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
Herman Daly’s view of the economy as an “inverted pyramid” sitting on top of essential raw material inputs is compelling, but not readily visible in monetary data, as the contribution of primary sectors to value added is typically low. This article argues that “forward linkages”, a classical development theory concept capturing the relevance of a sector for downstream activities, is an informative and complementary measure to identify key sectors. Using Input-Output (IO) data from eighteen European countries, we identify mining as the sector with the highest average forward linkages, and confirm the consistency of this result across countries via cluster analysis. By treating IO tables as the adjacency matrix of a directed network, we then build and visualise national inverted pyramid networks, and analyse their structure. Our approach highlights the role of natural resources in providing the necessary inputs to modern European economies.
In the face of accelerating global warming and attendant natural disasters, it is clear that governments all over the world eventually have to take measures to mitigate the most adverse consequences of climate change. However, the costs of these measures are likely to force governments to reconsider some of their tax and spending priorities, of which social spending is the largest expenditure item in developed welfare states. Unless carried out in a way that is considered as fair by most citizens, such trade-off is likely to add a new, ecological dimension to the existing social cleavages in people’s preferences for public provision. Whether or not the possible tensions between the two sets of policies have already resulted in the emergence of a new, eco-social divide in Europe is an open question. In this paper, we hypothesise that there are four distinct attitude groups in relation to welfare and climate change policies, and that the probability of belonging to any of these groups is influenced by individuals’ socioeconomic and ideological characteristics, as well as the country context in which they live. We test our hypotheses using data from the eighth round of the European Social Survey conducted in 2016/17 in multinomial regression models. Results suggest that across Europe people are considerably divided in their support of public welfare and climate policies, but that support for both dimensions is highest in the Nordic countries. At the micro level, we find political ideology and trust in public institutions to be the most important drivers of a newly emerging eco-social divide
I argue that the degrowth movement reflects the values of a particular social group, namely the well-educated European middle class that share progressive-green-cosmopolitan values. This feature creates significant barriers for its dissemination among lower-income social groups in other parts of the world. There is an important difference between frugality as a choice and frugality as a social condition. In order to elaborate on this, I challenge a couple of theses put forward in the degrowth literature.
Ecological Economics, vol. 161, July 2019, pp. 257-260
Abstract: The emerging concept of sustainable welfare attempts to integrate environmental sustainability and social welfare research. Oriented at a mid-term re-embedding of Western production and consumption norms into planetary limits, it suggests the development of “eco-social” policies in the rich countries. In this theoretical context, this article empirically investigates the relationships between attitudes towards welfare and climate policy in 23 countries. Using 2016 data from the European Social Survey, we explored patterns of synergy between both kinds of policies as well as effects of crowding-out, where support for one kind of policy involves refusing the other. Since previous research addressed the role of welfare states and their institutional foundations in establishing environmentally sustainable societies, we studied how attitudes towards welfare and climate policies differ according to welfare regime affiliation. Additionally, we examined how a range of socio-demographic and political factors such as class, education, income, and political position shape people’s views on welfare and climate policy goals. The results of a multiple correspondence analysis indicate that the simultaneous support of welfare and climate policies follows welfare regime lines in that this support is the highest among social-democratic countries. However, also some conservative and Mediterranean countries score high in this regard. At the individual level, people with a higher education, employees in socio-cultural professions, and voters of moderate left and green parties display the highest mutual support for welfare and climate policies.
Sustainability, June 2019
Europe today confronts two crises. The first is an economic crisis, with rising levels of poverty, insecurity, and homelessness across the continent. The second is a climate and environmental crisis, with severe consequences for Europe’s front-line communities and even more perilous ones on the horizon. Both crises are the products of Europe’s political decisions, and they are closely bound together. The promotion of extractive growth has driven environmental breakdown, and the devotion to budget austerity has constrained Europe’s response to it. A radically new approach is necessary to reverse this destructive trend — and to deliver environmental justice in Europe and around the world. We call this approach the Green New Deal for Europe, and the following report is the first attempt to present a pragmatic and comprehensive policy package that lives up to its core principles. The Green New Deal for Europe comprises three distinct institutions. The Green Public Works (GPW) is an historic investment programme to kickstart Europe’s just transition. The Environmental Union (EnU) is a package of regulations to align EU policy with the scientific consensus, enshrining the principles of sustainability and solidarity in European law. And the Environmental Justice Commission (EJC) an independent body to research, monitor, and advise EU policymakers on how to advance the cause of environmental justice.
