Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Between the enlarged scope of neoliberalism and the socialism that mutates: The sustainability dilemma in China’s overheated market for ‘fictitious commodities’

Presentation by Xiaorui (Rae) Wang

Basing on Polanyi’s (cf. 2002 [1944], 1957) insights that are particularly pertinent to the arguments that have centred ecological economics, this paper sets out to investigate the Chinese context within which this kind of trade-offs have been made. The findings indicate that, the so called “socialist market economy” in China implies above all the State’s strong intervention of the seemingly self-regulated market, yet this intervention, notably the intervention of the ‘fictitious commodity markets’ conducted by the Chinese authorities haven’t work in the spirit of restriction. Rather, the free circulation of these fictitious commodities in China has been greatly facilitated by the state intervention for the purpose of boosting the economy; and this is precisely the main cause of the environmental and social crises that China faces today. Moreover, the ideological conflicts in regard with the nature of the Chinese economy appear to be problematic when it comes to conducting institutional changes towards sustainability in the future.

Degrowth in business: An oxymoron or a viable business model for sustainability?

Based on a review of literature connecting degrowth and business, we attempt to operationalize degrowth in the context of business activity, and consider what degrowth can add to the business models for sustainability discussed so far. In most discussions on degrowth, economic activity has been reduced to relatively marginal activities. We see a need to connect degrowth to more typical business activities, because business is an essential part of the modern world. We put forward seven criteria which can be used to assess whether a company follows the degrowth paradigm: (1) Alternative understanding of business; (2) From business activity to activism and social movement; (3) Collaborative value creation; (4) Democratic governance; (5) Corporate leaders’ commitment to company values in personal life; (6) Reduction of environmental impacts at all stages of product/service life-cycle; (7) Making products that last and are repairable. We use these criteria to assess the performance of a case study company, Patagonia, which is known for its environmental and social record. Our assessment is not meant to be comprehensive, but to illustrate the relevance of the seven criteria. Our criteria offer guidance for aligning business activity with the broader degrowth objectives, and our analysis complements the recommendations made so far for degrowth in national and local policies.

Faire l’économie de la haine. Essais sur la censure

Point de haine de l’économie là où on nous fait aimer l’argent, à tout prix. Point de haine de l’économie, mais une économie de la haine. Le programme: faire l’économie de la haine. Haïr sans qu’il n’y paraisse. Ainsi s’investit-on dans l’asservissement à l’argent. Sous les données, sous les calculs et sous la spéculation : des crimes, du sang, du vol et des morts, mais assourdis par ce savoir économique et ses prérogatives légales. Car l’argent fait écran: faut-il délocaliser des usines, licencier du personnel, polluer des rivières, contourner le fisc, soutenir des dictatures ou armer des chefs de guerre pour que le prix d’une action monte en Bourse? Cette culture de l’argent nous autorise précisément à faire l’économie de ces questions, sur le mode de l’autocensure. Alain Deneault tire un à un les fils de cette censure diffuse, pour s’émanciper du filtre marchand qui codifie le social.

Climate Change and the Polanyian Counter-movement: Carbon Markets or Degrowth?

Abstract: In the midst of a wave of market expansion, carbon markets have been proposed as the best way to address global climate change. While some argue that carbon markets represent a modern example of a Polanyian counter-movement to the environmental crisis, we adopt a structural interpretation of Polanyi to refute this claim. Carbon markets represent a further expansion of markets that fails to address the underlying contradictions related to the commodification of nature. In addition, they increase risks to society and the domination of economic elites. While carbon markets further subject social and ecological relations to market mechanisms, we examine degrowth as a possible response to climate change that prioritises social and environmental goals over economic growth. While degrowth continues to be dismissed as impractical or impossible, a growing number of scholars, scientists and activists argue it is the only way to address global climate change. In contrast to carbon markets, we argue degrowth could represent a genuine Polanyian counter-movement in response to climate change. In addition, degrowth could help all those disenfranchised by market fundamentalism by addressing the triple crises related to the commodification of land, labour and money.

