The concept of degrowth has been late in arriving to a monoglot English-language readership though the concept of décroissance, decrecimiento and decrescita in French, Spanish and Italian respectively has for decades inspired a rich and varied literature. A new book in English, just published, at last fills the gap for English-language readers and introduces them to the key debates on the subject. Entitled Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era, the book is edited by Giacomo D'Alisa, Federico Demaria and Giorgos Kallis and is published by Routledge. The editors are all associated with the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona so that the book to an extent reflects the ground-breaking work going on at ICTA.
Following a useful introduction by the editors that outlines the origins and development of the concept, and how it has linked with debates in other fields, the book is divided into four parts, on Lines of Thought, The Core, The Action, and Alliances. Each part contains short three to four-page essays that reveal the richness and plurality of the subject of degrowth and how it links to core themes of the social sciences. As is clear from the titles of the four parts, this is an ambitious book, covering the epistemology, conceptual substance and politics of the concept. It therefore opens the eyes of readers to the potential and importance of a concept that often tends to be dismissed by left and right alike.
The book presents degrowth as offering a way beyond the multiple crises that characterise our phase of capitalism today, crises to which both left and right seem unable to offer any original, hopeful and viable responses. Thus, as President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland often says in his speeches, today's crisis is far more than a financial or social crisis, it is an intellectual crisis, a crisis of the political imaginary. This book offers a response to this intellectual crisis through identifying degrowth as a response to six core crises of the global economy and society today:
'The continuing degradation of the natural environment; resource depletion and the challenge it poses to economic growth; exhaustion of the growth potential due to the unsustainable contradictions that capitalism remains locked into; renewed interest in seeking a path of civilisation not based on utilitarian exchange; a growing counter-productivity of institutions, namely their tendency to act as barriers with respect to users, rather than tools; and finally the "crisis of meaning" and the attempt by many to disconnect from mass consumption and give new meaning to their lives (through frugality, Do-It-Yourself, eco-communes, etc.).'
Degrowth therefore offers a realistic response to the crisis of growth, both the ecological limits it has now clearly reached and also the ways in which the concept of growth has colonised our social imaginations giving priority to measures like GDP and foreclosing serious consideration of alternatives. Moving beyond growth allows serious consideration be given to the urgent need for a repoliticisation of our societies, freeing politics from its subservience to the interests of global corporations, to decommodification and the potential of the gift economy, to living well beyond peak oil, to the many grassroots practices emerging around the world and the new conceptions of social progress that inspire them such as Buen Vivir coming from Latin America, Ubuntu from South Africa or Gandhian Economy of Permanence from India.
How do we develop welfare institutions without growth? How can global poverty be resolved without growth? What are the politics of a degrowth transition? These are the sorts of questions addressed in this book. Of course, for a radical new concept that questions the fundamental conceptual category of our society, namely limitless growth, one book cannot give all the answers. But in opening our imaginations to think in new ways about our future, this book can mark a beginning, throwing up as it itself acknowledges a myriad of research questions on which sustained and rigorous academic research is required. Reading this book in an ecovillage, arguably Ireland's leading degrowth project, confirms for me that we in Cloughjordan ecovillage are planting the seeds of a new future for society as a whole.
Mar fhocal scoir, cén focal Gaeilge a bhféadfaimis a chumadh don choincheap seo? Ní thugann focal.ie aon leagan Gaeilge dó. Úsáidimid an focal fás don choincheap growth sa Bhéarla nó croissance sa bhFraincis. Mar sin is dócha gurb é dífhás an leagan Gaeilge is beachta. Go n-éirí leis mar choincheap saibhir sa Ghaeilge, ag oscailt ár n-aigní do shaibhris ár n-oidhreachta dhúchais.