The Degrowth Alternative


Degrowth requires a commitment not just to protect nature or to manage and mitigate the impacts of capitalism, but also to create an alternative social-ecology and a fundamentally different basis for action. From this new perspective, environmentalists opposing a mega-project need not perform cost-benefit calculations or devise alternatives that accommodate growth. They can simply assert that such projects do not fit the world in which they want to live. They can say that there is alternative, and it is called “degrowth."


1.The phrase is from Ursula Le Guin, whose social science fiction novel The Dispossessed (London: Panther, 1975) provides a vivid exposition of a degrowth world.

2. Bruno Latour, “To Modernize or to Ecologize? That’s the Question," in Remaking Reality: Nature at the Millennium, eds. Noel Castree and Bruce Willems-Braun (New York: Routledge, 1998), 221-242.

3. Serge Latouche, Farewell to Growth (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009). For a review of the unpublished francophone literature, see Valérie Fournier, “Escaping from the Economy: The Politics of Degrowth," International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 28, no. 11/12 (2008): 528-545, The choice of the term “degrowth" (décroissance in French) was inspired by the title of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Jacques Grinevald, and Ivo Rens, Demain la Décroissance: Entropie-écologie-économie (Lausanne: Pierre-Marcel Favre, 1979). On degrowth as a “hypothesis," see Giorgos Kallis, Christian Kerschner, and Joan Martinez-Alier, “The Economics of Degrowth," Ecological Economics 84 (2012): 172-180,

4. See Francois Schneider et al., “Crisis or Opportunity? Economic Degrowth for Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability: Introduction to this Special Issue," Journal of Cleaner Production 18, no. 6 (2010): 511-518,

5. Herman Daly, Beyond Growth: the Economics of Sustainable Development (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997).

6.Giacomo D’Alisa et al., eds., Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era (London: Routledge, 2014). See also www.

7. See D’Alisa et al., op. cit.; Daly, op. cit.; Tim Jackson, Prosperity without Growth (New York: Earthscan, 2008).

8. Blake Alcott, “Jevons’ paradox," Ecological Economics 54, no. 1 (2005): 9-21,

9. Herman Daly, op. cit.10. Joana Conill et al., Otra vida es posible: prácticas alternativas durante la crisis (Barcelona: Ediciones UOC Press, 2012); Julie Katherine Gibson-Graham, The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006).

11. Capitalism can experience involuntary negative growth, but not for long, as this would lead to intensifying inequalities and socio-political instability, and the threat of the imposition of some form of autocracy.

12. Ashish Kothari, “Radical Ecological Democracy: A Path Forward for India and Beyond," The Great Transition Initiative (July 2014), and-beyond.

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