New Political Economy, Volume 24(1), 2019, pp. 89-102

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Workshop Single Market

Chair: Elly Schlein, MEP (S&D)
Panellists: Jean-Christophe Defraigne (Saint-Louis University), Joaquim Nunes de Almeida (uropean Commission, DG GROW, Director, Single Market Policy), Gabriele Bischoff (DGB, Special adviser on European policy issues, German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) ; European Economic and Social Committee, President of the Workers’ Group), Daniel Seikel (Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) of the Hans Böckler Foundation)

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Workshop Internalizing Externalities

Chair: Philippe Lamberts, MEP (Greens/EFA)
Panellists: Denis Bouget (European Social Observatory, European Trade Union Institute, Emeritus Professor of Nantes University), Clive Spash (WU Vienna University), Anne Bucher (European Commission, Chair of the Scrutiny Regulatory Board), Stefan Ulrich Speck (European Environment Agency, Projet manager (sustainability assessments))

Framing Social Enterprise as Post-Growth Organising in the Diverse Economy

Organising for post-growth society is called for to enable living on our finite planet. While previous research has suggested that social enterprise could be one form of post-growth organising (PGo), these suggestions might not rely on critical studies of social enterprise (SE) or studies exploring everyday practices of SE. This paper asks to what extent can SE practices be considered to be post-growth organising and examines two empirical examples of self-employment identified as SE and sensitive to the elements attached to PGo. They functioned to develop more sustainable solutions in the field of co-working for social innovation and up-cycling used clothing. The analysis of actors’ everyday ‘sayings’ and ‘doings’ reveals how SE is used to channel social and environmental concerns in working life. Moreover, self-employment was not enough to constantly provide a living wage, but actors sustained themselves by navigating the diverse economy. Subsequently, they had to relate to the economic growth imperative at an organisational level. By making visible the ambivalence of the notion ‘social enterprise’, this study encourages the conducting of research that focuses on the everyday practices perceived as PGo.

Towards Growth-Independent and Post-Growth-Oriented Entrepreneurship in the SME Sector

For a long time the postulate that quantitative growth is the entrepreneurial raison d’être and an indispensable obligation for a company has remained unquestioned. Empirical studies on firm size and growth show, however, that a large fraction of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are non-growers or slow growers. These SMEs often show a more qualities-driven perspective on the growth question and a higher awareness of diseconomies of scale. Given the rather slow reception of this issue by the management literature, the knowledge about how to successfully manage a qualities-driven but non-growing company is currently limited. This deficit is problematic in its own right but also because such growth-critical companies might become relevant in the context of the degrowth movement. Yet so far, the corresponding societal and academic discourses have largely blocked out market-based actors. Against this background, the paper presents a structured aggregation and meta-interpretation of the few currently available empirical studies on entrepreneurial approaches towards growth independence. Its aims are to provide a starting point for the development of corresponding business practices and to show how growth-critical SMEs can potentially contribute to a transformation towards a post-growth society.

Business Development in Post-Growth Economies: Challenging Assumptions in the Existing Business Growth Literature

Existing literature has not specifically examined individual business growth in post-growth economies. This paper challenges dominant assumptions in the business growth literature by considering post-growth economies as an organisational context characterised by natural resource scarcity and an absence of macro-level economic expansion. We investigate conceptually how such a context impacts business growth theory by seeking to answer three major questions: (1) What is business growth? (2) Why do businesses grow? (3) And how do businesses grow? Accordingly, post-growth contexts pose three major challenges to business growth theorising: (1) business growth as an increase in measurable outcomes, (2) resource competition and dispositive path dependencies, and (3) detrimental growth modes and strategies. Based upon six revised assumptions, we re-define business development in line with forces at work in post-growth economies. We further suggest a multidimensional research agenda that can catalyse future discussions of post-growth organisations. These discussions have the potential to overcome the inertia in business growth theory and its discrepancies with practice.

Between the enlarged scope of neoliberalism and the socialism that mutates: The sustainability dilemma in China’s overheated market for ‘fictitious commodities’

Although everyone agrees to the idea of sustainability, this unanimous good intention has difficulties to turn into action. From the perspective of anthropological economics, the reason could be put into a rather simple way: To make economic activities sustainable, humans need to accept some serious trade-offs; and that is where it hurts. Nowadays, the whole world seems to have found itself in this “sustainability dilemma” (Adams, 2008), and every economy—notably in terms of individual nation state—seems to have developed its own version of it, characterised by its specific historical background and institutional context.
Basing on Polanyi’s (cf. 2002 [1944], 1957) insights that are particularly pertinent to the arguments that have centred ecological economics, this paper sets out to investigate the Chinese context within which this kind of trade-offs have been made. The findings indicate that, the so called “socialist market economy” in China implies above all the State’s strong intervention of the seemingly self-regulated market, yet this intervention, notably the intervention of the ‘fictitious commodity markets’ conducted by the Chinese authorities haven’t work in the spirit of restriction. Rather, the free circulation of these fictitious commodities in China has been greatly facilitated by the state intervention for the purpose of boosting the economy; and this is precisely the main cause of the environmental and social crises that China faces today. Moreover, the ideological conflicts in regard with the nature of the Chinese economy appear to be problematic when it comes to conducting institutional changes towards sustainability in the future.

