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 – 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.

Frugality as a choice vs. frugality as a social condition. Is de-growth doomed to be a Eurocentric project?

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

Dynamic Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI) and material requirements in scenarios of global transition to renewable energies

A novel methodology is developed to dynamically assess the energy and material investments required over time to achieve the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in the electricity sector. The obtained results indicate that a fast transition achieving a 100% renewable electric system globally by 2060 consistent with the Green Growth narrative could decrease the EROI of the energy system from current ~12:1 to ~3:1 by the mid-century, stabilizing thereafter at ~5:1. These EROI levels are well below the thresholds identified in the literature required to sustain industrial complex societies. Moreover, this transition could drive a substantial re-materialization of the economy, exacerbating risk availability in the future for some minerals. Hence, the results obtained put into question the consistence and viability of the Green Growth narrative.

Energy Strategy Reviews, Vol. 26, November 2019

The Green New Deal for Europe: a blueprint for Europe’s just transition

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.


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

Crisis, liminality and the decolonization of the social imaginary

Abstract: The decolonization of the social imaginary has been proposed as an important dimension of the transition towards a degrowth society. However, although omnipresent in the degrowth literature, the terms “social imaginary” and “social imaginary significations” have not been adequately explained. This creates a level of mystification that limits the analytical value of the degrowth framework. In addition, there is very little theoretical work on how actual social imaginaries can be decolonized and transformed. This paper first tries to clarify those concepts. Subsequently, it develops a theoretical framework for explaining such transitions of the imaginary. In developing this framework, the paper focuses on moments of crisis, since crises have been historically associated with change and transition. It argues that crises are important because they destabilize social imaginaries and open up a stage of suspension—a liminal stage—in which the rise of new social practices can facilitate the emergence of new social imaginary significations and institutions that can contribute to the alteration of the social imaginary at large. The paper draws on case studies related to the Greek crisis, the biggest ever faced by a country of the Global North after the Second World War.

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, August 2019

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

Penser la décroissance – Politiques de l’Anthropocène

Depuis les débuts de l’époque industrielle, il y a deux cents ans, les activités humaines ont profondément modifié les cycles de la nature, d’où le terme d’Anthropocène pour qualifier la période contemporaine.

Alors que les stocks de combustible s’épuisent, la dissipation exubérante d’énergie liée aux économies fondées sur la croissance touche à sa fin. Quelles en seront les répercussions politiques, économiques et sociales sur un système fondé sur une soif sans limites de ressources naturelles ?

Ère d’accélération, l’Anthropocène brille de ses derniers feux. Le XXIe siècle sera celui de la « descente énergétique ». Face à cette rupture profonde dans l’histoire des temps, adopter un autre modèle que le productivisme s’impose d’urgence.

Pierre Rabhi : La croissance est un problème, pas une solution

Dans cette vidéo, Pierre Rabhi répond à quelques questions sur notre société, telles que: les crises actuelles vont-elles permettre de remettre en question le système dans lequel nous vivons ? L’écologie semble aujourd’hui avoir été écartée du débat politique. Pourquoi ? D’où peut venir le changement? Changer les règles du jeu démocratique… pour aller vers quoi ?

L’écrivain agriculteur répond en toute simplicité, mettant en avant l’importance de la consommation frugale, se limitant aux besoins de base. Il souligne aussi le role majeur de l’éducation et de la société civile pour un changement de notre société actuelle qu’il qualifie de “carcérale”.

“La vraie puissance est non pas dans les comptes en banque, mais dans la capacité humaine à se contenter de peu et à produire de la joie”


Vers la sobriété heureuse

« J’avais alors vingt ans, et la modernité m’est apparue comme une immense imposture. »
Pierre Rabhi a en effet vingt ans à la fin des années cinquante, lorsqu’il décide de se soustraire, par un retour à la terre, à la civilisation hors sol qu’ont largement commencé à dessiner sous ses yeux ce que l’on nommera plus tard les Trente Glorieuses.
Après avoir dans son enfance assisté en accéléré, dans le Sud algérien, au vertigineux basculement d’une pauvreté séculaire, mais laissant sa part à la vie, à une misère désespérante, il voit en France, aux champs comme à l’usine, l’homme s’aliéner au travail, à l’argent, invité à accepter une forme d’anéantissement personnel à seule fin que tourne la machine économique, point de dogme intangible. L’économie ? Ce n’est plus depuis longtemps qu’une pseudoéconomie qui, au lieu de gérer et répartir les ressources communes à l’humanité en déployant une vision à long terme, s’est contentée, dans sa recherche de croissance illimitée, d’élever la prédation au rang de science. Le lien filial et viscéral avec la nature est rompu ; elle n’est plus qu’un gisement de ressour ces à exploiter – et à épuiser.
Au fil des expériences de vie qui émaillent ce récit s’est imposée à Pierre Rabhi une évidence : seul le choix de la modération de nos besoins et désirs, le choix d’une sobriété libératrice et volontairement consentie, permettra de rompre avec cet ordre anthropophage appelé “mondialisation”. Ainsi pourrons nous remettre l’humain et la nature au coeur de nos préoccupations, et redonner, enfin, au monde légèreté et saveur.

Freie Geister

Der große utopische Science-Fiction-Klassiker in kongenialer Neuübersetzung.

Ursula K. LeGuins ›Freie Geister‹ ist eine der bedeutendsten Utopien des 20. Jahrhunderts, in der die Systemfrage – Kommunismus, Kapitalismus oder Anarchismus? – mit aller Deutlichkeit gestellt wird. Ältere Ausgaben sind unter den Titeln ›Planet der Habenichtse‹ und ›Die Enteigneten‹ erschienen.

Freie Geister

Der einzige Ort auf dem Anarres, der durch eine Mauer von seiner Umgebung abgetrennt wird, ist der Raumhafen. Von hier aus werden die Edelmetalle, die in den Minen des Planeten abgebaut werden, einmal im Jahr zum Nachbarplaneten Urras geflogen.
Für die Herrschenden von Urras ist das anarchistische Anarres nicht mehr als eine abhängige Bergbaukolonie, die es möglichst effektiv auszubeuten gilt. Für die Bewohner von Anarres ist ihre Heimat jedoch der einzige Ort im ganzen Sonnensystem, wo sie wirklich frei sind – frei von Unterdrückung, aber auch frei von dem Zwang, künstlich erzeugte Bedürfnisse befriedigen zu müssen.
Als sich auch auf Anarres erste Herrschaftsstrukturen zu bilden beginnen, begibt sich der Physiker Shevek auf eine riskante Reise nach Urras. Er möchte in Dialog mit dortigen Wissenschaftlern treten und gerät dabei zwischen alle Fronten.

movum – Heft 15: Kultur

Heft 15 des Magazins movum zum Thema Kultur.

Kurzbeschreibung: Unsere Kultur kann nicht von der Natur, sondern nur mit der Natur leben. Für die nötige Transformation brauchen wir einen neuen Gesellschaftsvertrag.

Das Heft als PDF
Das Plakat als JPG

No One Noticed

Poem by Amitangshu Acharya


No one noticed
When the sparrows left
It was just another
smoggy winter morning

[read the full poem by following the link to the content]

Entropia by Samuel Alexander

Review from Kevin Karaca on the book “Entropia – Life beyond Industrial Civilisation” by Samuel Alexander

Peak Oil is around the corner. The rise in the political-right sends hints that the neoliberal project is coming to an end. Economic growth is being questioned by many. What could a post-growth society look like?