains increasing utility without raising the costs of production do not add to the GDP unless they stimulate investments in physical capital. It is also shown that the Solow model, which is frequently applied in growth accounting, cannot be meaningfully applied to predict changes in the monetary value of production at the macro level and that results obtained with this model, indicating that increases in total factor productivity play a major role in achieving GDP growth, are theoretically flawed. In practice, GDP growth is mostly explained by capital accumulation and a key question is whether or not capital accumulation can be decoupled from the use of materials and energy. What is certain is that GDP growth cannot, according to the labor theory of value, be decoupled from capital investments and degrowth therefore implies the end of capital accumulation. Beyond GDP growth the role of human labor in the realization of economic values will be accentuated.

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – An understanding of materialistic values in post-socialist Europe. Exploring demographic determinants and implications for working patterns

Presentation by Saamah Abdallah

Degrowth is a post-materialist movement, which places value on the biosphere, human wellbeing, and justice, above and beyond the possession of material goods (Degrowth Declaration, 2008). And yet surveys suggest that levels of materialism are higher in post-socialist countries than in Western European countries (Kyvelidis, 2001). In the sixth round of the European Social Survey (2012), nine of the ten countries where respondents agreed most to the statement “it is important to be rich, have money and expensive things” were in Central and Eastern Europe. This suggests that advancing degrowth in post-socialist countries in Central and Eastern Europe may prove even more challenging than in Western Europe.
This paper will seek to explore the patterns of materialism in these countries. It will use data from the European Social Survey (ESS), operationalising materialism using the Schwarz Human Values Scale which has been included in all seven rounds of the survey. It will seek to address three questions:

1. What individual and societal-level factors are associated with materialism in Central and Eastern Europe? Potential factors to consider include:
a. Demographics (age, income, education, parental education)
b. Attitudes towards businesses
c. Prevalence of advertising in society (Kasser, 2011), and exposure to advertising

2. How have levels of materialism changed over time in Central and Eastern Europe, between 2002 and 2014?

3. Do levels of materialism predict intentions to reduce working hours? Does the relationship between materialism and the intention to reduce working hours vary between countries?

We will consider implications of this research for advancing degrowth

Structural Change for a Post-Growth Economy: Investigating the Relationship between Embodied Energy Intensity and Labour Productivity

Reviewing the Smart City Vienna Framework Strategy’s Potential as an Eco-Social Policy in the Context of Quality of Work and Socio-Ecological Transformation

In the face of an increasing awareness of environmental issues and the urgent need to tackle them without shifting the burden onto the most vulnerable social groups, calls for a socio-economic transformation are growing louder. However, there is no consensus on what transformative strategies should look like. Within the German-language literature one can broadly distinguish two transformative paradigms: the green economy paradigm, arguing for soft political steering mechanisms and technological innovations in order to green the current economic system and the degrowth paradigm, drawing the current growth-oriented economic system into question. In both approaches a tendency to marginalize issues of quality of work prevails. We argue that work is not only an integral part of one’s income, but also of one’s identity and psychosocial wellbeing as well as of social peace and cohesion and that it should therefore be at the heart of socio-ecological transformative strategies. We apply these theoretical considerations to the analysis of the Smart City Vienna Framework Strategy (SCWR), which is promoted as a holistic sustainability strategy paper. Additionally, we conducted expert workshops and interviews in order to analyze how stakeholders within the sectors with the highest CO2 emissions in Vienna perceive the SCWR in relation to work. We found that the SCWR does not live up to its potential as an eco-social policy as it remains tightly rooted within the green economy paradigm and does not account for the ecological dimension of work. The stakeholders’ perspectives on the SCWR vary according to the degree to which they are embedded within the green economy paradigm as well as their position within the economic system. However, generally the SCWR is not perceived as an eco-social policy and no connection is made between environmental issues and quality of work. We argue that transformative degrowth strategies could greatly benefit from making this connection explicit.
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 859

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Workshop Wages & Collective Bargaining

Chair: Marisa Matias, MEP (GUE/NGL)
Panellists: Esther Lynch (ETUC, Confederal Secretary), Lars Vande Keybus (FGTB)

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Workshop Future of Work

Chair: Guillaume Balas, MEP (S&D)
Panellists: Viktorija Smatko-Abaza (Principal Adviser, European Commission, Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion), Monika Kiss (European Parliamentary Research Service), Pascal Lokiec (Sorbonne University, Author of “Il faut sauver le droit du travail !”), Aida Ponce (European Trade Union Institute, Senior Adviser)

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Workshop Economic Models

Chair: Alojz Peterle, MEP (EPP)
Panellists: Simone d’Alessandro (University of Pisa), Daniel Mügge (Universiteit van Amsterdam, Professor of Political Arithmetic), Bjorn Döhring (European Commission, Head of Unit for Economic situation, forecasts, business and consumer surveys), Arthur Turrell (Co-Author of “An Interdisciplinary Model for Macroeconomics” (Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Jan.2018)), Nicole Dewandre (European Commission, Joint Research Centre)

Maybrit Illner (ZDF) vom 26. September 2019: “Abschwung, Jobs und Klimarettung – riskieren wir unseren Wohlstand?”

Deutschlands Wirtschaft rutscht ab. Die Industrie leidet unter US-Handelskriegen, Brexit-Angst und schwächerer Weltwirtschaft. Stehen wir vor einer der üblichen Konjunkturkrisen oder vor einem epochalen Umbruch? Klimaschutz und Digitalisierung zwingen die Unternehmen zu Abbau und Umbau der alten Arbeitsplätze, zum „Neu-Erfinden“ ganzer Produktionszweige. Wen erreicht die Krise zuerst? Für wen ist morgen noch Platz in der neuen, grünen, digitalen Arbeitswelt? Retten wir das Klima und/oder riskieren wir ohne Not Arbeitsplätze?