This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Between the enlarged scope of neoliberalism and the socialism that mutates: The sustainability dilemma in China’s overheated market for ‘fictitious commodities’“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.

Why the lock-in of financialisation could further delay a low carbon and just transition beyond the growth paradigm

Introduction: We live in a time of finance capitalism, when trading money, risk and associated products is more profitable and outpaces trading goods and services for capital accumulation. That is in short what people often refer to as “financialisation” of the economy. This has huge implications for where capital is invested and the everyday exposure of people to capital markets, as more and more aspects of everyday life – from home ownership to pensions and schooling – are mediated through financial markets rather than just markets.
Financialisation is now penetrating all commodity markets and their functioning and expanding from areas like social reproduction (pensions, health, education, housing) into natural resources management (what can be regarded as the financialisation of nature). Just as the privatisation of public assets and services served as a building block for the financialisation of the economy, so the further commodification of the natural commons is the basis for the further financialisation of the economy and nature.
However financialisation should be regarded as more than just a further stage of commodification or privatisation of the commons.

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.

Consistency and Stability Analysis of Models of a Monetary Growth Imperative

Abstract: Is fostering economic growth a question of political will or ‚unavoidable‘ to maintain economic stability? It is disputed whether such ‚growth imperatives‘ are located within the current monetary system, creating a conflict with sustainability. To examine the claim that compound interest causes the growth imperative, we present five post-Keynesian models and perform a stability analysis in the parameter space. A stationary state with zero net saving and investment can be reached with positive interest rates, if the parameter ‚consumption out of wealth‘ is above a threshold that rises with the interest rate. The other claim that retained profits from the interest revenues of banks create an imperative is based on circuitist models that we consider refutable. Their accounting is not consistent, and a modeling assumption central for a growth imperative is not underpinned theoretically: Bank’s equity capital has to increase even if debt does not. This is a discrepancy between the authors‘ intentions in their texts and their actual models. We conclude that a monetary system based on interest-bearing debt-money with private banks does not lead to an ‚inherent‘ growth imperative. If the stationary state is unstable, it is caused by decisions of agents, not by structural inevitableness.

Zusammenfassung: Ist das Streben nach Wirtschaftswachstum eine Frage des politischen Willens oder eine notwendige Bedingung für ökonomische Stabilität? Es ist umstritten, ob solche „Wachstumszwänge“ im heutigen Geldsystem bestehen, und einen Konflikt mit Nachhaltigkeit hervorrufen. Zur Untersuchung der ersten Behauptung, dass Zinseszinsen einen Wachstumszwang hervorrufen, stellen wir fünf post-Keynesianische Modelle vor und führen eine Stabilitätsanalyse im Parameterraum durch. Eine stationäre Ökonomie mit Spar- und Investitionsquote von null kann bei positivem Zinssatz erreicht werden, wenn der Parameter „Konsum aus dem Bestand“ oberhalb eines Schwellenwerts liegt, der mit dem Zinssatz ansteigt. Die andere Behauptung, dass die Bildung von Gewinnrücklagen aus den Zinseinnahmen der Banken zu einem Wachstumszwang führt, basiert auf Modellen des monetären Kreislaufs die wir für widerlegbar halten. Ihre Bilanzierung ist inkonsistent, und eine zentrale Modellannahme ist nicht theoretisch begründet, aber die Hauptursache des Wachstumszwangs: Das Eigenkapital der Bank muss gesteigert werden, selbst wenn ihre Verbindlichkeiten nicht wachsen, was eine Diskrepanz zwischen der Intention der Autoren und dem eigentlichen Modell ist. Wir kommen zum Schluss dass das heutige Geldsystem auf der Basis von zinstragendem Kreditgeld mit privaten Banken nicht zu einem „inhärenten“ Wachstumszwang führt. Falls der stationäre Zustand instabil ist, liegt es an Entscheidungen wirtschaftlicher Agenten und nicht an struktureller Unvermeidbarkeit.

Schlagworte: Ökologische Makroökonomik, Nullwachstum, Wachstumszwang, monetäre Ökonomie

VÖÖ Discussion Papers, ISSN 2366-7753, No. 1, February 2016.

> Deutschsprachige Zusammenfassung (PDF, 330 kB, 3 Seiten)

Dieses Papier wurde im Rahmen der Arbeitsgruppe „Wachstumszwang“ erstellt.

Degrowth or the economics of Enough

Short-interview with Richard Noorgard from the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Barcelona.

An agrofuel moratorium in temperate countries?

Poster by Jean-Marc Y-M. Salmon from the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Barcelona with the title “An agrofuel moratorium in temperate countries?”.