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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
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.
- D’Alisa et al. (2014). Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era. Mobi version may be dowloaded at: http://bookzz.org/book/2489156/1eb260 (you can then convert to .pdf online, or you can keep it in .mobi format if you’ve got a Kindle)
- Asara et al. (2015). Socially Sustainable Degrowth as Socio-Ecological Transformation: Repoliticizing Sustainability. Available at: http://www.degrowth.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/editorial-SOCIALLY-SUSTAINABLE-DEGROWTH-AS-SOCIAL-ECOLOG-TRANSFORMATION.pdf
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.«
- Steffen et al. (2011). The Anthropocene: From Global Change to Planetary Stewardship. Available at: http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/files/pr185.pdf (the ‘go to’ article in sustainability science circles, about the notion of the Anthropocene, and Planetary Boundaries – there are some problems with it (see degrowth critique below), the inexplicable different spellings of ‘Anthopocene’ throughout being one – albeit small – of them; however it is still a good introduction to the notion I’d say, and leaves space for critical interpretation)
- A critical ‘degrowthian’ analysis of the Anthropocene: http://entitleblog.org/2016/02/19/the-growthocene-thinking-through-what-degrowth-is-criticising/
- Latour, B. (2014) Agency at the time of the Anthropocene: http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/128-FELSKI-HOLBERG-NLH-FINAL.pdf
- Another highly relevant article, Anthropocene & Latour: http://blog.fotomuseum.ch/2015/05/iii-against-the-anthropocene/#Fn4
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.«
- Latour, B. (2011). Politics of nature: East and West perspectives – have yet to read the whole thing, but it seems to be about cosmopolitics in the wake of global ecological crises. Degrowth gets an ‘honorable mention’ on page 5. http://www.ethicsandglobalpolitics.net/index.php/egp/article/viewFile/6373/7965
- Lorenz, S. (2016) Growth Critique and Ecological Democratization: https://isaconf.confex.com/isaconf/forum2016/webprogram/Paper74134.html This is a short (but concise) draft for a lecture that will be held at the 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology in Vienna this summer, I think it brings together degrowth and Latour in a very interesting way