Social Innovations for Economic Degrowth

| 8/22/2012 3:52:00 PM

Tags: sustainable degrowth, solidarity economics, the commons, copyleft,

Autumn Scenery by Daniel Skorodjelow 

This post originally appeared on Solutions Online. 

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we find ourselves in a peculiar situation: although hardly anyone would deny the deep ecological crisis facing humankind, we seem to be caught in a net of assumptions that impede a practical solution. Having acknowledged that we need to reduce consumption of energy and materials drastically,1,2 we still often think that adjustments within the current system of production and consumption will accomplish this formidable task.

At the same time, it is widely recognized that the results of the dominant approaches to solving the ecological crisis are far from satisfying. Thus, a growing community of scientists and social activists, sharing the basic insight that a reduction of energy and material use implies a reduction of gross domestic product (GDP), is gathering under the heading of sustainable degrowth.3 Degrowth obviously entails a fundamental transformation of economic structures. But what precisely are the necessary steps?

A Paradigmatic Shift: Radical Social Innovations from the Bottom Up

In contrast to the illusion that we can do more of the same—that is, new market or state solutions to alleviate a crisis caused by market and state solutions—it is more reasonable to start looking for a new way around this stalemate. Such paths are being explored in solidarity economics and the commons, both discussed below. These allow a shift in the trajectory of our economy from endless growth to degrowth—the voluntary reduction of energy and material use while increasing leisure and well-being.

Yet how can the paradigm of a good life for all replace the growth paradigm? What we clearly need is a great social transformation. And, in fact, we can already find social innovations that might function as the basic units of this transformation. They start from the bottom and flourish in protected spaces where shared perspectives are developed, experiments and learning take place, and links to wider power networks are forged. Two outstanding examples are the solidarity economy in Brazil and the global information commons.

sab steww
7/10/2013 4:35:43 PM

a good place to invest in oil is oppurtunity funding trust me.

gwynn o'neill
8/27/2012 7:05:02 PM

One challenge to address of this very good idea, is how to sustain needs filled by high speciaization, especially where very sophisticated knowledge is necessary. So how do you support research for curing diseases for one example, or for that matter, support coordinating the knowledge gained from the process of degrowth in order to make degrowth continue to be effective? It will be interesting also to see if we can get over the habit of expansionist thinking, the better and better mentality which considers the slow and sustainable to be a sort of defeat.