This course is accessible for 2nd and 3rd year honoursstudents.
The rapidly rising ‘degrowth’ movement proposes a purposeful downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions and social justice on the planet. The scientific concept of degrowth already appeared in the academic literature in the 1970s and some of its principles have been part of philosophical debates for centuries. Only recently, however, has it appeared as an activist slogan. In this course, students explore the scientific foundations and practical relevance of this challenging concept.
In this course, students learn to…
- recognise and distinguish key perspectives in the degrowth debate.
- explain and evaluate degrowth arguments and practices for changing the growth-based economy.
- interpret and examine processes of growth and degrowth by applying relevant conceptual and methodological frameworks.
- develop and defend alternative approaches based on the principles of degrowth.
Economic growth lies at the heart of an unprecedented multidimensional mess. While growth has been the norm over the past several decades, not everyone has received a fair share; already substantial income and wealth gaps between rich and poor continue to widen. Even if we cling to the conviction this trend can be reversed with further economic growth, growth itself cannot be upheld indefinitely on ecological grounds. The swelling of the global economy was contingent on the increasing extraction of tremendous amounts of matter and energy from the environment, and outpouring of waste and emissions from the economy.
The dramatic rise of these material and energetic flows is destabilizing natural systems on a planetary scale. Strongly coupled with ecological decline, the growth trajectory is bound to hit a wall. As ecological constraints prevent us from increasing the size of the economic pie indefinitely, the concerns about its unequal distribution are only going to get more pressing.
The situation gives rise to a serious dilemma. When growth fails, innovation stops, companies are outcompeted, recessions loom, banks collapse, businesses foreclose, people lose employment and governments default on their debts. Growth therefore continues to be the most important policy goal from left to right. Many continue to hope against hope that economic growth will be decoupled from its ecological impact and will bring wealth to all. However, this merely obfuscates fundamental contradictions between the goals of economic profitability, environmental sustainability and poverty alleviation.
Rather than being fatalistic about it, this opens up extraordinary space for imagination and experimentation. One such idea is degrowth. It partly rests on the natural and physical sciences to provide a sound basis for facing up to the biophysical limits of our economic activities. But human behavior is not only the outcome of a complex network of relationships and constraints at the physical and biological level; it is also the result of evolutionary changes in social and cultural frameworks. Degrowth must therefore equally rest on visionary research in the social sciences and humanities. This course invites students from different backgrounds and doesn’t require particular specialist knowledge.
- Economic growth and its measurements
- The growth imperative in both neoliberal and marxian economics
- The connections between growth, poverty and inequality
- Biophysical limits to growth in population and consumption
- The ambiguous role of technology (infrastructure, innovation, planned obsolescence)
- Assumptions and scientific foundations of degrowth (entropy, complexity, systems thinking)
- Deliberate degrowth as opposed to recession (negative growth)
- Degrowth versus green growth and circular economy (decoupling, recycling, cradle to cradle, industrial ecology)
- Degrowth versus (sustainable) development and zero growth (steady state economics)
- (De)commodification and (de)monetarization of nature
- Participation, democracy and redistribution
- Cultural and psychoanalytical implications of degrowth
- Degrowth and globalisation (financial system, free trade, post-colonialism)
Pathways to transition (economic, institutional, legal, political, educational and practical)
Check Datanose for the exact information.
Seminar 2 on Thursdays 15.00 - 18.00h will be displayed on Datanose soon.
Registration is possible for 2nd year (of higher) students participating in an Honours programme from 7 June 2018 10.00 till 11 June 2018 23.00 through the online registration form that will appear on Honoursmodules IIS.
Placement will be at random. If there are still spots open after the application deadline, students will still be able to register.