January 4, 2020 | Erika Cintron (MALAS Student)
In the discussion of their new book The Case for Degrowth, Giacomo D’Alisa, Susan Paulson, Giorgio Kallis and Federico Demaria examined the process of reorienting our societies from the mindset of extractivism and accumulation to an emphasis on community building and the protection of life. Their book addresses the specific ways on how to achieve degrowth in our societies. Joined by Arturo Escobar, anthropologist from UNC Chapel Hill, and Native American lawyer and activist Frank Bibeau, the talk focused on the concepts of terracide and decolonization, as well as how to apply the idea of degrowth to current indigenous resistance efforts in the United States and Latin America. The discussion began with a brief introduction from the panel members where they outlined their work related to degrowth, an overview of the book’s themes by Escobar and followed by a Q&A with members of the audience, facilitated by Demaria.
One of the questions posed was how this book differed from other works. Kallis explained how their book analyzes the problems related to economic growth from a different perspective, highlighting their focus on how Western countries sacrifice their societies and environments for minimal amounts of economic growth. Kallis also emphasized how growth under the economic model of resource extraction becomes more difficult as these resources become depleted, which in turn creates debt and austerity policies that only benefit a select, elite few. Comparing degrowth to the popular model of green growth, Kallis explained how degrowth centers around reorienting societies to slow down growth and integrates other pluriversal theories, such as feminist and critical economy and Marxist political economy.
A major theme that came up in some of the questions was the idea of how to link the idea of degrowth to Global South indigenous and feminist perspectives. Drawing from the ideology of Latin American feminists, Escobar emphasized the importance of depatriarchalization and deracialization in the process of degrowth. Additionally, Paulson offered a critique of Western feminism efforts to integrate People of Color to the capitalist system and brought up the idea of communitarian feminism, which is prominent in many indigenous communities in Latin America. She explained how at the center of communitarian feminism is the idea of the creation of life and the buen vivir lifestyle, not only for women but for all gender identities within the community. D’Alisa also addressed the importance of creating alliances with existing social movements in order to promote the idea of communitarian economies. He emphasized the need for degrowth to be a societal change of mindset and a project that starts from the bottom and later translates into public policy.
Towards the end of the discussion, Bibeau and Escobar discussed how degrowth can be applied to their respective contexts. Bibeau discussed the importance of creating work environments for people that allow for people to slow down, in order to work less and connect with nature. Escobar also offered an important critique of the idea of the middle class in Latin America, arguing that this model promotes individual, extractivist mentalities. He also recommended two other works to read alongside this book, Take Back the Economy by J.K Gibson Graham, Jenny Cameron and Stephen Healy and The End of Capitalism (As We Know It) by J.K Gibson Graham.