Untangling the radical imaginaries of the Indignados’ movement: commons, autonomy and ecologism

Abstract: Under regimes of austerity, social movements´ transformative eco-politics may appear endangered. What kinds of environmentalism and radical imaginaries can unfold in social movements in crisis-ridden societies? I focus on the ‘movement of the squares’ during its post-encampment phase, with a case study of three urban projects of the Indignados movement in Barcelona. Observation of these projects reveals the importance of three common and intertwined radical imaginaries embodied in participants’ social practices and orienting their future visions: the commons, autonomy, and ecologism. The ecologism imaginary cannot be properly understood if disembedded from the other two: the ‘Indignant’ projects constitute community structures re-embedding (re)production, jointly covering and generating needs differently, in response to the global capitalist forces that are threatening their social reproduction. Eco-politics can only be plausibly transformative if it is able to articulate a politics of intersectionality linking social reproduction with ecological interconnectedness and struggles against dispossessions and social injustice.

Environmental Politics, June 2020

Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology

Everywhere anarchism is on the upswing as a political philosophy—everywhere, that is, except the academy. Anarchists repeatedly appeal to anthropologists for ideas about how society might be reorganized on a more egalitarian, less alienating basis. Anthropologists, terrified of being accused of romanticism, respond with silence . . . . But what if they didn’t?

This pamphlet ponders what that response would be, and explores the implications of linking anthropology to anarchism. Here, David Graeber invites readers to imagine this discipline that currently only exists in the realm of possibility: anarchist anthropology.

Degrowth Vienna 2020 – Anarchism and degrowth: two sides of the same coin

Presentation [part of the standard session “Theories of Transformation“]

This paper will demonstrate why, when envisaging degrowth transitions and strategies for achieving them, it is essential to seriously engage with arguments concerning the limitations of the State in enacting radical systemic change, emanating from the long and fruitful history of anarchist thought.

Presenters: Andro Rilović (International Institute of Social Studies)

Language: English with translation to German

Technical details: Standard A4_Andro Rilovic_Anarchism and degrowth_two sides of the same coin.mp4, MPEG-4 video, 32.5MB

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Degrowth Vienna 2020 – Citizens’ Assemblies: A Lever for Political Change

Presentation [part of the standard session “Theories of Transformation“]

In order to develop and implement socio-ecological (economic) policies the processes and structural conditions of representation in democracies today need to be rethought, re-imagined and changed. Citizens’ assemblies can help us to do just that, starting now.

Presenters: Mira Pütz (Sciences Po)

Language: English with translation to German

Technical details: Standard A4_Mira Puetz_Citizens’ Assemblies_ A Lever for Political Change.mp4, MPEG-4 video, 60.6MB

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Degrowth Vienna 2020 – Theories of Transformation

Standard session (discussion following 4 presentations)

  1. Structure, Action and Change: A Bourdieusian Perspective on the Preconditions for a Degrowth transition – video
    A deprioritization of economic growth in policy making in the rich countries will need to be part of a global effort to re-embed economy and society into planetary boundaries. However, societal support for a degrowth transition remains for the time being moderate, and it is not well understood as yet why this is the case. This paper argues that Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology can help theorize societal stability and transformational change as well as the preconditions for a degrowth transition.
    Presenters: Max Koch
  2. Applying insights from transformation research for a strategy for the Degrowth movement – video
    This paper applies insights from a review of research on social-ecological transformations, in particular a framework developed to bridge process-oriented and structural approaches, to the Degrowth Movement. It derives suggestions for a common strategy, while embracing the movement‘s diversity.
    Presenters: Julia Tschersich
  3. Citizens’ Assemblies: A Lever for Political Change – video
    In order to develop and implement socio-ecological (economic) policies the processes and structural conditions of representation in democracies today need to be rethought, re-imagined and changed. Citizens’ assemblies can help us to do just that, starting now.
    Presenters: Mira Pütz
  4. Anarchism and degrowth: two sides of the same coin – video
    This paper will demonstrate why, when envisaging degrowth transitions and strategies for achieving them, it is essential to seriously engage with arguments concerning the limitations of the State in enacting radical systemic change, emanating from the long and fruitful history of anarchist thought.
    Presenters: Andro Rilović

Language: English with translation to German

Technical details: Standard A4 _Theories of Transformation_trimmed.mp4, MPEG-4 video, 348.8MB

This is a link to a torrent video file. By clicking on ‘external content’ you will be opening a magnet link that will allow you to download the corresponding video with a torrent client. To learn more about downloading torrents see here.

