The conference addressed the following three thematic threads:
1. Organizing society
Emancipatory politics. Participation. Institutions.
‘Your recession is not our degrowth’ – this motto of the degrowth movement claims a different understanding of how the economy should work and the society be organized. Institutions can no longer rely on economic growth for their (democratic) stabilization, although they largely depend on and promote it. What historical developments and mechanisms have led to the blind growth-dependency in politics and institutions? How can we guarantee and strengthen democratic decision-making during economic transformation and beyond it? And which old and new forms of participation and interaction are necessary to achieve this transformation? In the light of the current crisis in Europe and diverse global challenges, these questions are urgent.
Participation is linked to the (re)distribution of wealth and resources, goods and services, but also to the question of equal access to education and to decision-making. This raises questions like: at what level and by whom are political decisions made? How should public services (such as pensions, transportation, health, education) be organized and financed under degrowth? Or does degrowth require a completely different understanding of our common organization – are for example nation states, pension funds and current educational systems still adequate concepts at all? Does a commons-based approach help to reshape our social institutions? How can institutions and social movements support cultural change?
The thread „Organizing Society“ can cover the following debates and topics:
> What interdependencies exist between the multiple crises, capitalism and economic growth?
> What political and economic interests are behind the most powerful figure of the world – the GDP?
> Democracy beyond growth – what does it look like?
> How can institutions, social movements and self-organized projects be driving forces for transformation?
> Why do we need a shift to degrowth to respond to the current crises?
> Democratic decision-making
> Communal and regional organization
> Access to and organization of commons
> Reclaiming and (re)organizing necessary public services
> Reshaping the health system
> Transforming education
> Public debt and taxation
> Distribution and basic income
> Fairness and inclusion
2. Building a social and ecological economy
(Re)productivity. Commons. Society-nature relations.
In our current economic system, reproductive activities are at the same time exploited and taken for granted as free gifts. This includes care work mainly provided by women, subsistence and non-commercial farming practices, as well as the reproductive services delivered by nature. Although these are the foundations for the so-called “economy”, they are not considered when it comes to the generation of economic value. The concept of a social and ecological economy questions and rethinks the separation between paid labour and other social activities.
A social and ecological economy not only needs to develop new forms of work organization, production, distribution and consumption but also to question these categories as such. It respects the planetary boundaries and fosters relations between society and nature in which nature is not treated as a mere instrument of society. It strengthens cooperative instead of competitive and growth-oriented social interaction. Furthermore it critically reconsiders the relation between rural and urban areas. There is already a large number of projects and initiatives in this field. How can we support the development and multiplication of these pioneers? Which forms of economic activities (have) foster(ed) cooperation and degrowth? Which macroeconomic and legal framework is needed to promote a social and ecological economy?
The thread „Building a social and ecological economy “ can cover the following debates and topics:
> Can the current crises be seen as crises of (re)productivity?
> What are the relationships between feminism, (re)production and degrowth?
> Which role does the concentration of wealth and debts play for growth?
> How can work be (re)organized under a degrowth perspective?
> What role can commons, solidarity, sharing and gift economy play in a socio-ecological economy?
> How can degrowth, a proposal from and for the North, find alliances in the South?
> What visions and obstacles for a social and ecological transformation exist?
> Capitalism, profit and (un)equal distribution
> Work, care work, socially meaningful activities and leisure time
> Working time reduction, quality of work and autonomy
> Planetary boundaries and environmental justice
> (De-)commodification of nature and social relationships
> Social metabolism and material flows
> Metabolic rift, rural-urban relations and agriculture
> Energy, housing and mobility
> Conversion of industries
> International trade and financial system
> Commons, social, solidarity, gift and sharing economy
> Good-practices for a socio-ecological economy
3. Living conviviality
Buen vivir. Open knowledge. Convivial technology.
According to Ivan Illich, “conviviality” is “individual freedom realized in personal interdependence”. It means living together peacefully in a creative and (collectively) self-determined way. It is one of the leading ideals for a just and participatory degrowth path. Instead of designing institutions and technologies to serve the productivity and efficiency of a profit-based economy, they should be designed to support convivial living.
Important questions for research and debate in this field are: how can we decolonize our minds and bodies from the addiction to growth? How can we promote convivial technologies, which serve the common good and enhance sharing and cooperation? Conviviality also opens the field for discussion about alternative welfare models in general as well as lived utopias from different parts of the world, such as the Latin American “Buen Vivir” and the African “Ubuntu” concept. What can the ‘North’ learn from the criticism of ‘development’ expressed in the ‘South’?” Many of these also criticise the western perception of nature as a commodity and propose a different human-nature relationship. These models may give inspiration for new modes of living, producing and using goods and services – not individually, but within a convivial community.
The thread „Living conviviality“ can cover the following debates and topics:
> How can the logic of growth be critically reflected from a cultural and ethical perspective?
> Which new ways of life do we want and need and how does a cultural transition take place?
> How can the current debates on happiness, good life and welfare beyond growth be fruitfully addressed in the degrowth debate?
> What technologies do we want and need for a degrowth society?
> Which boundaries and conflicts as well as potential and opportunities for conviviality do institutions and cultures hold?
> How does conviviality develop within autarchy, open localism and on a global scale?
> Buen Vivir and Postdevelopment
> Mental infrastructures and cultural drivers of (de-)growth
> (De-)urbanization and (de-)alienation
> Processes of inner transition and cultural change
> Culture, identity and languages of valuation
> Convivial and experiential learning and knowledge production
> Convivial, free and open source technologies for degrowth
> Digital commons
> Living in community
> Spirituality, reconnection and relationality