What structural change is needed for a post-growth economy: A framework of analysis and empirical evidence

In order to avoid environmental catastrophe we need to move to a post-growth economy that can deliver rapid reductions in environmental impacts and improve well-being, independent of GDP growth. Such a move will entail considerable structural change in the economy, implying different goals and strategies for different economic sectors. So far there are no systematic approaches for identifying the desired shape of structural change and sectoral goals in terms of output, demand and employment. We present a novel analysis that addresses this gap by classifying economic sectors into groups with similar structural change goals. Our framework for the classification considers sectoral characteristics along three dimensions, which are (a) the final energy intensity, (b) the potential and desirability for labour productivity growth and (c) the relationship between labour productivity and the energy-labour ratio. We present empirical evidence on the three framework dimensions for economic sectors in the UK and Germany and derive structural change goals for the four sector groups representing particular combinations of the sector characteristics. Our analysis allows us to discuss the specific role of different economic sectors in the structural change envisioned in the post-growth transition and the most important challenges they might be facing.

Ecological Economics, 2021

Post-Growth Conference, Brussels 2018 – Opening Session

Welcome by MEP Philippe Lamberts
Moderation: Wolfgang Munchau, Financial Times
Keynotes by Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Professor Tim Jackson

An offer you can’t refuse: Enhancing personal productivity through ‘efficiency consumption’

Worldwide, economic growth is a prominent political goal, despite its severe conflicts with ecological sustainability. Contributing to the debate on economic ‘growth imperatives’, this article explores the thesis that both firms and consumers frequently acquire goods that increase their efficiency (productivity). For firms, efficiency is accepted as a main investment motive, but for consumers it is usually framed as convenience, ease, or comfort. Via social diffusion processes consumer goods that can save time and costs are transformed from a welcome expansion of possibilities into a social imperative whose noncompliance over time also has economic drawbacks. Positive feedback mechanisms not only lead to an acceleration of private life but favor ever more efficient industry and trade structures on the supply side, contributing to a redistribution of incomes and revenues. Eventually, a comprehensive consumption pattern leads to a new ‘normality’ and makes the renunciation of consumer goods like cars, computers or smartphones virtually impossible. Both microeconomics and consumption sociology generally assume fundamental differences in the motivations, goals and overall structural conditions of firms and consumers. Some reasons for this scholarly asymmetry are discussed and a more symmetrical consumption model is proposed.

Technology in Society, vol. 59, November 2019

Growth imperatives: Substantiating a contested concept

Economic growth remains a prominent political goal, despite its conflicts with ecological sustainability. Are growth policies only a question of political or individual will, or do ‘growth imperatives’ make them inescapable? We structure the debate along two dimensions: (a) degree of coerciveness between free will and coercion, and (b) agents affected. With carefully derived micro level definitions of ‘social coercion’ and ‘growth imperative’, we discuss several mechanisms suspected to make growth necessary for firms, households, and nation states. We identify technological innovations as a systematic necessity to net invest, trapping firms and households in a positive feedback loop to increase efficiency. Resource-intensive technology is economically attractive because of a subtle violation of the meritocratic principle of justice. The resulting dilemma between ‘technological unemployment’ and the social necessity of high employment explains why states ‘must’ foster economic growth. Politically, we suggest to institutionally limit resource consumption and redistribute economic rents.

Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, vol. 51, December 2019, pp. 126-137

The contested concept of growth imperatives: Technology and the fear of stagnation

Economic growth has become a prominent political goal worldwide, despite its severe conflicts with ecological sustainability. Are ‘growth policies’ only a question of political or individual will, or do ‘growth imperatives’ exist that make them ‘inescapable’? We structure the debate along two dimensions: (a) degree of coerciveness between free will and coercion, and (b) types of agents aected. Carefully derived micro level definitions of ‘social coercion’ and ‘growth imperative’ are used to discuss several mechanisms which are suspected to make economic growth necessary for firms, households, and nation states. We identify technological innovations as a systematic necessity to net invest, trapping firms and households in a positive feedback loop to increase eciency. Due to its resource consumption, the competitive advantage of a novel technology is often based on a violation of the meritocratic principle. The resulting dilemma between ‘technological unemployment’ and the social necessity of high employment can explain why states ‘must’ foster economic growth. Politically, we suggest market compliant institutions to limit resource consumption and redistribute economic rents.

John Bellamy Foster answers five questions about Marxism and ecology

Introduction by Ian Angus

March 30, 2017 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Climate & Capitalism – The Indian website Ecologise recently published John Bellamy Foster’s Foreword to my book Facing the Anthropocene. Commenting on Foster’s article, journalist and activist Saral Sarkar, who describes his views as eco-socialist, raised questions that challenge the usefulness of Marxist analysis in understanding the global ecological crisis. Foster’s reply was posted by Ecologise on March 26.

The exchange, republished below, addresses important questions about Marxist perspectives on the global ecological crisis. C&C welcomes further discussion.

C&C has added paragraph breaks to both articles to improve on-screen readability.

Anders wachsen!