Abstract: Inspired by the thesis that an alliance between degrowth and environmental justice (EJ) movements is essential (Akbulut et al., this issue), this paper presents the findings of empirical research concerning the pitfalls and possibilities of such an alliance as understood by prominent Croatian EJ movement leaders. We outline the context of the Croatian EJ movement through two specifics – the country’s semiperipheral position in the global world-system and the ecological distribution conflicts (EDCs) characteristic of the post-socialist societalmetabolism in Europe. The research explores the theory-practice nexus, materialist vs. post-materialist value base, and the potential of ‘a politico-metabolic reconfiguration’ (ibid.) for the proposed alliance. Our findings indicate a hitherto limited, but positive potential for degrowth to provide a theoretical framework for the semiperipheral EJ movement. Both the EJ movement and degrowth demonstrably share a materialist motivation, but not for reasons of ‘under-development’ of semiperipheral societies. Our analysis concludes that semiperipheral EJ activists are open to a politico-metabolic reconfiguration proposal, though they are presently not aware that a viable reconfiguration strategy is proffered by the degrowth research community. On the European semiperiphery, an alliance between theory and movement would benefit from a clearer explication of such a strategy.
Ecological Economics, Volume 157, March 2019, Pages 120-128
“Sufficiency: moving beyond the gospel of eco-efficiency” suggests introducing hard limitations to unsustainable trends—in particular to overconsumption—and putting emphasis on distributional justice. Seven chapters written by sustainability and economics experts plus a foreword by Janez Potočnik (Co-chair of the International Resource Panel and former European Commissioner for the Environment) shed light on different angles of sufficiency and formulate concrete recommendations to EU policy makers. The booklet ends with a discussion of several eco-social policies that can start the transition towards an “economics of enough”.
Ein finsterer Wolfskopf fletscht die Zähne. Im Maul hält er knurrend die Weltkugel wie einen Spielball. Eine weiße Hand im Stile Michelangelos streckt sich nach der bedrohten Erde aus. Daneben stehen die mahnenden Worte: „Globalisierung außer Kontrolle. TRAUT EUCH! Radikal denken, entschlossen handeln – nur so ist die Welt noch zu retten.“ Das ist kein Plakat „linker Randalierer“, die gegen die Globalisierung auf die Barrikaden gehen. Es ist der aktuelle Titel des Nachrichtenmagazins „Der Spiegel“ zum G-20-Gipfel in Hamburg. Lautstark begibt sich das deutsche Leitmedium mit seiner Aufmacher-Story auf den Markt für die Weltrettung. Es geht im Artikel um globale Ungleichheit, Ausbeutung, planetare Grenzen und Auswege aus der Krise. Das ganz große Panorama also. Doch gerade dem drängendsten Problem, dem Klimawandel, hat der Spiegel lediglich zwanzig Sätze auf zehn Seiten eingeräumt. Und jeder Satz ist eine Beruhigungspille, die die Leser in Tiefschlaf versetzt. Die Staaten und Investoren hätten längst auf regenerative Energiequellen umgeschaltet, heißt es, auch wenn der Emissionshandel noch verbessert werden müsse. Klar, mit dem 2-Grad-Ziel werde es knapp. Egal. Zudem: Ginge es nach Angela Merkel, wären wir, so weiß der Spiegel zu berichten, längst im globalen Klimaparadies. Denn Merkel habe auf dem G-8-Gipfel in Heiligendamm vor zehn Jahren mit der „Idee“ „sympathisiert“, jedem Erdenmensch das gleiche Recht auf Treibhausgase einzuräumen, um die Welt zu retten. Emissionsdiät à la Merkel für die Deutschen: von zehn Tonnen auf zwei. Wow!
