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Special Issue "Degrowth: The Economic Alternative for the Anthropocene"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2012)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Nicolas Kosoy

McGill School of Environment (MSE), 3534 University Avenue, Montreal, QC H3Z 2A7, Canada
Website | E-Mail
Fax: +1 514 398 7990
Interests: ecological economics; degrowth; theory of value; markets for nature

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The special issue on “Growth, Recession or Degrowth for Sustainability and Equity?” (edited by François Schneider, Giorgos Kallis, Joan Martinez-Alier), published by the Journal of Cleaner Production (Volume 18, Issue 6, 2010 ), constitutes a keystone in the analysis of this emerging economic paradigm. That collection of articles has contributed to trigger debates about the most appropriate way to conceptualize degrowth. The editors have built their theoretical approach mostly on European thinkers, which offers a clear and consistent framework. However, according to our view, this theoretical background―though useful in some circumstances― has not yet been extended so as to grasp the wide variety of alternative social movements and views that promote degrowth but do not call it as such. In particular, we refer to Latin American environmental justice organizations that use the term “Buen Vivir: or “Suma Kausak” (good living in English) to refer to alternative economic and social paradigms that take into account social and ecological complexities and boundaries.  In addition, the emphasis among some ecological economists in North America on economic valuation of ecosystem services and other non-market values makes the Americas a context for degrowth that provides an opportunity to emphasize particular issues in the degrowth discussion.

This Special Issue, outlined below, is the result of the collective effort of the organizers and participants to the International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas in Montreal, May 2012. The Special Issue has considerable added value as it builds upon and enhances previous theoretical frameworks, so different world views within the community of degrowth and environmental justice are better represented in degrowth debates.

This special issue starts with an introductory paper from the editors, providing a shared framework to conceptualize degrowth and environmental justice as alternatives to the growth paradigm. The Special Issue is then divided in five (5) interrelated sections matching most of the six (6) main topics of the International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas. Each theme will be covered by a selection of the most relevant theoretical and empirical papers presented at the conference.

  • Knowing. How can the physical, biological and social sciences help us in understanding how to enhance the flourishing of the Earth’s life systems?
  • Relating. What means of relationship and exchange can help enhance the continual flourishing of the Earth’s life systems?
  • Consenting. How can the major political, economic, development, social, technical, and scientific priorities of society be developed with broad and informed public dialogue and consent?
  • Sharing. How can the radically unjust inequalities between people be eliminated; and how can the human fair share of the Earth’s life support systems be defined and achieved?
  • Experiencing. What would a flourishing society look and feel like for individuals and collectives at various temporal and spatial scales?

Dr. Nicolas Kosoy
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • Knowing
    biology; physics; chemistry; life sciences; ecology; boundaries; limits; thresholds; life systems; cycles; evolution; cosmology; thermodynamics; research; uncertainty; risk; indicators; metrics; technology; scale; momentum; traditional knowledges; stocks; flows; bioproductivity; biocapacity; life support capacity
  • Relating
    interconnectivity; relationship; exchange; materiality; commodification; commensurability; valuation; commonwealth of life; economics; ownership; sacredness; empathy; rationality; industrialisation; sense of place; localism; conviviality; simplicity; cooperation; waste; employment; capitalism; reciprocity; symbiosis; altruism; competition; money; currencies; banking systems; gender; multiculturalism
  • Consenting
    discourse; deliberation; advertising; media; politics; education; deception; brainwashing; hegemony; propaganda; truth; dialogue; democracy; public sphere authoritarianism; conviction; trust; fear; honest brokers; expertise; governance; regulations; subsidiarity; consent; accountability; norms; laws; institutions; capitalism; socialism; other “isms”; imperialism; militarism
  • Sharing
    sharing; fairness; justice; inequality; differentiation; fair share; distribution; limits; sufficiency; greed; us-them dynamics; intergenerational; intragenerational; interspecies; north-south; developed; developing; overconsumption; poverty; biodiversity; extinction; population; imperialisms; exploitation; accumulation; appropriation; privatization; commons; theft; Ponzi schemes; casino economy; taxes
  • Experiencing
    psychological wellbeing; interspecies wellbeing; happiness economics; public health; environmental integrity; risk prevention; security; public services; conservation; diversity; sufficiency; beauty; dignity; reverence; respect; slow movements; creativity and imagination; regenerative cycles; maintaining; evolving; innovation; involution; biosystems mimicry; change; foresight; hindsight; fufillment; reflection, challenge, restorative justice, self-sufficiency; provisioning; food; energy; entertainment; work, community; housing; transportation; education; communication systems; day-to-day life

