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Gathering degrowth in the American pluriverse

“When you told your friends and family you were going to a degrowth gathering, they asked, ‘What is degrowth?’ How did you respond?”

The 2018 degrowUS gathering from September 28-30 2018 in Chicago began with this question. The first day’s thirty-odd attendees wrote their responses on sticky notes as they scraped the last bites of lunch off the dishes the event’s organizers had told them to bring from home.

Friday

It turns out, degrowth is a lot of things: a criticism, a proposal, a hypothesis, a provocation, a conversation, a deceleration, a downscaling, a reimagining, a project, a lens, a movement, a set of practices, an invitation to dream of worlds beyond growth. This is not disagreement about the definition of degrowth; it is evidence of the plurality of diverse meanings this potent word packs.

After some introductions to the weekend summit, anthropologist Susan Paulson skyped in a short talk. One of a tiny group of accomplished scholars studying degrowth at U.S. universities, Susan was a bit disappointed not to have been able to attend the gathering. We were disappointed by her absence too, but her virtual visit set the theme for the whole weekend.

Susan introduced us to the pluriverse, the idea that there is no single truth, no correct cosmovision. For her work at the intersection of degrowth and post-development, the pluriverse means that many different desirable ways of being and thinking about the good life exist simultaneously. She drew on her work in Latin America, uncovering several parallel ideas and movements that present real alternatives to capitalist development: agroecology, the Zapatistas, and buen vivir – the good life.

We heard remotely from Research & Degrowth founder François Schneider about some of the early history of organizing for décroissance in France.

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