“maybrit illner“ mit dem Thema ” Abschwung, Jobs und Klimarettung – riskieren wir unseren Wohlstand?” am Donnerstag, den 26. September 2019, um 22:15 Uhr im ZDF.

 

Germany’s economy is staggering. Industry suffers from US trade wars, Brexit fears and a weaker global economy. Are we facing one of the usual economic crises or an epochal upheaval? Climate protection and digitalization are forcing companies to reduce and convert old jobs, to “reinvent” entire branches of production. Who does the crisis reach first? For whom will there be a place tomorrow in the new, green, digital world of work? Are we saving the climate and/or risking jobs without need?

“maybrit illner” with the theme “Downturn, jobs and climate rescue – do we risk our prosperity?” on Thursday, 26 September 2019, at 22:15 on ZDF.

Environmental justice, degrowth and post-capitalist futures

Struggles for Environmental Justice, more widespread in the global South, are often framed as traditional societies defending “old ways of life”; while degrowth, a relatively new movement in the global North is seen as striving for a “new ways of life.” I argue that both assert or aspire for other ways of being and belonging to the world and open possibilities for post-capitalist futures. In this Commentary, I focus on ontological continuities between the two movements and the grounds for alliance building. I argue that EJ and degrowth movements need to not only learn from each other, but think with the actual practices on the ground and the epistemologies of the South to foster pluriversal world-making practices. Moreover, dialogues and alliance between the two movements can help to reconceptualize work and care in a post-production, post-growth world.

Ecological Economics, Vol. 163, September 2019, pp. 138-142

Watercooler Democracy: Rumors and Transparency in a Cooperative Workplace

Abstract: This article examines how rumors impact democracy and transparency in a cooperative workplace. Although literature on rumors generally analyzes them as negative to workplace culture, the author argues that rumors constitute a critical aspect of democratic participation. Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in a worker-recuperated business in Argentina, the author shows how members use rumors to incite deliberation, participate in decision-making, question organizational policy, and oversee managerial authority. Although informal communication at work can create uncertainty, confusion, and concerns about efficiency, the author finds that rumors can also increase worker influence, encourage organizational accountability, and ultimately protect against the consolidation of power.

Work and Occupations, July 2019

Environmental justice, degrowth and post-capitalist futures

Abstract: Struggles for Environmental Justice, more widespread in the global South, are often framed as traditional societies defending “old ways of life”; while degrowth, a relatively new movement in the global North is seen as striving for a “new ways of life.” I argue that both assert or aspire for other ways of being and belonging to the world and open possibilities for post-capitalist futures. In this Commentary, I focus on ontological continuities between the two movements and the grounds for alliance building. I argue that EJ and degrowth movements need to not only learn from each other, but think with the actual practices on the ground and the epistemologies of the South to foster pluriversal world-making practices. Moreover, dialogues and alliance between the two movements can help to reconceptualize work and care in a post-production, post-growth world.

Ecological Economics, Volume 163, September 2019, pp. 138-142

Activities of degrowth and political change

Abstract: Hannah Arendt’s three-fold conceptualization of human activity offers a useful base for understanding the necessity of degrowth and the kinds of activities required to achieve it. The article argues that the different roles of labour, work, and action should be acknowledged and scrutinized in detail to appreciate the underpinnings of contemporary over-production and over-consumption, as well as to prompt the organization of an alternative society. While following the Arendtian analysis on the origins of meaningful political change, which emphasizes the utmost importance of ‘action’, the article also underscores the importance of a different conception of ‘labour’ through physical activity, such as community supported agriculture, and ‘work’ through social activity such as building off-grid energy systems. The study aligns itself with Arendt’s key insight that the origin of most contemporary problems relates to the disappearance of ‘action’, which for her is political, but also argues that the distinction between ‘paid’ and ‘non-paid’ activity has to be carefully considered in the context of degrowth. The article concludes that non-paid activities, particularly in the form of Arendtian ‘action’, have great potential to contribute to the degrowth movement. Demonetized activities are important for degrowth, as monetary transactions in capitalist societies based on interest and debt tend to contribute to economic growth, which is deemed ecologically unsustainable.

Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 211, February 2019, pp. 555-565

Bringing Class Analysis Back in: Assessing the Transformation of the Value-Nature Nexus to Strengthen the Connection Between Degrowth and Environmental Justice

The article aims at showing the relevance of understanding the transformations of class composition for strengthening the connection between degrowth and environmental justice (EJ). In particular, I suggest the heterodox line of Autonomist Marxism as enabling factor of such connection. From an ecological perspective, the changing components of the working-class can be grasped by assessing the historical development of the value-nature nexus, and specifically of labour’s role within it. In fact, capitalism does not have but rather is an ecological regime. Value creation occurs not upon nature, but through it – that is, within socio-natural relations emerging from the articulation of capital, power and the environment. My basic argument is that in contemporary capitalism conditions of existence and reproduction of society have become key drivers for surplus value production – most notably in carbon trading. Hence, EJ resistances are instances of class struggle and degrowth theoretical elaboration would benefit from incorporating such class-character. In this unprecedented situation, the task of the critique of political economy is not only that of unmasking ruling class’ attempts to naturalize capitalism. It also requires resisting to elites’ endeavours to directly capitalize nature.