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Monetary and Fiscal Policies for a Finite Planet
Sustainability 2013, 5(6), 2802-2826; doi:10.3390/su5062802
Received: 15 April 2013 / Revised: 29 May 2013 / Accepted: 30 May 2013 / Published: 20 June 2013
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (1129 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Current macroeconomic policy promotes continuous economic growth. Unemployment, poverty and debt are associated with insufficient growth. Economic activity depends upon the transformation of natural materials, ultimately returning to the environment as waste. Current levels of economic throughput exceed the planet’s carrying capacity. As
[...] Read more.
Current macroeconomic policy promotes continuous economic growth. Unemployment, poverty and debt are associated with insufficient growth. Economic activity depends upon the transformation of natural materials, ultimately returning to the environment as waste. Current levels of economic throughput exceed the planet’s carrying capacity. As a result of poorly constructed economic institutions, society faces the unacceptable choice between ecological catastrophe and human misery. A transition to a steady-state economy is required, characterized by a rate of throughput compatible with planetary boundaries. This paper contributes to the development of a steady-state economy by addressing US monetary and fiscal policies. A steady-state monetary policy would support counter-cyclical, debt-free vertical money creation through the public sector, in ways that contribute to sustainable well-being. The implication for a steady-state fiscal policy is that any lending or spending requires a careful balance of recovery of money, not as a means of revenue, but as an economic imperative to meet monetary policy goals. A steady-state fiscal policy would prioritize targeted public goods investments, taxation of ecological “bads” and economic rent and implementation of progressive tax structures. Institutional innovations are considered, including common asset trusts, to regulate throughput, and a public monetary trust, to strictly regulate money supply. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degrowth: The Economic Alternative for the Anthropocene)
Open AccessArticle “Friday off”: Reducing Working Hours in Europe
Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1545-1567; doi:10.3390/su5041545
Received: 23 January 2013 / Revised: 16 February 2013 / Accepted: 25 March 2013 / Published: 11 April 2013
Cited by 13 | PDF Full-text (1109 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article explores the pros and cons for reducing working hours in Europe. To arrive to an informed judgment we review critically the theoretical and empirical literature, mostly from economics, concerning the relation between working hours on the one hand, and productivity, employment,
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This article explores the pros and cons for reducing working hours in Europe. To arrive to an informed judgment we review critically the theoretical and empirical literature, mostly from economics, concerning the relation between working hours on the one hand, and productivity, employment, quality of life, and the environment, on the other. We adopt a binary economics distinction between capital and labor productiveness, and are concerned with how working hours may be reduced without harming the earning capacity of workers. There are reasons to believe that reducing working hours may absorb some unemployment, especially in the short-run, even if less than what is advocated by proponents of the proposal. Further, there may well be strong benefits for the quality of peoples’ lives. Environmental benefits are likely but depend crucially on complementary policies or social conditions that will ensure that the time liberated will not be directed to resource-intensive or environmentally harmful consumption. It is questionable whether reduced working hours are sustainable in the long-term given resource limits and climate change. We conclude that while the results of reducing working hours are uncertain, this may be a risk worth taking, especially as an interim measure that may relieve unemployment while other necessary structural changes are instituted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degrowth: The Economic Alternative for the Anthropocene)
Open AccessArticle The Impacts of Spatial Planning on Degrowth
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1067-1079; doi:10.3390/su5031067
Received: 8 November 2012 / Revised: 31 January 2013 / Accepted: 4 February 2013 / Published: 7 March 2013
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (407 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
As the current growth economy has created severe environmental pollution and unbalanced distribution of prosperity, there is an increasing amount of critical voices calling for a change. The new concept of degrowth addresses a fundamental change in political, economic and institutional levels underpinning
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As the current growth economy has created severe environmental pollution and unbalanced distribution of prosperity, there is an increasing amount of critical voices calling for a change. The new concept of degrowth addresses a fundamental change in political, economic and institutional levels underpinning different norms and values towards sustainability. Spatial planning institutions have a decisive role in the transition process insofar as they take decisions regarding the use of land and its attributed space. Especially in three areas spatial planning has influential potentials to stimulate the transition process towards degrowth by enhancing: (i) a sustainable use of renewable energy sources; (ii) sustainable settlement structures; and (iii) the creation of social capital by more community based facilities. The paper explores these possibilities for intervention and shows how spatial planning can have positive impacts on degrowth. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degrowth: The Economic Alternative for the Anthropocene)
Open AccessArticle The Rule of Ecological Law: The Legal Complement to Degrowth Economics
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 316-337; doi:10.3390/su5010316
Received: 13 November 2012 / Revised: 7 January 2013 / Accepted: 14 January 2013 / Published: 22 January 2013
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (225 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The rule of ecological law is a fitting complement to degrowth. Planetary boundaries of safe operating space for humanity, along with complementary measures and principles, provide scientific and ethical foundations of the rule of ecological law, which should have several reinforcing features. First,
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The rule of ecological law is a fitting complement to degrowth. Planetary boundaries of safe operating space for humanity, along with complementary measures and principles, provide scientific and ethical foundations of the rule of ecological law, which should have several reinforcing features. First, it should recognize humans are part of Earth’s life systems. Second, ecological limits must have primacy over social and economic regimes. Third, the rule of ecological law must permeate all areas of law. Fourth, it should focus on radically reducing material and energy throughput. Fifth, it must be global, but distributed, using the principle of subsidiarity. Sixth, it must ensure fair sharing of resources among present and future generations of humans and other life. Seventh, it must be binding and supranational, with supremacy over sub-global legal regimes as necessary. Eighth, it requires a greatly expanded program of research and monitoring. Ninth, it requires precaution about crossing global ecological boundaries. Tenth, it must be adaptive. Although the transition from a growth-insistent economy headed toward ecological collapse to an economy based on the rule of ecological law is elusive, the European Union may be a useful structural model. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degrowth: The Economic Alternative for the Anthropocene)
Open AccessArticle Heterodox Political Economy and the Degrowth Perspective
Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 276-297; doi:10.3390/su5010276
Received: 14 November 2012 / Revised: 31 December 2012 / Accepted: 5 January 2013 / Published: 21 January 2013
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (226 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The transition to sustainability will be difficult. Environmental sustainability entails living within the Earth’s limits, yet the majority of scientific studies indicate a condition of overshoot. For mainstream economists sustainability means perpetuating economic growth. Consequently, environmental and economic sustainability are incompatible in the
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The transition to sustainability will be difficult. Environmental sustainability entails living within the Earth’s limits, yet the majority of scientific studies indicate a condition of overshoot. For mainstream economists sustainability means perpetuating economic growth. Consequently, environmental and economic sustainability are incompatible in the present institutional context. This paper seeks to develop a new theory of sustainability based upon historical and institutional contexts, the role of economic crises, as well as focusing upon energy quality and meaningful work. Mainstream economics, which emphasizes market self-regulation and economic growth, is not a good vehicle for a theory of sustainability. Better insights are to be found in the literature of heterodox political economy and political ecology. Political ecology is based upon the theory of monopoly capital. Monopoly capitalism exhibits a tendency towards stagnation, because the economic surplus cannot be absorbed adequately in the absence of system-wide waste. The Monthly Review School continues this tradition in the context of the metabolic rift, while the Capitalism, Nature and Socialism School develops the idea of a second contradiction of capitalism. The Social Structure of Accumulation school pursues the idea of long swings of economic activity based upon institutional structures that aid or inhibit capital accumulation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degrowth: The Economic Alternative for the Anthropocene)

