LATOUR, SUSTAINABILITY & DEGROWTH

Greetings fellow Latourians! In light of expressed interest I have compiled a short overview of the concept/paradigm of degrowth, and its relevance to Latour (and the formation of a pragmatic, reflexive Parliament of Things for the here-and-now?). I would highly recommend looking up degrowth to anyone interested in sustainability (and critique of ‘sustainable development’), deliberative democracy, anti-capitalism, emancipatory institutional alternatives, ecological economics, socio-ecological transition governance, and the like.

It is something I am quite passionate about, and I’m more than willing to expand on and discuss about these themes during our monthly sessions. I’ll make sure to have a long look and map out any potential relevancies for a Latourian Parliament of Things. If you’d like any more good literature suggestions or anything of the sort, feel free to give me a haul at r.kranjc@students.uu.nl!

1.) DEGROWTH 101

Degrowth defies a single definition. Like freedom or justice, degrowth expresses an aspiration which cannot be pinned down to a simple sentence. Degrowth is a frame, where different lines of thought, imaginaries, or courses of action come together. The vocabulary of degrowth is a network of ideas and conversations, strongly rooted in the radical and critical traditions, but open-ended and amenable to multiple connections. Degrowth signifies, first and foremost, a critique of growth. It calls for the decolonization of public debate from the idiom of economism and for the abolishment of economic growth as a social objective. Beyond that, degrowth signifies also a desired direction, one in which societies will use fewer natural resources and will organize and live differently than today. ‘Sharing’, ‘simplicity’, ‘conviviality’, ‘care’ and the ‘commons’ are primary significations of what this society might look like. Usually, degrowth is associated with the idea that smaller can be beautiful. Ecological economists define degrowth as an equitable downscaling of production and consumption that will reduce societies’ throughput of energy and raw materials. However, the emphasis here is on different, not only less. 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.

Literature:

 

2. LATOUR ON SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ‘ANTHROPOCENE’

»The advent of the Anthropocene, the time interval in which human activities now rival global geophysical processes, suggests that we need to fundamentally alter our relationship with the planet we inhabit.«

Literature:

 

3. LATOUR AND DEGROWTH

»How is it that we remain dumbfounded by the ecological crisis? Some of us are tempted by a retreat through ‘degrowth’ (decroissance), others claim that only religion can save us, still to others more technology is the only solution. And while all of those positions are entertained in rich nations and wealthy suburbs, the large part of the world’s population is still clamoring for decent housing and clean water, emancipation, growth, and development. Indeed, two claims are simultaneously true: there is a threat to the human life support at the same time as several billions of fellow humans have to be lifted out of poverty.« »The very extension of science and technology to the whole fabric of our existence does not prove that we are now finally moderns. Quite the opposite: we have now mixed humans and non-humans to such a degree that we need a completely new cosmopolitics to create the feedback loops that would allow us to feel the consequences of our actions and build a collective public; that is, to collect the public out of a confusing set of issues.«

Literature:

5 thoughts on “LATOUR, SUSTAINABILITY & DEGROWTH

  1. Thanks very much for your input. Since you mentioned deliberative democracy in your introduction, which sources connect degrowth with deliberative democracy?

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  2. I would have a good look at the journal Futures, specifically vol. 44 issue 6 (‘Politics, Democracy and Degrowth’)

    Here is the introduction to the issue:
    https://co-munity.net/system/files/Cattaneo%20et%20al.%202012.%20Degrowth%20futures%20and%20democracy.pdf

    And here is one of the more relevant articles I’d say:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016328712000602

    Also, some prospects are I believe briefly outlined in the last link of the post (Lorenz, S. – Growth Critique and Ecological Democratization). For more, I’d say an informed Google search can do wonders 🙂

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  3. A promising introduction to degrowth as a model for Latourist reconstitution–thanks, Rok!

    …and a related artistic tangent, if we will: the 12th Design Column at Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam explores “Spaceship Earth”, with a focus on designs which support the COP21 resolution to slow down and limit climate change to less than 2 degrees celsius alongside a reduction to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2100. From Dave Hakken’s critique of production processes in “Too Much Stuff” to Christien Meindertsma’s re-evaluation of waste through her “Bottom Ash Observatory” to Eric Klarenbeek’s 3D-printed mycelium stool which demonstrates the structural potential for alternative, natural materials, this gallery of current and future things beckons us to rethink how we produce, consume, and live.

    See http://www.boijmans.nl/en/7/calendar-exhibitions/calendaritem/1912/design-column-12.

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  4. Nice short by Donna Harraway – Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene,
    Chthulucene: Making Kin (2015) http://www.mara-stream.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Donna-Haraway_Anthropocene-Capitalocene-Plantationocene-Chthulucene.pdf

    And in case the Capitalocene is getting you down, I’d highly recommend a turn to SImon Springer’s inspiring ‘Fuck Neoliberalism’ (2016): https://www.academia.edu/23908958/Fuck_Neoliberalism

    Throughts on manifesto – include ‘Make Kin Not Babies’, and ‘Fuck Neoliberalism’? 😀

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