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Academic Special Session: Degrowth and production of urban space

Urban planning, governance, housing and infrastructure from perspective of degrowth.

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[THIS SESSION HAS CHANGED AND WILL HAVE THE FOLLOWING SPEAKERS: Jere Kuzmanic, Michaela Christ, Wojciech Kębłowski, Laura Martinez, Monika Australler]

This special session emerges from the urgency of addressing the contradiction of infinite growth in finite ecologic systems on the urban scale. Advocates of degrowth (D’Alisa, Demaria & Kallis, 2014) are arguing for a departure from growth as organising principle of social, economic and political relations of capitalism, and promote a shift towards a zero-growth society and economy. This perspective means a clear challenge to the expansion logic of urban development, which often imagines cities as “natural” spaces of accumulation of people, goods, and capital.

While this conversation is increasingly taking place among geographers (Kallis & March, 2014), the degrowth manifestos do not appear to outline the modalities of potential or imminent transition to degrowth in urban contexts. As few urban political agendas, planning principles and analytical tools can be found in degrowth literature, little is known about how urban systems could incorporate the degrowth ideology. This question is particularly acute since—as demonstrated by a plethora of critical urban researchers—cities under late capitalism are underpinned by uneven socio-spatial dynamics, driven by entrepreneurial urban regimes, and engaged in inter-urban competition. Consequently, many are instance of allegedly progressive urban planning proposals that become incorporated into pro-growth and pro-gentrification agendas, rather than functioning as tools for social interaction and environmental regeneration.

In other words, there appears to be a disconnect between the perspective offered by degrowth, and the existing transitions of critical urban spatial research, not least done by geographers, planners, political economists and sociologists. To begin addressing this divide, we propose to fuel a conversation about the dynamics between degrowth and production of urban space and society.