Version 3.2_September 2016

Academic Special Session: Structural obstacles to degrowth: What can be learned from the history of the critique of growth and contemporary heterodox political economy?

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Reflecting and continuing discussions of the interdisciplinary Degrowth research project at the Pufendorf Institute at Lund University, this special session addresses structural obstacles to degrowth by contextualising degrowth approaches in the history and social structures of the capitalist economy and contrasting them to alternative research traditions in heterodox political economy and critical sociology. All papers engage with particular structural obstacles to degrowth including the hegemony of the growth discourse, economic resources and power, consumer culture, and flaws in the degrowth discourse itself. And all papers suggest different ways, intellectual exchanges and research perspectives as to how these obstacles and flaws may be overcome. Building on the literature on capitalist diversity and institutional change Buch-Hansen shows that while some obstacles are common to different countries others are not, and how these obstacles may be tackled in different institutional circumstances. Paulsson demonstrates how various critics of growth have addressed the growth imperative and obstacles to post-growth paths over five decades. Barca/Leonardi argue that the insistence on the physical and objective limits to growth tends to undermine the subjective desirability of a less impactful organization of production. The two authors revisit André Gorz to bridge this tension. Koch demonstrates that research in the tradition of the critique of political economy may play an important role in understanding obstacles to degrowth, namely through its capability of analysing the social structures of finance-driven capitalism, its production and consumption norm and energy regime.