Version 3.2_September 2016
Individual Paper: Why won't they see the need for a change?
Degrowth and productivist optimism in the European semiperiphery
Social attitudes and behaviours research on nationally representative samples often presents the European semiperiphery (and especially Eastern Europe) as an obstinate laggard stuck in the selfish unrealised growth hopes and unsacrifical individualistic distrust with respect to ecological transformation (cf. EVS and ISSP surveys), even when comparative understanding of the current and historical differences in rates of social metabolism is included. This paper does not attempt to construct cultural and ecohistorical justifications for such popular attitude differences, but argues for the change of perspective through which we frame the degrowth-compliant social attitudes. It illustrates how the blame for the semiperipheral attitudinal obstinacy lies in the eyes of the beholder-scientist working within the dominant developmentalist framework (e.g. productivist optimism) focused on behaviour change within the growth paradigm. Using several ISSP modules datasets, we show how the theoretical expectations of development and human-nature interaction affect the instrument used to assess the social attitudes. We then invert the instrument to reflect more closely the degrowth-compatible “cautious egalitarianism” attitudes. From this perspective stark differences along European core-periphery gradient disappear and new commonalities appear. Our interpretation of the comparative empirical social survey data suggests that the standardly perceived structural lack of degrowth-enthusiasm on the European semiperiphery is a product of the hegemonic scientific socionatural imaginary at least as much as of the metabolism those societies currently reproduce through.
Start time: 14:30
Track: The wrong way round