Version 3.2_September 2016

Academic Special Session: Degrowth and Capitalism

Late Neoliberalism, "green growth" and other pitfalls to the Degrowth venture

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Modern western societies stabilize themselves through economic growth. As long as growth is maintained, stability is continuously, yet dynamically restored. It is getting increasingly obvious that this dynamisation logic is reaching its limits, triggering negative effects for the socio-economic, political and cultural reproduction of capitalism. In industrialized countries, further growth seems to exacerbate crisis rather than securing employment, social mobility, and welfare.
It is unclear whether this entails a cyclical readjustment toward a new capitalist regime, or whether it signals a more radical systemic rupture: Will the end of easy growth mean the end of capitalism, or are we entering a post-growth capitalism characterized by dramatic increases in inequality and injustice? Against such scenarios, proponents of Degrowth advocate an path of post-capitalist transformation that avoids both the crises of growth and the imperatives of dynamic stabilization.

We aim to establish a more solid link between the Degrowth literature and theories of capitalism. Although most Degrowth advocates argue that overcoming growth implies a transition beyond or out of capitalism, they seldom discuss the specifics of how and why capitalism and growth are inherently related, whether growth is a specifically capitalist phenomenon, or what exactly makes the capitalist mode of production so problematic. Meanwhile, many of those involved in theoretical debates about capitalism remain skeptical about the potential of Degrowth to present an actual alternative to capitalism, suspecting that the concept may all too easily be integrated to justify austerity or capitalism without growth.