Von der Krise der kapitalistischen Wachstumsgesellschaft und Ansätzen einer Transformation

Nahezu alle Bereiche unseres Lebens sind vom Wachstums- und Beschleunigungsdenken geprägt. Die Grundannahme des ewig andauernden Wirtschaftswachstums ist dabei an das Versprechen von Wohlstand und Reichtum geknüpft. Die Realität sieht jedoch ganz anders aus: Die kapitalistische Wachstumsgesellschaft verursacht sowohl regional als auch global zahlreiche soziale und ökologische Krisen. Sie sind ein untrügliches Zeichen dafür, dass die Ideologie des Wirtschaftswachstums am Ende ist und dass es dringend Alternativen braucht.

Der erste Teil des Buches zeigt die zahlreichen negativen Auswirkungen der Wachstumsgesellschaft auf – und bietet den Leserinnen und Lesern aufschlussreiche Einblicke in die gegenwärtige Diskussion zur Krise des Kapitalismus. Der zweite Teil zeigt wie es anders gehen kann: durch eine solidarische Lebensweise und ohne ökonomische Wachstumszwänge.

Capitalism and (de)growth

The discussion of the plenary “Capitalism and (de)growth” is outlining the key degrowth challenges, such as the internal contradictions of capitalism, exiting growth and comparing the transition experiences and potentials in the parts of the world where they originate from.

Speaker: Jennifer Hinton, Daniel O`Neill, Susan Paulson
Facilitator: György Pataki
31/08/2016, Degrowth Conference Budapest

Macroeconomics Without Growth

How can we organize our economies without growth? “Macroeconomics Without Growth’ provides a comprehensive understanding of how non-growing economies can be sustainable. With this book, Steffen Lange brings new momentum into the debate on post-growth, degrowth and steady state economies. The book delves deep into economic theory to understand how a macro-economy can operate without growth. By applying a highly diverse set of theories – from Neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxian traditions – the book is able to cover a wide range of macroeconomic aspects: Is zero growth possible in a capitalist economic system? What happens to aggregate demand and aggregate supply when economies stop growing? And what role do firms, markets and technological change play in post-growth economies?


Einführung in die Wachstumskritik

Fabian Scheidler gibt im Rahmen des Attac Kongresses “Jenseits des Wachstums” im Mai 2011 einen Überblick über zentrale Befunde und Forderungen der Wachstumskritik.

SAT_10h // Polanyi historical lessons

Keynote speech by Gareth Dale and following panel discussion by Mladen Domazet, Vincent Liegey and Alexandra Köves at the 6th International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Budapest in 2016.

Degrowth 2016 – English youtube channel

How to stop monetary growth pressure?

Generally, there is not enough awareness of the central role the monetary system plays with regard to sustainability. One of the main reasons is that for several decades economics has been dominated by a monetary theory that gives a false description of the monetary system and the role of money in the economy. Assuming that money on the macroeconomic level is basically neutral, traditional monetary theory does not recognize the negative impacts of the current money and banking system on society and the environment.
In reality, money created as debt carries interest and thereby contributes to a twofold growth pressure on the monetary system and on the real economy. Debtors need more money than they have borrowed because they also have to pay interest on their loans. In addition, business on the whole cannot be profitable unless the quantity of money continuously increases. This leads to the dynamics of growth which is a core characteristic of our economic system. The increase in the quantity of interest-bearing money exerts a monetary growth pressure on the real economy and the growth of the real economy simultaneously exerts an anti-deflationary growth pressure on the money supply. The growth of the real economy, which is to a great extent forced by the monetary system, involves an excessive exploitation of natural resources and is a hindrance to sustainable development. Financial indebtedness thus leads to ecological indebtedness towards nature, which impoverishes mankind.
Monetary growth pressure could be stopped by establishing a sovereign money system in which money is issued debt-free.

This media entry was a contribution to the special session „How to stop monetary growth pressure?“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.

Degrowth: the case for a new economic paradigm

Teaser: Unbridled growth appears to be at odds with social well-being and environmental sustainability. How might we develop a model that reduces the imperative for growth while maintaining economic stability?

Capitalism, democracy, and the degrowth horizon (Part I and II)

Summary: In the third post of the Ecology after capitalism series, divided in Part I and Part II, Leandro Vergara-Camus argues that the root causes of the socially and ecologically destructive character of capitalism is not to be found in growth, but in capitalist accumulation. He suggests that growth can be greened in a post-capitalist society if the institutions and dynamics that force capitalist accumulation and competition are abolished and full democracy is established.

In the Part II of the third post of the Ecology after capitalism series, Leandro Vergara-Camus attempts to show that Marxism is useful for the degrowth movement because of its understanding of what the specificity of capitalism is in comparison to other types of societies. In order to build a post-capitalist society, he calls for challenging private ownership of the means of production, de-commodifying and democratising the access to and management of natural resources, challenging the separation of the economic from the political, and building a collective working class political capacity.

> Part I
> Part II

Mut zur Effizienz und Befreiung

Herausgeber_innen: In der Postwachstumsdebatte wird intensiv das Konzept der Grünen Ökonomie diskutiert. Als neues Leitbild verspricht es Lösungen für ökologische und ökonomische Probleme. Doch kann die Green Economy das wirklich? Wenn es der Gesellschaft tatsächlich gelingen soll, in der Zukunft anzukommen, ist es notwendig umzusatteln und sowohl Ross als auch Reiter zu wechseln.