Here is a new thread on #Degrowth
, responding to this lecture by Olivia Rickson. Again, degrowth is gravely misrepresented, if understood at all. This is not a critique, this is a misinformed beating. We can do better than this.
1/ Overpopulation is a red herring – this is consensual within degrowth. Always has been since the emergence of the term in 2002. (for more, see https://bit.ly/ThePoliticalEconomyofDegrowth
, pp. 413-425).
2/ One doesn’t solve a systemic crisis with individual changes – agreed. Voluntary simplicity at the individual level is necessary - and desirable - but not sufficient. Again: consensual within degrowth.
3/ Enough with Malthus. Nobody uses him in the degrowth literature, except as a historical note or to disagree with him ( https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=29999
). The only ones talking about Malthus are detractors looking for an easy strawman.
4/ Historical fact: degrowth was born at the beginning of the 2000s. The term comes from the French “décroissance” and was only translated in English as “degrowth” in 2008 (for more, see https://bit.ly/ThePoliticalEconomyofDegrowth
, Chapter 5, pp. 171-221).
5/ George Monbiot doesn’t call himself a degrowther. His work has little – if any – importance within the degrowth literature. If you want to criticise degrowth, read the actual degrowth literature ( https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0921800917312594
6/ Obviously, not all products are as ecologically-intensive. As a climate mitigation strategy (only one aspect of the idea), degrowth must be SELECTIVE and focus on the goods and services that are most environmentally destructive.
7/ “Profit is the cause, and growth merely the effect,” she says. Simplistic, I think. The expansion of the market economy involves at least three drivers: income-driven consumerism, profit-driven productivism, and GDP-driven growthism.
8/ This being said, the profit motive is a major problem. It is fairly consensual within degrowth that businesses should be not-for-profit (e.g. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652620314293
9/ “Degrowthers don’t believe in socialist alternatives”? The two projects have much in common. For example, here is Giorgos Kallis, one of the most cited degrowthers, explaining his vision of Socialism without growth. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10455752.2017.1386695?journalCode=rcns20
10/ You equate relocalisation with a “return to Feudalism.” This is absurd. Reducing distances between production and consumption has obvious environmental benefits, and must not necessarily mean closed, intolerant sectarianism.
11/ Degrowth does not “advocate for a reduction in our living standards.” The objective is to be able to live better while consuming less commodities. (For more, see https://tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-02499463/document
12/ “The first degrowth is the one of inequality” is one of the mottos of the movement. Degrowth cannot “hurt the poor” because it is precisely a strategy to eradicate poverty by redistributing the excess wealth captured by the elite.
13/ Degrowth is not recession (if only I had a euro every time I pronounced that sentence). Here is Jason Hickel explaining the difference (from "Less is more," 2020).
14/ You affiliate degrowth with primitivism and eco-fascism because it supposes “objective limits.” Degrowth is grounded in ecological economics who does assume that the economy is a sub-set of the biosphere, and so follows the laws of nature. But so does Eco-Marxism…
15/ Using Marx and Engels today to understand the climate crisis is border-line religious. Ecology is a recent science, and there has been much progress in the social sciences since then. Why falling back on 19th scripture when a diversity of more relevant works could be used?
16/ If the goal of socialism is “to produce only for needs” (degrowth agrees), and if “humans are not inherently over-consumers” (also agrees), then satisfying needs does not require endless growth. Q.E.D.
17/ “Degrowth doesn’t propose an alternative to capitalism,” you claim. Fact is: degrowth IS an alternative to capitalism. Its strength is precisely its diversity, weaving together bits of ecosocialism, libertarian municipalism, ecofeminism, and many others radical ideas.
18/ You admit that socialism is not inherently ecologically sustainable. Good. That’s where degrowth kicks in: socialism + degrowth = ecosocialism or “socialism without growth.” What’s wrong with that?
19/ Your solution is nationalisation of key sectors, common ownership of land-banks-resources, free public transport, socially-useful innovation, and worker self-governance. Most degrowthers would agree. Read us and you will realise we’re walking in the same direction.
20/ History repeats itself. These critics are not new; in the 2000s, French Marxists said precisely the same about Décroissance. Except degrowth is a dynamic, fast-evolving field, and there has been much research since then – research that is unfortunately here ignored. Read up.
21/ For those who want to read more about Degrowth and Marxism, see the section “Misguided, classless, escapist, and anti-revolutionary? The Marxist critique” in https://tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-02499463/document
22/ I finish this threat with an invitation for discussion. I am not playing the customer service of degrowth for the sole pleasure of conceptual accuracy. We need these discussions to happen, but we need them to be constructive. Let’s talk.
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