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Individual Paper: The Present is Pregnant with a De-growth Future

The shadow society, the seedlings of change and societal phase shift

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Facing with the strength of the growth paradigm and its destructive character, it is easy to think that our situation is hopeless. This common perception, however, may be due to a mistaken ontology of social change. It can be argued that fundamental changes in society cannot happen piecemeal, one block at a time. Instead, in a suitable situation they take place like an outburst or eruption. Such transformations happen, for example, in natural catastrophes and in social revolutions. Grass-root democratic structures are often created in the place of hierarchies and capitalistic market relations. These structures mean overcoming alienation and thus the key pillar of consumer society and growth collapses.
What makes these transformations possible? An important factor is the fact that in every society there are many processes and structures which are not fully integrated to the prevailing arrangements of society and do not follow the predominant logic of functioning. They are in a way all the time pulling the society to another direction. You can speak of a shadow society that includes a sizeable shadow economy.
On this large field of existing “another world” degrowth thinkers, initiatives and movements operate. In a manner of speaking they sow seeds of an alternative society, but in the harsh climate of capitalism many of the seeds do not germinate, and those that do persevere only as stunted seedlings.
However, in a crisis the shadow society comes to the front and expands rapidly taking new functions. In this new “temperate climate” many dormant degrowth seeds start to sprout and seedlings grow rapidly.
This transformation can be conceptualized using ideas derived from the study of non-linear system dynamics including complexity and chaos theory. During recent decades regime shift theory – a form of complexity theory – has been widely used to understand the behaviour of local ecosystems and the global biogeophysical system. It may be useful also in getting grasp of rapid social transformations.
In the past “societal phase shifts” to grass-root democratic structures have usually been short-lived. Soon another phase shift, this time back to the “normal”, has occurred. This poses an important strategic question for movements: what should be done now and in a future crisis situation to enhance the chances of the new mode of societal existence to endure and how to prevent the return of hierarchical and alienating power structures.


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 14:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ABF (209)
Track: - Other - (fill submission note below)



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