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Individual Paper: The Making of Degrowth Communities

Weaving new Social Fabrics for Societies Beyond Growth

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Societies beyond growth require fundamentally different practices of everyday life (Schweighofer, 2015). Intentional communities, characterized by shared conduct of everyday life and close social relations, are often framed as experimental spaces that allow developing such new constellations of everyday practices (e.g., Kunze, 2009). Ecovillages are prominent and current examples of intentional communities. They are built around common goals and shared meanings. Contrary to traditional communities, membership is not predetermined but generally open and by choice, while hierarchies are flat and decisions are made collectively. Although their composition, practices and objectives are fluid and contested, they can come with a high level of social cohesion.
This paper argues that intentional communities are much more than snippets of society allowing to innovate social practices. Situated in the middle between individual agency and structure they constitute an important "mesolevel" for social development (Grundmann et al., 2006). In their making, social fabrics originate that can serve as a bedrock for fundamentally different ways of life. This is why the making of degrowth communities and the inherent weaving of new social fabrics can be essential for the necessary grand social transformations.
Drawing on extensive qualitative research as well as on my own experience as an ecovillage activist, the paper explores the making of intentional communities along specific "qualities". These qualities are linked to the various aspects of degrowth societies in order to discuss their relevance. Examples for qualities in making degrowth communities are: Openness in terms of membership and shared images to meet diversity, fluidity and fragmentation of complex change processes; Social relations of affinity as basis for new cooperative economic practices (sharing, subsistence, sufficiency); Collective experience and belongingness as a dematerialized source of resonance; Shared tools and benevolent social intercourse as conditions for conviviality; Limited scales to deal with the complexities of modern societies; Redistribution of power and participatory decision making as a contribution to social justice; Alternative communication practices to create spaces for specific forms of situated, implicit knowledge (emotions, affects, intuition).
By analyzing the empirical results on the making of degrowth communities and their social fabrics from a practice theoretical perspective, the paper conceptually contributes to a new approach in community research that has gained too little attention in recent years.

Grundmann, Matthias; Dierschke, Thomas; Drucks, Stephan; Kunze, Iris (2006). Soziale Gemeinschaften: Experimentierfelder für kollektive Lebensformen. 1., Aufl. Berlin: LIT.
Kunze, Iris (2009). Soziale Innovationen für eine zukunftsfähige Lebensweise. Gemeinschaften und Ökodörfer als experimentierende Lernfelder für sozial-ökologische Nachhaltigkeit. Münster: Ecotransfer-Verlag.
Schweighofer, Martin (2015). Die Elimination sozialer Praktiken. Eine Herausforderung auf dem Weg zu suffizienten Alltagskulturen. In A. Arnold, M. David, G. Hanke, & M. Sonnberger, eds. Innovation - Exnovation. Über Prozesse des Abschaffens und Erneuerns in der Nachhaltigkeitstransformation. Marburg: Metropolis Verlag, pp. 127-143.


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: Nöjesteatern (Piano bar)
Track: Organisational and Organising Practices



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