Life within Planetary Boundaries, Down to Earth (Part 1)

Original title: Leva inom planetgränserna, Ett jordat liv.

The film is based on interviews with author and journalist David Jonstad and agronomist and research leader Johanna Björklund, who guides us away from the utopia of eco-modernism: that with new technology we could live on as today, but in a sustainable way. Together they explain how we can “democratize survival” through sharing the land more equally, with a relocalization to the country side and with a food production system based on Agroforestry, and how that could put us in a position where we actively improve and restore the ecosystem’s health, build resilience to extreme weather and deal with declining natural resources.

Oljeepokens slut är en påminnelse om att det inte är vi människor som sätter gränserna. Naturen gör det åt oss. Utan att vi märker det, upptagna som vi är, med att komma överens om hur långt vi kan sträcka oss, för klimatets skull. Hur kan vi anpassa oss? Istället för att hålla krampaktigt kvar vid det som har varit?

Director, editing, production: Maja Lindström, Drone photography: Lars Nordén. Photo, interviews: Jonas Embring. Environmental photography: J. Embring, M. Lindström, PH. Mäenpää. Sound: M. Lindström, L. Nordén. Music: Jessica Pehrson, Claes Nygren, Jenny Säflund etc. With support from the Swedish Arts Grants Committee.

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Science and degrowth

Presentation by Fabrice Flipo

Political prayers lie on the growth’s comeback to ensure financial incomes to be given out. That for science is seen by many essentially as a tool to provide techniques able to raise productivity, whatever the environmental or social consequences. For those reasons, and especially since the second half of the 20th century, public policy and investment have allowed unprecedented technical development and the economy of promises, the genuine aim of those efforts being hidden by the general concept of progress. Links between science and economical growth should be underlined and questioned. After rigorous definition of science and technoscience concepts, we will demonstrate and illustrate their entanglement with growth, thanks to economical theories and many examples of business-driven research. We will discuss the multiple roles of research and innovation for growth, which are broadening knowledge but also contributing to the emergence of problems and limiting the funding available for other kind of science activities. Taking into account that economical growth will no more be achievable, partly due to innovation stagnation, and no more desirable, members of the French NGO Citizen Sciences are questioning the future research and innovation system, pointing out the necessity of accurate choices for research agenda. According to a degrowth scenario, this scientists and citizens community imagines democratic tools, such as citizen conventions and research modalities promoting non-scientists engagement, in order to allow science that benefit to all citizens. We underlined the need for transdisciplinarity, low tech orientations and social innovations in research.

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Between revolution and reform. A critical reflection of the degrowth discourse

Presentation by Jan C. Zoellick

Degrowth is a conglomerate of several streams of thought offering a variety of sometimes conflicting positions (Demaria et al., 2013). Some of these tensions smoulder inexplicitly below the surface of celebrated diversity. This proposal explicates the tension between conservative and reformist approaches on the one hand and revolutionary approaches driving for fundamental change on the other hand. The author hopes to start a critical reflection within the degrowth movement and strengthen its position within and towards outsiders.

Conservative and reformist thinkers like Miegel (2010), Jackson (2009), and Seidl and Zahrnt (2010) see degrowth as an inevitability resulting from ecological limits and all-encompassing resource scarcity (Heinberg, 2007). Institutions of the status quo, e.g. the welfare state, taxes, and capitalist work and ownership relations, remain unchanged. Instead, downsizing economic activity combined with reformistic fixes in welfare institutions is envisioned.

Revolutionary degrowthers like Trainer (2012), Deriu (2012), or van Griethuysen (2012) question the status quo more fundamentally. According to them degrowth poses a critique of the capitalist order and the “property-based rationale” (van Griethuysen, 2012) as well as re-think democratic representation and decision-making (Deriu, 2012).

In this article the conflicting positions will be confronted and contrasted with one another to explicate tensions and overlaps. The goal is a systematic comparison of demands, visions, and levels of change for a transition towards a degrowth society.

Unlocking wise digital techno-futures: Contributions from the Degrowth community

Many of the benefits anticipated from technology in the 1960s remain unrealized today. Alongside the optimism that drives technological development, more sceptical views that regard the promises of technology with reflection, mistrust, and even hostility, have emerged within Western societies. One such group is the Degrowth community, a heterogenous group of researchers and activists who question technological advancements that contribute to environmentally and socially harmful economic growth. In this vein, the movement critically observes the current hype surrounding digital technology, which seems to reflect a mantra of “the more digital technology, the better”. This paper presents perspectives that emerged from a dialogue among members of the Degrowth community, who were asked to imagine wise and unwise futures of digitalisation in 2068. Key concerns of unwise futures include increasing disconnection of humans from the natural environment and from one another as individuals, the use of digital technology for optimising the allocation of scarce resources to the benefit of the wealthy few, and authoritarian governance of technologies and life itself. Wise technological futures, in turn, allow people to freely access digital technologies that are convivial, just, environmentally sustainable, and guided by democratic deliberation. It remains controversial how far digital technologies and the interests and skills surrounding them can facilitate the principles of Degrowth, and the extent to which the harmful effects of digital technologies are already shaping social, ecological and technological futures. However, the dialogue clearly emphasised the need to develop more detailed socio-technological imaginaries that provide practically feasible alternatives.

