Version 3.2_September 2016

Academic Special Session: Forging new/old sociocultural systems driven by motives other than growth


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Degrowth calls for decolonizing human identities and relationships from values and visions that exalt the endless expansion of production and consumption. This multi-session explores paths toward such decolonization through initiatives to recuperate, adapt and invent sociocultural systems that change the way we humans produce and consume goods and services, and—more powerfully—the ways in which we produce and reproduce socialized people, together with their pleasures, desires and denials. Our work addresses a key paradox. For several decades, scientists have disseminated extensive evidence documenting limits of growth, assuming that humans would make rational changes based on that knowledge. Policy makers have tried incentives to provoke change based on self-interest. Yet, global societal metabolism continues to grow by the minute, and nearly every instance of government and business prioritizes even more future growth. In his encyclical On Care for our Common Home, Pope Francis’ writes “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.” This set of papers asks: How do we humans change? These case studies, set in countries around the world, explore factors that are motivating changes away from growth: cultural traditions, spiritual meanings, pain and loss, personal and family time, and various experiences of identity, solidarity and conviviality. As a whole, they move the focus beyond individual choice to consider sociocultural systems through which deep meanings and identities are built into material practices, places and relations.