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Participatory Session: Degrowth and the economy of common goods

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Degrowth requires a rethinking of our economy towards the common good and a Common Good econonomy requires degrowth.

This participatory session will explore the similarities and complementarities between the Degrowth approach to the common goods and the Economy for the Common Good. This session is based on two introductions. The first one, by Christian Felber, is an introduction of The Economy for the Common Good and its connection to Degrowth. The second one, by Vincent Liegey, presents the main discussions and proposals in Degrowth around the common good.

After these inputs, the floor will be opened for discussion about the presented approaches. This will be moderated by a member of both the Economy of Common Good and A Degrowth Project collective.

Christian Felber, The Economy of Common Good (ECG)

A Common Good oriented Economy is claimed to be, by definition, a degrowth (S. Latouche, N. Paech) or steady-state economy (H. Daly). One of its main tenets is the reduction of biological resource consumption, waste and emissions of mankind below the planetary boundaries (J. Rockström et al.). Another one is political equality and the corresponding equal rights for living of present and future generations, only possible with a deeply sustainable (circular, blue and degrowth) economy.

„Degrowth" is not an end in itself, but a means to achieve appropriate scale (E. F. Schumacher, L. Kohr) and „optimum size" (system theory): as global resource consumption, emission of greenhouse gases, transnational corporations and some private fortunes are already too big, negative growth is the way forward; the same holds true for negative interest rates and negative feedback mechanisms that would stop the widening gap in income, private property and the size of companies in order to prevent excessive inequality and power concentration.

A deeply sustainable, common good oriented degrowth economy has to be regenerative „by design" (K. Raworth). Next to „traditional" approaches such as an ecological tax reform or a carbon tax (Stiglitz-Stern Report to the IPCC), the ECG comes up with innovative instruments such as a common good balance sheet for companies, the ethical creditworthiness assessment of investments („common good exam") and the – democratically composed – Common Good Product to replace GDP. Moreover, the introduction of „ecological human rights" assured in a UN Environmental Convenant (after the Civil and Social Convenant) is also proposed. They would assign the planets's biological gift to each human – on her or his „ecological account": a master piece of a degrowth economy.

Next to reform proposals for the economy, the ECG movement has also developed reforms on the current democratic model – as an answer to the diagnosis of „post-democracies" (C. Crouch). The alternative approach - „sovereign democracy" - would allow citizens to take fundamental decisions directly and without depending on parliaments or lobbies. Carefully designed deliberative and participatory processes are ready for implementation. Empirical tests show that citizens, thanks to intelligent questions and procedures, would create a more sustainable and even a degrowth economy by constitution.

The ECG movement has regarded itself from the beginning as just one plant in the ecosystem of sustainable economic models of the future, one facet of the broader mosaique. It considers the social and solidary economy, degrowth economy, commons, cooperatives, ethical finance, fair trade and similar as „friends". The strategic „Nürnberg Network", in Germany, has been initiated by the ECG. The NESI event (first celebrated in 2017 in Málaga) is a „spin-off" of the ECG movement. ECG strategically supports networking, mutual support and platforming of the „new sustainable economic models" and practices. As a result, it acts as a consultant for the European Economic and Social Committee, driving the process of inclusion of these approaches in the legal framework of the European Union, while being integrated into a holistic alternative paradigm of an economic model.

Vincent Liegey, A Degrowth Project and The Economy of Common Good

"Degrowth" has emerged over the last 10 years. This "bomb word" has been used to open up in-depth debates on whether infinite growth in a finite world is desirable or even possible.

Firstly, Degrowth deconstructs the myth that growth is the central solution for the impasse our capitalist, productivist and consumerist societies have led us into. The movement tries to understand the convergence of the crises we are experiencing and argues that energetic and various environmental, political and existential, economic and social crises are interconnected. Our society's "more and more" attitude and the push towards increased production and consumption is not ecologically sustainable. Moreover, our model of development has not been able to respond to rising inequalities and unemployment. GDP growth or just a quantitative reading is far from implementing a meaningful and emancipating life for all.

Secondly, Degrowth and other related movements propose democratic transition pathways towards new socially just and ecologically sustainable models. They ask which social, economic, institutional and cultural tools would help such a serene transformation. They are experimenting with new local, sustainable, and fair economic and production systems like community gardens, Do it Yourself draft-shops (e.g. for bikes and repair of household items), community supported agricultural initiatives and alternative local currencies and exchange systems, which promote sustainable local production practices. So Degrowth warns about a potential crisis of civilization and answers this by exploring alternative and coherent solutions on different levels. With a multidimensional understanding of the interconnected challenges we face, Degrowth questions the hows of implementing democratic and serene transitions toward new relocalized but connected models of society based on social and environmental justice.

Several proposals and experimentations emerged in the last 10 years about what we produce, how, and for what kind of usage. In particular, in the French Degrowth Movement, the Unconditional Autonomy Allowance (UAA) offers an interesting platform to connect all this proposals on different levels and initiate democratic deliberations on the economy and the democratic management of the common good. The UAA proposes to provide, from birth to death, unconditionally, what we democratically consider as enough to fulfill our basic needs and enjoy a decent life. Inspired by the idea of basic income, it also puts together other ideas, like local currency, extension of the free access to services (health, education) or goods (e.g. water, land) for good usage ("extension des sphères de la gratuité", P. Ariès). It is coupled with a Maximum Income, in order to reappropriate the sense of the limits.

The UAA is more than a social or economic tool because, ultimately, it invites us to reevaluate and democratically question our production, consumption and exchange related systems and behaviors.


Day: 2018-08-23
Start time: 11:00
Duration: 01:30
Room: ABF204
Track: Politics of Degrowth



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