Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Are we there yet? How practitioners, multipliers and the public perceive the status and perspectives of a new economy.

The presentation shows what needs to be done in the movement in order to achieve more visibility and, more importantly, feasibility. In the same framework, tools like multipliers and institutions should be embraced to foster cooperation and convergence in projects and approaches for an alternative economy.

This is not an atlas: a global collection of counter-cartographies

“Maps articulate statements that are shaped by social relations, discourses and practices, but these statements also influence them in turn. Hence, maps (and atlases) are always political. “In this interplay between facts and perception, the cartographer is both witness and actor. […] In order to create, or, more accurately: to invent, “his worlds”, he finally arrives at a subtle mixture of the world as it is, and the world he desires” (Rekacewicz 2006). Thus, many of the maps presented in this volume are full of “ifs”, “buts” and question marks but also of desired worlds.”
(from the Editorial)

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

Consumerism versus happiness. The case of Alternative Food Networks in Barcelona

Overcoming consumerism is one objective of the degrowth movement, to be achieved through a great social transformation by building alternatives. It inherently embraces material needs downscaling, self-sufficiency, voluntary simplicity and getting clear of neoliberal capitalist logics. Food cooperatives have the potential to embody such features, constituting a strategy for new social movements. In this paper, we compare the functioning of five different food cooperatives in the city of Barcelona and explain their role in the universe of degrowth proposals. Hereby, we emphasize the interrelations between consumer choice, seasonality and voluntary simplicity, as well as between the levels of participation and those of subjective well-being. We critically examine the degree of market orientation of the different cooperatives, i.e. their dependence on consumer choice, their degree of commercialization as in the commodification of the products as well as their focus on ‘the local’, likewise putting these features in relation with their members’ experienced happiness. Lastly, we briefly introduce and analyse the organized freeganism (i.e. dumpster diving) movement and its participants experience of well-being in the city of Barcelona.

This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Consumerism versus happiness. The case of Alternative Food Networks in Barcelona“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.

District Future – Urban Lab

Abstract: In this paper we present and discuss the conceptualisation of the start-up project District Future – Urban Lab which aims at the model transformation of an already existing urban district of the City of Karlsruhe (Southwest Germany) into a sustainable one. Opening at first the prospect on the broader global scale we show that against the background of the worldwide proceeding level of urbanisation and the extensive negative effects of the ongoing urban lifestyle great interest exists in our cities and city districts as important actors and spaces to be addressed on the path to more sustainable societies. This is also true for Europe with its high degree of urbanisation and the traditionally strong economic and socio cultural importance of its cities. In our perception common endeavours towards a sustainable urban development so far too much focus on the Three Pillar Model with its particular dimensions and adhere to the growth idea. Thereafter, three fundamental factors of our holistic approach for a future-proof process towards a sustainable urban development are mentioned: degrowth (sufficiency) as a strategy; the Integrative Concept of Sustainable Development as a guiding concept and instrument for analysis and assessment; and the City of Karlsruhe as the object of our studies and future theatre for implementing our project. Closer attention is then turned on this city: why it would need such an intervention, who the partners in our endeavour are, and how we can win the people for participating in the struggle for sustainable urban development. This leads, in a next step, to illustrating which specific proposals for sub-projects can fill the framework of our approach and how they interrelate with a set of the so-called basic functions of subsistence and several cross cutting issues. Some of these sub-projects are named for exemplification and a preliminary timeline is depicted. Eventually, (assumed) strengths and weaknesses are put up for discussion.

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

Political participation. A way toward degrowth.

