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Individual Paper: Forgotten Pioneers: John Africa, The MOVE Organization, and Degrowth in 1970s Philadelphia

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Decades before the term “degrowth” had been coined, John Africa founded The MOVE Organization in Philadelphia whose members eschewed many forms of technology, lived collectively, harbored stray animals, and strove toward an entirely raw food diet. They rejected fashion and cosmetics and only accepted as much technology as was deemed necessary to dismantle the entire system. Their aim and praxis was geared to dramatically shift the course of economic expansionism. Not only did MOVE oppose capitalism and consumerism as well as Soviet-style communism, they advocated abolishing economics altogether. In contrast to degrowth theorists (such as Georgescu-Roegen) who focused on entropy, John Africa focused on the abundance of life as it is —needing no accessories or additions. For MOVE, the guiding principle was to leave nature as it is in all circumstances. Despite these differences, the practical implications were similar: so-called “bigger and better” solutions through technology lead to “bigger and better” pollution. Hence, according to both Georgescu-Roegen and John Africa, people need to produce and consume less, rather than more, in order to thrive. In addition to such stances, MOVE engaged in protests that demanded animal liberation, opposed racist police brutality, and insisted on an end to the pollution of land, sea, and sky. The degrowth teaching of John Africa was holistic and aimed to encompass all areas of life. This paper discusses MOVE practices, the underlying ideas, and their largely ignored contribution to degrowth history.


Day: 2018-08-23
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: Moriskan (Spegeln)
Track: Degrowth: Culture, Power and Change



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