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 – Participatory system-mapping for Degrowth


System maps are a good visualization of mental constructions different groups hold on Degrowth. Based on our previous research results we propose 30 factors that we deem the most important in a Degrowth transition. In this workshop we involve the participants in a participatory system mapping exercise where they can arrange and rearrange the components of a potential Degrowth society to identify those factors where drastic intervention would have the most impact.

Presenters: Alexandra Köves (Corvinus University of Budapest)

Language: English

Technical details: WS A1_Participatory System-Mapping_trimmed.mkv, Matroska video, 150.9MB

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Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Alternatives to Enculturation of Children into Consumers

Presentation by Madalina Balau

In Romania all parents want to offer their children a better life and a better future, sometimes with their own sacrifice, yet the years following communist regime have brought unsustainable development, present in environmental degradation and social insecurity. After living in communism and knowing how bad it was, people have been accustoming for the last 26 years, to accept the lesser evil, and all critics to current capitalism and democracy are seen as communist nostalgia. I believe Degrowth can open the debate and stop seeing reality in dual terms – evil and good, or evil and less evil – and I try to explore this possibility here. The purpose of this paper is to understand, from parents perspective, the way consumer culture has impacted childhood and produced changes in their children’s lives. This will enable identifying lessons for a good life, from both communist regime and consumer culture childhoods. The study is based on interviews conducted with adults born in Romania during the communist regime, that lived at least some part of their childhood then, and who are now parents. The present findings suggest that parents see their children offered more opportunities of buying products and services, more activities to attend and more wishes to fulfill. This comes at the expense of less time for family and lost connections with the extended family, less freedom to play and less freedom to refuse consuming certain products due to peer pressure. These are identified mainly as a paradox, since in appearance we have more freedom, but time pressure and the lack of financial means to attend certain activities makes this freedom impossible to obtain in individual lives.

Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Weal. The reorientation of well-being

Presentation by György Folk

Degrowth may appear for the majority in the developed world a sacrifice of the human comfort we live in, a loss of the present standard of life or well-being. Weal proposes a radical reorientation of our understanding about the human good. Biological and social research produced a multitude of partial results that shed light on how humans live well. Equating the level of production, consumption or happiness with well-being becomes more and more problematic.

Enhanced sustainability and the improved provisions for the quality of human life seem to be mutually exclusive given the limitless pursuit for economic growth and the finiteness of any earthly system. Endless development as a final good descends from positive incrementalism: the more – the better.

A non-infinite conceptualisation of the human good can be built on evolutionary, anthropological, physiological and psychological evidence on human needs. What makes up for good human existence is shared by all humans as the fundamental factors of liveable human reality. Humans grasp them regardless acculturation, historical period and geographical relatedness. This is a whole, non-dividable and unalterable oneness that human communities with actual livelihoods always live up to. A descriptive understanding yields aspects that are indispensable for well-living. A limited set of aspects will suffice to map this human whole(some)ness.

Weal is conceived as a oneness approachable by eight cardinal needs, each satisfiable by elementary satisfiers. Weal is operationalised as a domain in multidimensional space between the extremes of drastic insufficiency and harmful excess.

Degrowth: A metamorphosis in being

Abstract: The call to transform the growth society lacks an analysis of the human will. Problematically for degrowth, the enactment of this so-called will to transform has undesired matter-energetic consequences. Every act of transformation requires matter–energy, adding to the cumulative throughput of societies. To revert the ecospherical metabolism from a state of overshoot to one of degrowth, a metamorphosis in being is proposed. Building on Heidegger’s fundamental ontology, the article invites degrowth practitioners to become releasers by waiting for the unexpected and then to prepare for the expected, the collapse of civilization. A practice of releasement, where meditative thinking resides, is considered as an effective way to counter the destructive will to transform, and hence contribute to degrowth.

