From Beyond Social

'Degrowth signifies a society with a smaller metabolism, but more importantly, a society with a metabolism which has a different structure and serves new functions. Degrowth does not call for doing less of the same. The objective is not to make an elephant leaner, but to turn an elephant into a snail. In a degrowth society everything will be different: different activities, different forms and uses of energy, different relations, different gender roles, different allocations of time between paid and non-paid work, different relations with the non-human world.’

'The degrowth imaginary centres around the reproductive economy of care, and the reclaiming of old – and the creation of new – commons. Caring in common is embodied in new forms of living and producing, such as eco-communities and cooperatives and can be supported by new government institutions, such as work-sharing or a basic and maximum income, institutions which can liberate time from paid work and make it available for unpaid communal and caring activities’

Two definitions written in the book: ‘Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era’ - chapter 2. Degrowth today (starting at page 72) Download book

Nowadays we use the GDP as a tool for measuring growth. The costs of growth include bad psychological health, long working hours, congestion and pollution. To grow the GDP we want to produce more products.

The results of a growing economy based on GDP:

  • How more the economy in western world grow how lower the economy in the underdeveloped territories will be. This because the energy and the materials that extracted from commodity frontiers are often in underdeveloped territories that suffer the impacts of extraction. The people that are leders of factories are al in competition to each other to get company’s to use their factories. Because of that the hourly rate of the working people is getting lower and lower. Products are getting cheaper so the consumption will grow.
  • Companies deliberately choose to produce and sell products that have a shorter lifespan so that consumers have to buy a new product more often because it breaks. For producing more product we need more materials and throw away a lot of stuff. This is all bad for the environment.

But does economic growth increase happiness? No. It is never enough everybody wants to have more than their neighbors. Countries feel pressured to compete, to follow the path of western overdevelopment with economic growth. This all because money gives you a feeling of power.

Article by John Cassidy : Can we have prosperity without growth? The critique of economic growth, once a fringe position, is gaining widespread attention in the face of the climate crisis.

In stead of measuring growth coupled to GDP some economists are working on more relevant and alternative such as the Human Development Index (HDI), the ecological footprint or the social health index. Some sectors, such as education medical care, or renewable energy, will flourish in the future, while others, such as dirty industries or the financial sector shrink. The result will be ‘degrowth’.
The results of degrowth:

  • Sharing, simplicity, sociability, care and equality are significations of what this society might look like.
  • Degrowth in the North will liberate ecological space for growth in the South. This because degrowth in the North will make natural resources and industrial goods more accessible to the developing South. As Kate Raworth is saying with the concept of the doughnut economy, ’By regenerative and distributive design we can make sure that healthcare, education, political voice, finance, energy reaches and empower the people who need it the most.’

Doughnut economy, Kate Raworth

In order to achieve degrowth we need to come up with new laws, higher/ different taxes.

  • More taxes for companies that produce in an unsustainable way (not recycled materials, products that do not last long etc.) and subsidies for companies who do (recycled materials, products that do last long etc.).
  • Maximum income for individuals but also company’s. High incomes are essentially wasted so far as wellbeing is concerned. A maximum income will avoid wasteful consumption and create more egalitarian societies. The tax procured from the maximum income could be used to fund universal basic services and basic income.
  • Laws for longer guarantees period, the right to repair, for take-back systems, and protect the public space from advertisements telling us to buy more and more - both offline and online.

Our economic system needs to change to a sharing economy, introducing:

  • Universal basic income would liberate people: perhaps a minimum of €1,000 a month, given unconditionally as a cash grant, or through the tax system as a negative income tax. This gives people the opportunity to choose a useful job they like in stead of choosing a job for security and high income. A basic income ensures that wealth can be distributed across a societyArguments for and against universal basic income
  • Universal basic services that guaranteed public coverage of housing, education, health care, transportation, communication devices, etc. As example in England you have the NHS (National Health Service) that provides all people in England primarily and secondary health care. Country’s as Scandinavia and Germany provide free education. This is financed by the national taxes. Why do we not use this concept in different parts of our society that have an effect on poverty and life changes for people across our society?
  • Reduction of working hours. In a shrinking capitalist economy, fewer people are necessary to produce declining levels of production which leads to reductions in working-hours. The result will be unemployment. With intentional degrowth, work has to be shared by voluntary trading of income for time, through four-day workweeks, permanent part-time (with benefits and career ladders) and job sharing. Another option is to reduce the length of working lives by earlier or phased retirement.

Basic income, Rutger Bregman
Basic share, Kalle Moene

In august there will be the 8th international degrowth conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity. The conference will encourage the participation of artists, practitioners and policymakers, taking place over five days at and around the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague. This conference focuses on ‘community’. The idea here is to explore, develop and share information on how communities respond to economic and ecological changes and how they organize for well-being in efforts to move out of situations of inequality and exclusion.