Solutions: Degrowth

The only sustainable growth is degrowth

Degrowth is a political, economic, and social movement based on ecological economics and anti-consumerism. It is a response to the limits-to-growth argument that was first articulated by the think tank Club of Rome in its report entitled The Limits to Growth, which was published in 1972. Proponents of degrowth view overconsumption as a critical problem that led, among other things, to rising inequality and ecological disasters. Growth, which is intertwined with consumerism, is seen as the cause of these problems. Furthermore, they argue, growth has “become uneconomic, ecologically unsustainable and intrinsically unjust.”

To replace economic growth as they central goal of the economic system, proponents of degrowth advocate “the democratically-led shrinking of production and consumption with the aim of achieving social justice and ecological sustainability.” This can be accomplished through various practical actions, including but not limited to:

  • Urban gardening
  • Cooperatives
  • Basic and maximum income
  • Community currencies
  • Digital commons
  • Work-sharing

In addition to attaining social justice and ecological sustainability, an economic system based on the ideas of degrowth also focuses on “maximizing happiness and well-being through non-consumptive means—sharing work, consuming less, while devoting more time to art, music, family, culture and community.” In short, the goal of degrowth is to build a totally different way of life that emphasizes conviviality, dematerialization, and simplicity.

Research&Degrowth-LogoResearch & Degrowth (R&D) is an academic association dedicated to research, training, awareness raising and events organization around degrowth. Sustainable degrowth is a downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions and equity on the planet. It calls for a future where societies live within their ecological means, with open, localized economies and resources more equally distributed through new forms of democratic institutions. Such societies will no longer have to “grow or die.” Material accumulation will no longer hold a prime position in the population’s cultural imaginary. The primacy of efficiency will be substituted by a focus on sufficiency, and innovation will no longer focus on technology for technology’s sake but will concentrate on new social and technical arrangements that will enable us to live convivially and frugally. Degrowth does not only challenge the centrality of GDP as an overarching policy objective but proposes a framework for transformation to a lower and sustainable level of production and consumption, a shrinking of the economic system to leave more space for human cooperation and ecosystems.

Further readings:

  • D’Alisa, Giacomo; Demaria, Federico; Kallis, Giorgos (2014). Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era.
  • Schumacher, F. (1973). Small is Beautiful.
  • Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas (1971). The Entropy Law and the Economic Process.


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