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, August 2019

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

Green growth or degrowth? Assessing the normative justifications for environmental sustainability and economic growth through critical social theory

Abstract: Scientists agree that changes in the organization of human society and economy are needed to stop the degradation of the natural environment. The most commonly proposed solution, green growth, has been increasingly criticized, but the offered alternative of degrowth has remained a marginal undertaking in academia and in practice. This article further develops the argument for degrowth. The article conducts a comparative analysis of the normative foundations of green growth and degrowth using frameworks from critical social theory. The analysis shows that green growth and degrowth work toward different normative ideals that are justified in different ways. The analysis shows that degrowth has a stronger normative justification than green growth and therefore, should be preferred. The article contributes to the debate about green growth and degrowth by establishing normative grounds for focusing efforts for environmental sustainability on degrowth rather than green growth.

Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 206, January 2019, pp. 133-141

Building new foundations: the future of education from a degrowth perspective

Abstract: Considering education in the context of making and unmaking sustainable futures, a growing relevance is attributed to the role of shared beliefs or mental infrastructures which shape the way people perceive crises and solutions. The currently dominant capitalist economic paradigm is seen as one such powerful belief that generates imaginaries which cannot accommodate sustainable futures. At the same time, in educational practice, social movements, and academic discussion, the perspective of degrowth has gained attention as an approach which challenges this paradigm. In this article, we address the role of education in processes of socioecological transformation in the context of degrowth. We do this from a perspective of practice, linking our experiences in non-formal education to academic discussions on education and sustainability. The aim of this article is to contribute to a pedagogy of degrowth as one path within a complex search for ways to imagine and support sustainable futures, which address root causes of the current crises. Analysing these crises as crises of conviviality, resulting from imperial modes of living and producing, we sketch the framework for sustainable futures marked by world relations of interconnectedness and solidarity. Relating a theory of transformative learning to a critical-emancipatory understanding of education, we propose two interlinked aspects for pedagogy of degrowth: creating spaces for reflection and emphasizing the political in educational settings. We discuss our practical experience as learning facilitators in non-formal educational contexts. As a cross-cutting challenge, we will touch upon the role of strengthening psychological resources in education for a degrowth society.

Sustainability Science, Volume 14, Issue 47, May 2019, pp. 1-11

Structured Diversity: A Practice Theory Approach to Post-Growth Organisations

Innovative forms of organising are a crucial pillar of post-growth transitions. Situated within a growth-based institutional context, actually existing forms of post-growth organising are ambiguous. Divisions across legal structure, market participation and sectoral focus do not suffice to single out post-growth organisations. Instead, this paper develops a more fluid notion which is based on the “thick description” of organisations. Conceptually, the paper borrows from diverse economies and practice theory literatures, allied in their appreciation of performativity. The latter in particular illustrates transition’s irreducibility to structural or individual agency and lends itself to a notion of post-growth politics: the practice of changing the rules of practice to support parallel and mutually enforcing processes of cultural and institutional change within the diverse meanings of post-growth. Studies of diverse economies remind us that market practices are only the tip of the (economic) iceberg. In conjunction with qualitative empirical data from a study of alternative economies in Stuttgart, Germany, a framework is developed to structure organisations’ diverse forms of relatedness to larger contexts. Identifying, besides economies, also communality, narratives, experience, governance and ecology as central patterns in the relationality relatedness of practices (logics), this paper proposes a structured notion of diversity to discuss the ambiguities, contradictions and compromises of actually existing post-growth organisations.

Utilitarianism made for ‘Hard Times’ in Dickens’ England

Comment from Anya VerKamp on the novel “Hard Times” by Charles Dickens.

Introduction: Charles Dickens, an author witnessing firsthand the harsh impacts of the industrial revolution, wrote a novel that contains in it some of the themes still present in degrowth discourse today. His novel Hard Times demonstrates the invasion of utilitarianism and its economic implications into human relationships and education. Art is Dickens preferred form of dépense to replace the hegemony of utilitarianism.

Hard Times

Description by the publisher: A damning indictment of Utlilitarianism and the dehumanising influence of the Industrial Revolution, Charles Dickens’s Hard Times is edited with an introduction and notes by Kate Flint in Penguin Classics.

