Is degrowth compatible with capitalism?

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Information about Is degrowth compatible with capitalism?
Economy & Finance

Published on October 15, 2014

Author: Research_and_Degrowth



Is degrowth compatible with capitalism? A talk by Giorgos Kallis on the relations between growth, degrowth and capitalism.

1. Capitalism and Degrowth Giorgos Kallis, ICREA Professor at ICTA, UAB Presentation at the conference Il clima della democrazia, Parma, 12 October 2010

2. State of the Debate Tim Jackson  There are growing and non-growing capitalist economies, and growing and non-growing socialist ones.  “Will it still be capitalism? And does it really matter? It will be capitalism, but not as know it” (Tim Jackson). Serge Latouche  “There is no point in stating the obvious…Degrowth is fundamentally anti-capitalist…But while a critique of the growth society implies a critique of capitalism, the converse is not necessarily true”. Takis Fotopoulos  “Whereas in the capitalist case, the growth economy is the inevitable outcome of the workings of the market economy at the micro-economic level, …a planned economy could conceivably pursue different objectives”.

3. My aim  Clarify the questions.  Outline 7 propositions.

4. Definitions (1/2)  What is “Degrowth”? 1. Physical (Environmental Impact) Degrowth? 2. Economic (GDP) degrowth? 3. Multi-dimensional socio-political program for “escaping the economy”?

5. Definitions (2/2)  But when does a system stop being “capitalist”?  And, in relation, what does it mean to be anti-capitalist?  Create a new “system” and with what features?  Constrain the importance of some of these institutions?  Change which institutions into what?  Subordinate (diminish the importance) of the  What is Capitalism? The articulation as a system of:  Private property (control of means of production)  Wage labour.  Commodification.  Constant movement of capital in the search of profit (“accumulation for accumulation’s sake).  Prices (and not planning) as the dominant social allocation mechanism. and its domination in the circulation of goods and services.

6. Two different questions  Can capitalism survive under economic or physical degrowth?  Can a multi-dimensional degrowth program be implemented under capitalism?

7. Proposition 1  Capitalism endorses physical degrowth, as far as this does not cause economic degrowth = Ecological modernization.  Continued economic growth under physical degrowth is unlikely, but not theoretically inconceivable.

8. Proposition 2  Capitalism is undermined, but can survive, under prolonged or geographically-constrained, economic degrowth.  Evolution into a more authoritarian form of capitalism is likely as the social legitimacy of the system is undermined.

9. Proposition 3  A conscious socio-political program of degrowth goes against the spirit and institutional logic of capitalism. Capitalism cannot “choose” degrowth.  But:  Which institutions of capitalism need to change and to what?  How will the political change come about? Different takes:  Parliamentary Democracy: reform and constraining of capitalism in limited sphere (Gorz, Latouche). – REFORM  (Co)revolution: dispossession of capitalists and institution of a new system (Harvey). – OVERTHROW (AND REPLACE?)  Escape: new autonomous communities (Graeber). – IGNORE

10. Proposition 4  Capitalism can selectively appropriate degrowth ideas as it constantly renews itself. “Degrowth” (the idea) can be profitable.

11. Conclusions 1. Capitalism can continue under economic degrowth. 2. Physical degrowth is unlikely, yet plausible, in a capitalist economy. 3. Capitalism can profit from selective appropriation of degrowth ideas. 4. A political program of degrowth is not possible under existing capitalism. 5. Degrowth requires change of capitalist institutions, but which ones, to what (or to what extent)? 6. And how? The old differences (eco-socialism, eco-communism and eco-anarchism) persist.

12. Thank you!

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