Abstract: Degrowth supports a sober and convivial vision of life through principles encouraging equality and social relations. The cultural perspective it proposes is conceived also as the starting point for a concrete political action, and political subjects based on such ideas has risen in several countries. These principles play a key role in favoring citizens’ participation in public life, which is a crucial issue in modern countries. In fact they are facing a decline of political participation, which is becoming more and more relevant because of its link with generational factors. Hence, according to recent studies, there are two different explanations for such phenomenon: the youth are moving from political to civic participation; they are withdrawing from public participation in general. Relying upon these perspectives, we can consider participation as affected by two separate notions. The first is political cynicism, which can be considered as the degree of mistrust towards politics. The second is the involvement in social activities that can become a source of flow of consciousness for individuals, that psychologists consider as a contribute to personal wellbeing. We claim that Degrowth can successfully develop in our societies if it will be able to intercept people quitting traditional political participation. We propose a psychosocial description of people engaged in activism that can fruitfully enlighten such transition.
We interviewed thirteen high level experts of Italian politics, gathered among journalists, historians and political scientists. The grid interview was built in order to explore positive and negative features of the national political system. The content analyses of the interviews allowed us to create eighteen items describing important features to be held by “good politicians”. Subsequently we administered an online questionnaire to 224 political activists including such items, a scale for political cynicism and a scale for flow of consciousness.
We performed a factor analysis on the eighteen items and highlighted three main components of contributing to achieve forms of good politics: engagement (passion experienced by the politician himself and passed on to others), success (being able to get votes and to advance his own career) and competence (having a good knowledge in a specific field and in the legislative domain in general). On the basis of such factors we performed the cluster analysis that led us to identify four groups. The analysis of variance showed an effect of groups for both political cynicism and flow of consciousness. Hence we can describe four groups of activists, based on the three factors, on political cynicism and flow of consciousness: technicians (focused on competence, opposed to success, they experience low rates of flow in politics and are rather high in cynicism), pragmatists (very focused on success, they give importance also to engagement, experience flow and are low in cynicism), idealists (mainly interested in engagement, they have the highest rates of flow and the lowest of cynicism), cynics (only interested in success, opposed to competence and engagement, they experience low rates of flow and highest rates of cynicism). As the first three groups represent different paths to positive forms of politics for our society, the latter embodies a threat to the political system.
As Degrowth principles are coherent with engagement and in part with competence, we argue that it can effectively attract activists and gain a growing space in public political debate.

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

Participation “Big Style”: First Experiences with the German Citizens’ Dialogue on Energy Technologies for the Future.

From the text: The project “Bürgerdialoge“ (“citizens’ dialogues”) initiated by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research aims to incorporate the perspectives of citizens regarding future technologies. Germany’s highly discussed withdrawal from nuclear energy and the accompanied fundamental changes in energy production were subjects of eight regional dialogues (with about 100 participants each) which took place from July to November of 2011. Citizens were invited to discuss and develop approaches to solve pressing energy questions such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy grids and bridging technologies. In a first discussion-round the citizens’ concerns and expectations were documented and a second round was made up of developing approaches and possible polices for dealing with and solving the issues articulated. The goal of each regional dialogue was to put together a report which was given to a representative of the ministry. During a two day long summit concluding the regional dialogues, participants wrote a final summarizing report, which was officially passed on to the federal minister. The entire process was accompanied by an advisory board made up of representatives of research, science, the economy, civil society as well as participating citizens themselves. Additionally, an Internet platform offered the possibility of online participation. A first interpretative analysis of the dialogues shows several overarching topics. The decentralization of energy production was a central aspect of all dialogues and was seen as a possibility to strengthen regional participation of citizens and municipalities helping them become more independent from large energy companies and to develop local energy plans.

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

The Geography of Energy Transitions. The emergence of local contexts as main actors of a sustainable turn