In Hard Times, the Northern mill-town of Coketown is dominated by the figure of Mr Thomas Gradgrind, school headmaster and model of Utilitarian success. Feeding both his pupils and family with facts, he bans fancy and wonder from any young minds. As a consequence his obedient daughter Louisa marries the loveless businessman and ‘bully of humanity’ Mr Bounderby, and his son Tom rebels to become embroiled in gambling and robbery. And, as their fortunes cross with those of free-spirited circus girl Sissy Jupe and victimized weaver Stephen Blackpool, Gradgrind is eventually forced to recognize the value of the human heart in an age of materialism and machinery.

This edition of Hard Times is based on the text of the first volume publication of 1854. Kate Flint’s introduction sheds light on the frequently overlooked character interplay in Dickens’s great critique of Victorian industrial society.

ISBN-13: 978-0141439679

The Naturalisation of Growth: Marx, the Regulation Approach and Bourdieu

Abstract: This paper analyses the hegemony of the growth paradigm through the example of its naturalisation in capitalist production and consumption relations. Applying a combination of theoretical elements from the Marxian tradition, the Regulation approach and Bourdieusian sociology, emphasis is placed on how the growth imperative is reflected in people’s minds and bodies. It becomes hegemonic because it appears to be the natural way of steering economy and society. As a result, all people – including working people – benefit from the continuation of growth. To overcome the growth paradigm, activists would need to build on a crisis of the ‘objective’ structures of economy and society.

Wicked Dilemmas of Scale and Complexity in the Politics of Degrowth


• Entanglement of socio-ecological systems is described from a historical perspective.
• Entanglement of traditional growth economics, the sanctity of the sovereign individual and complexity is analysed.
• We present five cherished norms and dimensions of progressive modernity and how limiting growth economic may change them.

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Mit Bildung die Welt verändern? Globales Lernen für eine nachhaltige Entwicklung

Beim Umbau unserer Gesellschaft in Richtung eines nachhaltigen Lebens kommt der transformativen Bildung eine Schlüsselrolle zu. Im Buch werden dazu folgende Fragen untersucht: Was genau kann Globales Lernen für soziale Transformationsprozessen leisten und was nicht? Welche Faktoren bestimmen die Schritte vom Wissen zum Handeln? Und wie verhält sich das Veränderungsinteresse der Bildungsakteure zur Freiheit der Lernenden und zur prinzipiellen Offenheit von Bildungsprozessen?

Globales Lernen soll auf dynamische Prozesse innerhalb der sich ständig verändernden Weltgesellschaft vorbereiten. Wie man an den internationalen Fluchtbewegungen sieht und an Reaktionen in den Gesellschaften der nördlichen Hemisphäre, verläuft dies keineswegs konfliktfrei.

Auf Veränderungen und Herausforderungen vorbereitet zu sein, muss auch bedeuten, politische Entwicklungen kritisch und unter Berücksichtigung der Interessen globaler Akteure und von gesellschaftlichen Machtverhältnissen zu betrachten.

Das Buch zeigt auf, dass es bei der lernenden Erschließung zentraler Fragen von Macht und Herrschaft immer auch um komplexe Hintergründe geht, die mit historischen Entwicklungen, kulturellen Prägungen, politisch-ökonomischen Interessenlagen und auch gesellschaftlichen Alternativen zu tun haben. Auf der konzeptionellen Ebene von Lernangeboten ist eine selbstreflexive Auseinandersetzung mit diesen Aspekten auch deshalb von hoher Wichtigkeit, weil immer, unbewusst oder intentional, normative Positionen vermittelt, eine bestimmte Geschichtsschreibung tradiert und ggf. gegenwärtige Herrschaftsverhältnisse stabilisiert werden. Theoretische Prämissen, politische Grundannahmen und Positionen transparent zu machen, auch für die Beteiligten offenzulegen oder in kritischer Auseinandersetzung zu dekonstruieren, ist wichtiger Bestandteil Globalen Lernens.
(Beschreibung des Verlags)


ISBN: 978-3-8474-2053-8