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Das einzigartige Nachschlagewerk zum Leben in Gemeinschaft
Description by the authors: We are focused on the European semiperiphery as the standardly presented environmentalist laggard within European environmentalism (cf. Bozonnet, 2017). Unlike societies classified as globally “peripheral”, this region is characterised by already high material standards of living. At the same time, here concern for the environment appears even lower than what is the case for much of the global periphery proper (Domazet and Ančić, 2017). This perception is closely connected to the affluence hypothesis which explains the differences in prevalence of environmentalist sentiments with differences in national affluence and access to ‘green’ products and services. The environmentalist stream of degrowth thinking stresses the current competition and future strategic trade-off between ecosystems and the industrial production and consumption systems. The democratic stream of degrowth champions debate and popular engagement over definitions of development and progress, and over struggles for justice, redistribution and technological intervention into social metabolisms. These are the motivations leading to ‘environmentally motivated democratic degrowth’, or a ‘growth-critical environmentalism’.With particular focus on the European semi-periphery, we trace a pattern of concern with environmental issues that does not correlate with affluence. Instead, this pattern, stands in an intimate relation with issues of dominant social paradigm, developmental aspirations, inequality and commitments in favour of distributive justice (e.g. Brajdić Vuković, 2014 ; Dolenec, Domazet and Ančić, 2014).
Abstract: We review empirical cross-national survey data that could arguably contribute to the understanding of possible confluences between environmental justice and degrowth movements. If the environmental degradation is ever more present in the media, if the global networking is tighter than ever before allowing for both information and empathy with hitherto unfamiliar and severely affected regions of the world, why is there no political response in Eastern Europe to match that threat? Rather than focusing on individual concern and behaviours, in recent analyses we have also looked into commitment to general societal development characteristics through indicators in the ISSP (ISSP 2012) survey expressing general normative economy environment trade-offs, and its global justice consequences. According to indicators of the normative level of support for environmental limits of economic growth Eastern European countries do not differ from Western European ones. The prosperity thesis trend, often taken to describe the standard prevalence of environmentalism in Europe, slackens and reverses on these degrowth-compatible measures. Whilst there are differences in prosperity, environmental impact and environmental activation between the societies of core and semiperipheral Europe, surprising commonalities are uncovered through a degrowth-compatible framing.
12th Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics: Programme and Abstract Book
Budimpešta, Mađarska, 2017. str. 166-167 (predavanje, međunarodna recenzija, znanstveni)
Social attitudes and behaviours research on nationally representative samples often presents the European semiperiphery (and especially Eastern Europe) as an obstinate laggard stuck in the selfish unrealised growth hopes and unsacrifical individualistic distrust with respect to ecological transformation (cf. EVS and ISSP surveys), even when comparative understanding of the current and historical differences in rates of social metabolism is included. This paper does not attempt to construct cultural and ecohistorical justifications for such popular attitude differences, but argues for the change of perspective through which we frame the degrowth-compliant social attitudes. It illustrates how the blame for the semiperipheral attitudinal obstinacy lies in the eyes of the beholder-scientist working within the dominant developmentalist framework (e.g. productivist optimism) focused on behaviour change within the growth paradigm. Using several ISSP modules datasets, we show how the theoretical expectations of development and human-nature interaction affect the instrument used to assess the social attitudes. We then invert the instrument to reflect more closely the degrowth-compatible “cautious egalitarianism” attitudes. From this perspective stark differences along European core-periphery gradient disappear and new commonalities appear. Our interpretation of the comparative empirical social survey data suggests that the standardly perceived structural lack of degrowth-enthusiasm on the European semiperiphery is a product of the hegemonic scientific socionatural imaginary at least as much as of the metabolism those societies currently reproduce through.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Why won't they see the need for a change? “ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.