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Academic Special Session: Education and degrowth in turbulent times

Theoretical and empirical explorations of pedagogy, sustainability education and ”Bildung” in the context of degrowth

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The degrowth movement encompasses an increasing body of theoretical perspectives, empirical studies and practical approaches from different disciplines and actors. Reviews about the academic degrowth field are delivering first analyses of central discourses, trends and blind spots within the growing community (Cosme et al. 2017; Weiss and Cattanoe 2017). In many of the scientific and practical contributions, the role of learning (new knowledge, practices etc.) seems to be quite important. In turbulent times education and learning (in its individual and social/collective sense) play a crucial role for envisioning and exploring fundamental changes in mindsets, patterns of behavior, infrastructures, culture, power-relations, and so on.
We noticed, that the field of education still seems to be less visible within the degrowth debate than other critical social controversies. However, a plurality of academic and non-academic perspectives exists, and recent contributions in the activist/non-academic (e.g., methods sourcebook “Beyond Growth” of the “Konzeptwerk neue Ökonomie”) and also the academic field (e.g. Prádanos 2015, Getzin/Singer-Brodowski 2016, Singer-Brodowski/Getzin in review) aim to build bridges between the degrowth discourse and educational perspectives. Nevertheless, we still identify the desideratum of a systematic theoretical discussion about education and learning in the context of degrowth. In contrast to this desideratum, the concept of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) or Sustainability Education has gained huge attention in both political stages and academic discourses over the last decades. Some scientists point out that the increasing prominence of the field of Sustainability Education has been accompanied by a simultaneous disappearance of its most critical perspectives (Selby/Kagawa 2011). Therefore, we identify an urgent need to further explore the role of education and learning in the context of degrowth.
This special session intends to give a systematic overview of these issues and combines different papers that focus on teaching methods, empirical results and theoretical reflections about education and learning in the context of degrowth. The first paper, “From Pedagogies of Disaster to the Pedagogy of Degrowth”, introduces a concrete example of how a pedagogy of degrowth can look like. It outlines the aims and methods of classroom activities that has the potential of inspiring learners to reflect about unsustainable structures and paradigms and empower them to become change agents for a postgrowth cultural transition. The paper is based on a cultural perspective and introduces a concrete “teaching method” for learning degrowth. The second paper “Sustainability Education from a Degrowth Perspective” contributes empirical results about transformative elements of educational interventions in the degrowth context. The qualitative study combines a triangulation of expert’s knowledge and learners’ perspectives in case studies and in focus groups and explores the interface of degrowth and sustainability education. From the perspective of sustainability and educational science, the paper critically explores sustainability education from a degrowth perspective including potentials and limitations of a “Degrowth Education”. The third paper elaborates on broader theories in educational science and explores the potential of different approaches of instrumental and emancipatory learning, the German notion of “Bildung” as a transformation of self- and world-relationships and the concept of transformative learning. The aim of the paper is to deepen an understanding of learning about degrowth issues and empowering individuals and social movements to act as impactful change agents.
Altogether, the three papers give an overview about the aims, concepts and theoretical foundations of Degrowth Education or a Pedagogy of Degrowth, enriched by empirical data.


Cosme I/Santos R/O’Neill DW (2017) Assessing the degrowth discourse. A review and analysis of academic degrowth policy proposals. In: Journal of Cleaner Production 149. 321–334.
Getzin S/Singer-Brodowski M (2016) Transformatives Lernen in einer Degrowth-Gesellschaft. Socience 2016(1). 33-46.
Haapanen L/Tapio P (2016) Economic growth as phenomenon, institution and ideology: a qualitative content analysis of the 21st century growth critique. J. of Clean. Prod. 112, 3492-3503.
Hunecke, M (2013) Psychologie der Nachhaltigkeit. Psychische Ressourcen für Postwachstumsgesellschaften. Oekom, München
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Mezirow J (1997) Transformative Erwachsenenbildung. Schneider Verlag Hohengehren, Baltmannsweiler.
Prádanos LI (2015) The Pedagogy of Degrowth: Teaching Hispanic Studies in the Age of Social Inequality and Ecological Collapse. Arizona J. of Hisp. Cult. Stud. 19, 153-168.
Selby D, Kagawa F (2011) Development education and education for sustainable development: Are they striking a Faustian bargain? Policy & Practice: A Development Education Review 12: 15 – 31.
Singer-Brodowski M/Getzin S (in review) Growth Critique Needs Education: Challenges of Education in the Context of (Economic) Growth as Phenomenon, Institution and Ideology.
Sterling S (2010) Learning for resilience, or the resilient learner? Towards a necessary reconciliation in a paradigm of sustainable education. Environ. Educ. Res. 16(5–6), 511-528.
Vare P/Scott W (2007) Learning for a Change: exploring the relationship between education and sustainable development. J. of Educ. for Sustain. Dev. 1, 191-198.
Weiss M/Cattaneo C (2017) Degrowth - Taking Stock and Reviewing an Emerging Academic Paradigm. In: Ecological economics : the journal of the International Society for Ecological Economics 137, S. 220–230.