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Open AccessEssay The World is Yours: “Degrowth”, Racial Inequality and Sustainability
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1282-1303; doi:10.3390/su5031282
Received: 30 October 2012 / Revised: 7 January 2013 / Accepted: 7 February 2013 / Published: 20 March 2013
PDF Full-text (119 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In French economist Serge Latouche’s 2009 book, Farewell to Growth, Latouche discusses “degrowth” in great detail, but he also explains how racial bias (and bias in general) in the world today has no place in a post-GDP world that embraces the principles
[...] Read more.
In French economist Serge Latouche’s 2009 book, Farewell to Growth, Latouche discusses “degrowth” in great detail, but he also explains how racial bias (and bias in general) in the world today has no place in a post-GDP world that embraces the principles outlined in “degrowth” or, as he calls it, décroissance. Latouche writes in Farewell to Growth that “we resist, and must resist all forms of racism and discrimination (skin color, sex, religion, ethnicity)”, biases he insist are “all too common in the West today.” Latouche’s ideas are important for considering “degrowth”, because racial bias and the historical problems presented by that bias, in the United States, continues despite efforts to address it in a significant manner. The World is Yours discusses “degrowth” , economic growth and racial inequality, seeking to not only provide a better understanding of the recent social, legal and political meaning of these terms, but also the difficulties presented by these ideas today in a world increasingly committed to economic growth, even at the expense of human existence. How can a new economic paradigm be pursued that is more sustainable? Will African-Americans and other groups of color and nations of color accept “degrowth” if the US begins to implement a real sustainable agenda that addresses racial inequality? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Degrowth: The Economic Alternative for the Anthropocene)

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