Posted on June 7, 2022
How can we better understand lower growth and what it covers? We give you 5 accessible books to find out what is hidden behind this concept, other than the usual abbreviations and simplifications.
The idea of de-growth is an idea that has been increasingly raised in the public sphere in recent years. After years of structuring our social and economic models around the concept of growth, presented as synonymous with the well-being, progress and development of societies, we are beginning to realize that the ultimate search for growth has its limits. Global warming, eroding biodiversity, pollution, and even the increasing weakening of the population show the flaws in this economic system. Faced with this observation, a certain number of thinkers and social movements are trying to propose an alternative model: degrowth.
Appeared in 1972 in a file New Observer Written by journalist and political ecology thinker Andre Gorz, the term ‘undergrowth’ echoes the Club of Rome report issued the same year and titled growth limits.
Starting with the now known paradox From infinite growth in a finite worldSince then, the authors of degrowth have theorized more precisely this idea, proposing a political, economic and social concept, one of the rules of which is the idea of \u200b\u200bdeparture from the classical concept of economic growth. The goal: not to overexploit the environment, and thus to preserve it, to distribute wealth better, and to better conserve resources.
Then the second time thinkers developed a critical cultural thought for the industrial society. Evan Elisch, Jacques Ellul, Bernard Charbonneau, Serge Latouche, and André Gorz (to name a few) wanted to question more broadly the idea of infinite accumulation and unreasonable progress. But too often, decadence in public debate is reduced to caricatures: it would be synonymous with stagnation, poverty, and obscurantism, far from the reality of diminishing thought.
So, to better understand this complex issue and the more important questions it raises than ever before, we bring you 5 books to better understand degrowth.
1 – To discover the authors of low growth – On the Origins of Decadence: Fifty Thinkers
In this book, released in 2017, portraits of 50 underdeveloped thinkers are drawn. Simon Weil, Albert Camus, Hanna Arendt, even if these intellectuals did not claim de-growth, they participated in this critique of capitalist society and excessive consumption. A common cry since the 19th century against inequality, environmental destruction, damage to human health, and reckless technological progress.
This book is a means of discovering these underdevelopment theorists through didactic photographs that recall the main reflections of these authors, and also presents a short bibliography and a selection of readings in order to deepen one’s personal knowledge.
On the Origins of Regression: Fifty Thinkers, Cedric Biagini, David Murray and Pierre Thissett, Escape, 2017, 300 p., 22 €.
2- To understand the paradoxes of growth- Low growth: entropy – ecology – economics
Nicholas Georgescu Rogen, born February 4, 1906 in Romania, is an economist and statistician, and the founder of Diminishing Thought. In particular, he will develop the concept of bioeconomics, striving to make living organisms and the environment an object of study for economics. It was considered very early on that this scientific discipline could not describe the world if it adhered to a “mathematical” representation of economic relations. In 1971, he published an important work on degrowth The law of entropy and economic processlater translated into French by Entropy – Ecology – Economics.
He borrowed from physics the principles of thermodynamics to develop his economic thinking, which, in contrast to the theories of the time which had hitherto been limited to circuit exchanges between producers and consumers, incorporates environmental issues. The first principle considers that not all energy can be created or destroyed, according to the famous phrase of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743 – 1794), “Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything changes”.
From this observation, he applies to his economy the second principle of thermodynamics: entropy, that is, the irreversibility of physical phenomena. Once burned, the wood that has a market value is no longer worth anything.
It follows from this that the economy cannot escape from its environment. Accounting for all the advantages and disadvantages of human activity amounts to incorporating non-reusable waste, including resource exploitation and pollution resulting from the production and consumption of these resources.
In light of these elements, the economist concludes that the current rate of consumption is unsustainable for the planet. He considers that the struggle for the environment must be based on rational logic: resource consumption cannot exceed the environment’s ability to renew itself and absorb pollution.
In addition, increased pollution control can only increase resource consumption. So he partially rejects the idea of endless technical progress. Society cannot forever find a new form of energy, new exploitable resources, and new innovations in order to avoid the environmental crisis.
Low Growth – Entropy – Ecology – Economics, Nicholas Georgescu-Rojen, Blood of the Earth, 2020, 302 p., 25.00 EUR.
3- The first international report against growth- growth limits
Just four years after the major protest movements in 1968 against a devastated consumer society, a report by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) came calling for a “stop growth.”
This report, commissioned by the Club of Rome, a research center made up of scientists, civil servants and industry, attempts to show the negative effects of growth, both on the environment and on the population, using a model of the mentioned systems dynamics world 3.
From the data collected by the model, authors Dennis Meadows, Donella Meadows, and Jurgen Randers pointed out five major problems with growth:
- manufacturing acceleration.
- strong growth of the world population;
- persistent malnutrition in the world;
- depletion of non-renewable natural resources;
- environmental degradation.
It is clear that some observations today need to be conservative, especially with regard to the strong growth of the world’s population. But this report was an important point in support of mobilization for the environment, as it provided scientific legitimacy for a critique of capitalist growth.
The Limits to Growth, Dennis Meadows, Donella Meadows and Jurgen Randers, rue de Lechequer, 2017, 488 pages, €12.50.
4 – Bypassing the ‘word of the oath’ – shortage
French economist and professor emeritus at the University of Paris Sud, Serge Latouche is one of the main French thinkers in the field of degrowth. For him, “de-growth” is a “provocative slogan” that is intentionally used to get people talking about it. The big word supposedly strains growth proponents and is involved in changing the imagination.
In this clearly titled book, Serge Latouche popularizes this diminishing social project and the discussions surrounding it. Because other than being a subversive argument, degrowth is for the economist « The art of living decently, soberly, in harmony with the world, the art of living with art.”
Degrothe, Serge Latouche, What do I know?, 2019, 129 p., €9.
5 – To understand the contraction of society and the economy – friendliness Devan Ilitch
Evan Elish, philosopher and thinker of political ecology, is considered one of the leading thinkers in the case of declining political growth. friendlinessThe title of his book, originally published in 1973, aims to criticize industrial society as much as to suggest the construction of a frugal and cheerful post-development society.
For Ivan Ilyich, a friendly community is « A society in which the modern tool is in the service of the person integrated into society, and not in the service of a body of specialists. Coexistence is a society in which man controls the tool In the present case, the instrument of industrial society, be it technical (machine, computer) or institutional (state, firm), enslaves its user.
The worker is no longer self-employed, but loses his independence and becomes dependent on a production chain over which he has no control. Finally, it responds only to goals, financial or political, beyond them.
The philosopher will develop the basic concepts of degrowth, particularly the concept of counter-productivity, where Evan Elish demonstrates a critical threshold where organizations unconsciously put the wheel. To illustrate the concept of counter-productivity, he takes the example of the road network.
While the car is supposed to allow people to move faster, the current traffic and traffic jams slow down the movement of citizens. The dependence on the car created by our way of life defeats the primary purpose of the car and highway building.
For him, his “pleasant austerity” that he developed in his book would allow societies to truly liberate themselves, produce “user-friendly tools,” and thus, Fineto become a human being.
Conviviality, Ivan Illich, Seuil, 2014, 160 pages, 7.50 €.
IOmar Rinaldo Imperial from Pixabay
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