Peter Panism for our Economy

Whenever somebody asks me: “So what else?” when I voice critique on the neoliberal system, I find it hard to respond. It is time to learn more about alternative systems.

Oil is running out, the planet is suffering, nature and human beings are sick and it’s all thanks to one part of the planet – where people really are only concerned about buying the newest gadgets.

All of this calls out for the fight on progress. It is time for a new paradigm: degrowth.

The French Journal Décroissance writes that inverting growth into degrowth is the only alternative we have to save the planet: “Le projet de la décroissance est la seule alternative possible au dévelopement de la misère et à la destruction de la planète.” The journal tries to spread the ideas of degrowth about which Wikipedia writes: degrowth “is a political, economic, and social movement based on environmentalist, anti-consumerist and anti-capitalist ideas. Degrowth thinkers and activists advocate for the downscaling of production and consumption—the contraction of economies—as overconsumption lies at the root of long term environmental issues and social inequalities.”

The degrowthists are firmly believing that social wellbeing and ecological balance are not excluding each other. “La décroissance ne propose pas de vivre «moins» mais «mieux», avec «moins de biens et plus de liens»”. The idea is not to live less but better. Degrowthists do not pretend to have the model for changing the society but they know that we do need a change. A change which takes us away from the societal model based on and centered around consumption. That will allow to bring the ideas of responsibility and hope back together and build a new society on these principles. An idea sometimes also referred to as downscaling.

So what does all this mean concretly? “At the individual level, degrowth is achieved by voluntary simplicity.”, we learn from wikipedia. Simplicity meaning following a more simple lifestlyle in which consumption does not play an important role (or none at all). It means moving from having what you want to only having what you need.

On a macro level, degrowth means bringing economy back to a local scale an taking ecological issues and social wellbeing serious. It means leaving the idea of “growth” behind and simply not seeking progress but focusing on wellbeing.

Degrowth is inherently a value change, it means working less, sharing more time with our families and loved ones, sharing more and consuming less. Not living less, but better.

To learn more please visit degrowth.org where you can find the results of the 2010 Conference for Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social equity.

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5 thoughts on “Peter Panism for our Economy

  1. Pingback: Growing growing growing | Kosmos 9

  2. The fears of the “degrowthists” are extremely well-founded, but growth isn’t our problem, it’s how we define it. There are far too many imbalances and inequalities in our world to allow growth to stop. As an alternative, what if we were to stop defining growth in a range of financial terms and instead define it in a range of terms related to biodiversity? Seeing growth in terms such as pollinator numbers, amphibian numbers, pollution reduction, energy use reduction, agricultural chemical reduction, sustainable energy use, backyard gardening, etc would be wonderful. Financial markets would need to determine new rules by which managers reported growth to shareholders. Imagine an annual report in which a corporation highlighted the use of its financial position to sponsor new organic urban food gardens in city centers, and the growth of positive change in the surrounding communities increased investment in that corporation.
    We don’t need to stop growth, just re-think it – and that requires us to re-think how we make, spend, and invest money. It may even require us to reconsider what money is.

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