The Degrowth theme investigates how societies could be organised if economic growth is no longer an overriding social and political objective. In recent years, degrowth has been established as an umbrella term that critiques the centrality of economic growth in our societies and embraces various alternatives for ecological sustainability and social justice. A common misconception about degrowth is that it equals negative economic growth, or that it implies a return to pre-modern conditions. However, we see degrowth as offering new ways of understanding and experiencing good life.
Research on degrowth may be divided into three interdependent dimensions: ecological-economic critiques of growth, socio-cultural critiques of growth and the search for alternatives (see Kallis et al., 2015). The first two seek to criticise the economic and cultural imperative of growth and highlight its problematic ecological and social consequences. The third presents degrowth itself as an umbrella term for understandings and experiences of good life not tied to growth.
A notable feature of degrowth is that it circumvents many of the schisms by which our world is currently divided. Instead of reproducing the epistemological split between the natural and the social worlds, it examines them as parts of a whole. This is of crucial importance for studying and finding solutions to the interconnected economic, ecological and social problems our societies are facing. Although degrowth has origins in the global north, it also searches for alliances in the global south. It does not suggest that good life should be confined only to degrowth, but accepts the plurality of understandings of good life found across the globe, as long as ecological sustainability and social justice are at their core.
There has been a rising interest in degrowth over the past years. The biennial degrowth conference in Leipzig in 2014 attracted more than 3000 people, including academics, activists and practitioners. ‘Degrowth: A vocabulary for a new era’ – a book that synthesises various themes in research on degrowth – has attracted a lot of attention within the English-speaking world, and is also currently translated into around ten different languages. Degrowth is an emerging and a very dynamic theme, and requires continuous multi- and interdisciplinary research. This is what we are contributing to during the Degrowth theme at the Pufendorf Institute, by addressing the five following questions:
1. What are the obstacles for degrowth and how can they be overcome?
2. What spaces are currently missing from discussions on degrowth and which themes have not been substantially covered?
3. What societal issues cannot be analysed through a critique of growth and what are the implications for the degrowth movement?
4. How can degrowth create a dialogue with other major critical schools of thought?
5. What kinds of alternative values, ideals and satisfactions can replace those offered by the imaginary of growth?
The Degrowth theme brings together twelve researchers from 8 different countries and a whole spectrum of academic disciplines: Peter Bengtsen (Cultural Studies), Stefania Barca (Centre for Social Studies, Coimbra University), Ekaterina Chertkovskaya (Business Administration), Pernille Gooch (Human Ecology), Catia Gregoratti (Political Science), Mine Islar (LUCSUS), Max Koch (Social Work), Max Liljefors (Cultural Studies), Moira Nelson (Political Science), Alexander Paulsson (Business Administration), Marcella Samuels (Human Ecology) and Jonathan Seaquist (Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science).
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Ekaterina Chertkovskaya (Coordinator)
Researcher, member of the Sustainability, Ecology and Economy research group, Department of Business Administration, School of Economics and Management, Lund University; member of the editorial collective of the ephemera journal.
ekaterina [dot] chertkovskaya [at] fek [dot] lu [dot] se
Alexander Paulsson (Coordinator)
Senior Lecturer, Department of Business Administration and a member of the Sustainability, Ecology and Economy research group, both at School of Economics and Management, Lund University. Researcher, Swedish Knowledge Centre For Public Transport
alexander [dot] paulsson [at] fek [dot] lu [dot] se
+46 46 222 42 89