Version 3.2_September 2016

Individual Paper: Mapping sustainable wellbeing viewpoints on two dimensions: technical and socio-cultural decoupling

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It seems that discussions between camps such as ”green growth” and ”degrowth” often end up being debates, even if the aim would be a dialogue. The purpose of this paper and presentation is to draw a map of the main arguments of some of the camps, with the hope of improving the dialogue.

Discussion on sustainable wellbeing is often carried along two main dimensions. The first dimension concerns the technical decoupling question: Can economic growth can be decoupled from its environmental ills effectively and rapidly enough? Second, there is the socio-cultural decoupling question: Can the humanity deal with the environmental crisis through a moderate or radical reform of the economic system – by creating a better economy – or do we need a more in-depth revolution in the relationship between the economy and the non-economy, i.e. everything else that is not mere economy, such humanity as a socio-cultural system and the Nature.

In this paper and presentation I will draw a map using these two dimensions. On the map I will identify six perspectives, or camps, of sustainable wellbeing: economic growth, green growth, green economy, economic degrowth, green society detached from economic growth, and deep green society detached from economic valuation. In addition to these six perspectives, I will identify a blind spot – the dominant taken-for-granted relationship with the socio-cultural decoupling question. Finally, I will offer illustrations of how each of the viewpoints and the blind spot. I will argue that this map and the illustrations offer a collective reference point for discussants to better understand each other’s arguments.