Futures, vol. 114, December 2019

Defending limits is not Malthusian

“Self-limitation is not about constraining, but about defining collectively as societies our limits.”

This blogpost introduces the key ideas of Giorgos Kallis’ new book Limits. Why Malthus was wrong and why environmentalists should care (Stanford University Press, 2019)

Climate justice, commons, and degrowth

Abstract: Economic inequality reduces the political space for addressing climate change, by producing fear-based populism. Only when the safety, social status, and livelihoods of all members of society are assured will voluntary, democratic decisions be possible to reverse climate change and fairly mitigate its effects. Socio-environmental and climate justice, commoning, and decolonization are pre-conditions for participatory, responsible governance that both signals and assists the development of equitable socio-political systems. Degrowth movements, when they explicitly prioritize equity, can help to focus activism for climate justice and sustainable livelihoods.

This paper overviews the theoretical grounding for these arguments, drawing from the work of ecofeminist and Indigenous writers.

Indigenous (and also ecofeminist) praxis is grounded in activists’ leadership for commoning and resistance to extraction, the fossil fuel economy, and commodified property rights. These movements are building a politics of decolonization, respect, solidarity, and hope rather than xenophobia and despair.

Ecological Economics, Volume 160, June 2019, pp. 183-190

Reflections on ‘rationality’ and ‘development’

For some time now, ‘development’ has been simultaneously the motto and theme of the official and ‘professional’ ideology – as well as government policies. It is perhaps useful to recall briefly the genealogy of the notion.

Text of a Conference paper given at Florence in 1974. First published in Esprit, May 1976. Reprinted (with a lengthy discussion, not  given here) in C. Mendes ed., le Mythe du développement, le Seuil, Paris, 1977.

Praxis International, Volume 4 no. 4, January 1985

The ‘state’ of degrowth: Economic growth and the making of state hegemony in Turkey

Abstract: Critical perspectives on economic growth have laid bare the fragility of the assumed link between material growth and socio-ecological wellbeing. The appeal of economic growth, however, goes beyond the economic sphere. As a societal goal, growth is often mobilized to pre-empt and/or co-opt opposition around issues of social justice and redistribution. Not only does the constitution of growth as a collective goal serve to unite the internally fragmented sphere of the social and brush aside (class-based) distributional conflicts, but it also enables the distribution of material concessions to subordinate classes for eliciting their consent. The degrowth proposal should thus more broadly tackle the material and discoursive ways in which growth enables the reproduction of contemporary political-economic systems. This paper argues that the notion of growth functions as a powerful ideal that shapes state–society relationships and social-collective imaginations. It demonstrates this by discussing the making of state in Turkey through a Gramscian perspective, where the notion of economic growth is deeply imprinted in the broader practices of the state to legitimize its existence and dominates the social imaginary in a way that cannot be easily dismissed. Against this backdrop, the possibility of not only effectuating, but also imagining and desiring degrowth would call for a radical reconfiguration of state–society relationships. Within this context, the Kurdish Freedom Movement’s project of Democratic Economy emerges as an alternative, both to the nation-state paradigm and to the imperative of economic growth.

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, August 2019

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

Research on degrowth

Abstract: Scholars and activists mobilize increasingly the term degrowth when producing knowledge critical of the ideology and costs of growth-based development. Degrowth signals a radical political and economic reorganization leading to reduced resource and energy use. The degrowth hypothesis posits that such a trajectory of social transformation is necessary, desirable, and possible; the conditions of its realization require additional study. Research on degrowth has reinvigorated the limits to growth debate with critical examination of the historical, cultural, social, and political forces that have made economic growth a dominant objective. Here we review studies of economic stability in the absence of growth and of societies that have managed well without growth. We reflect on forms of technology and democracy compatible with degrowth and discuss plausible openings for a degrowth transition. This dynamic and productive research agenda asks inconvenient questions that sustainability sciences can no longer afford to ignore.

Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Volume 43, 2018, pp. 291-316