Abstract: Since the 1973’s oil crisis everyone on the planet was well aware of the economic development’s dependence from fossil fuels supply and their producers. Nowadays, just like then, an economic and energy crisis has once again highlighted this unsolved dependence. Dealing with such a complex dynamic implies a substantial shift in every country’s societal structure aspects: economic, political and cultural. Such a shift towards a substantially new energy regime cannot be managed recurring to the traditional management tools (traditional regulation, policy and market measures), but requires an effective societal restructuring: a transition.
However, there is still a wide debate concerning the localisation of these processes. While such profound changes must run over complex systems that involve at least national level structures, empirical analysis reveal that at such level wide participation is weakened and transition initiatives tend to be driven by the powerful regime actors of the involved sector (e.g. corporations) (Kemp, Rotmans, & Loorbach, 2007).
In this paper, given the recent democratic developments and pressures towards power decentralisation, I challenge the application of energy transition initiatives only at the national level. Pushing further this assumption, I tried to understand how narrower contexts can interpret transitions and create networks of transitions experiences, developing a multi-scalar perspective and analysing the application of transition methods on the regional and local level.
I analysed the small Southern-Italian municipality of Melpignano, where has been recently established a community-cooperative in charge of the creation and management of a wide network of solar panels over local buildings through the active involvement of the local community. Using both the literature on Transition Management (Rotmans, Loorbach, & van Asselt, 2001) and Transition Culture (Hopkins, 2008) as useful interpreting tools, and previous researches on localisation of transitions (Späth & Rohracher, 2010), through qualitative research methods, I investigated the structure of this narrow transitional process, the role of central government, the pressures on stakeholders and institutions to design shared transitional paths (e.g. technological, economic, socio-political, environmental), the level and the methods of stakeholders involvement in the processes, and their perception of them.
The main aim of this work is therefore to contribute to a deeper understanding of lower- scale initiatives’ potential to initiate energy transition processes.
The overall results of the research pointed out how, even if participation is more likely to be facilitated at a narrower scale level, the intervention of national authorities providing a set of measures across the territory (i.e. feed-in-tariffs schemes) are needed and preconditions to substantial transition initiatives. Moreover, the local contexts are perceived as the best available backgrounds where participated energy policies can be designed and implemented and tend to be seen as far more efficient in opening networking spaces where heterogeneous subjects cooperate, confront each other, and design shared paths towards more sustainable energy structures. On the other hand the lack of political national sensibility and political planning towards this topic is perceived as the main barrier to the implementation of these processes, limiting the chances of structural success of localised initiatives. This immobile national context leads to perceive the local scale as a political substitute to the absence of national political action and likely to challenge the traditional hierarchical political cascade creating a bottom-up pressure process through which to scale up successful initiatives.

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

South Korean Green Growth and the Jevons Paradox: An Assessment with Democratic and Degrowth Policy Recommendations

Abstract: The policy instruments at the core of the notion of green growth are central to the South Korea’s National Strategy for Green Growth (NSGG): (1) green stimulus packages; (2) “price-based” or market corrective policies; and (3) green research and development to bring about a technological shift that increases resource efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. This assessment of the NSGG explores the potentials and limitations of (3) in light of the Jevons paradox, the commonly found association between improved efficiency and increased resource use. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and total energy use have increased since the implementation of the NSGG despite overall improvements in energy efficiency. We argue that the Jevons paradox is a fundamental limitation of the NSGG and suggest policy alternatives to the NSGG: (1) increased public participation in environmental decision-making and (2) economic degrowth.

Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 144, 15 February 2017, Pages 239–247

Wirtschaftsdemokratie als Fortschritt

Vortrag von Alex Demirovic und Wolfgang Uellenberg-van-Dawen bei der Veranstaltung “Wohlstand ohne Wachstum?” des DGB 2011 in Berlin.

Democracy and degrowth: some conceptual issues and real-life experiences

Poster by Julien-François Gerber and Christos Zografos from the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Barcelona with the title “Democracy and degrowth: some conceptual issues and real-life experiences”.

Participative/direct democracy: What forms of ‘deep’ democracy for a society that degrows?

Poster by Désirée Lucchese and Rodney Lester from the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Barcelona with the title “Participative/direct democracy: What forms of ‘deep’ democracy for a society that degrows?”.


Participatory Guarantee Systems in Organic Farming as an Expression of Agroecology and as part of an Economic Degrowth Program: the Experience in Andalusia

Presentation by Sofía Boza Martínez from the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Barcelona with the title “Participatory Guarantee Systems in Organic Farming as an Expression of Agroecology and as part of an Economic Degrowth Program: the Experience in Andalusia”.

Equitable, Ecological Degrowth: Feminist Contributions

Keynote by Patricia Ellie Perkins at the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Barcelona on the topic “Climate Change and Economic Crisis: Is prosperity possible without growth?”

Abstract: This paper uses feminist ecological economics and ecofeminist methodologies and theory to contribute to Degrowth in theory and practice. These feminist contributions involve highlighting unpaid work and ecological services, redistribution, and participatory processes as crucially important in developing the new paradigm and movement for equitable material Degrowth.

The City of Commons

No abstract available

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