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Degrowth by designed disaster?

How the conflation with neoliberalism and austerity unfairly reduces the idea of degrowth to absurdity – and where the degrowth movement can turn for answers to the crisis.


The degrowth movement has been developed in response to neoliberal reality, neoliberalism’s comically reductive view of human nature, its ecological blindness and the rise in social inequality it has brought about. Austerity politics embodies one of the most aggressive manifestations of neoliberalism, but curiously, the degrowth movement has been exposed to criticism from the (both liberal and Marxist) Left associating it with such politicsThis prompted many degrowth activists to insist that “your austerity is not our degrowth.” Despite the ideological variety and the occasional intellectual ricochets within the movement, I considered this so self-evident that I was somewhat bewildered to see an actual advocate of degrowth openly claim more or less the opposite. In his article on “Austerity and Degrowth” André Reichel attempts to redeem the ideas of neoliberalism and austerity from a degrowth perspective, suggesting that its mode of economic reasoning facilitates a transition to degrowth. I would like to seize this opportunity to reflect on the relationship between capitalism, austerity politics and degrowth.

The crisis as a dilemma for the degrowth movement

Reichel’s point of departure happens to be a formidable challenge for the degrowth movement bringing up the following questions: What would be an appropriate degrowth response to the economic crisis in Greece? Could Greece reasonably enter a degrowth path now – or do we have to grudgingly accept the need for growth-oriented Keynesian solutions for the time being, in order to avoid further economic hardship for the Greek population?

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