Alternatives to conventional growth

Stephen Quilley, Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation (WICI) Director of Development, has released a new paper entitled Degrowth is not a liberal agenda: Relocalization and the limits to low energy cosmopolitanism (PDF)*. It identifies degrowth as a prospective turning point in human development.

*Please note that this is a prepublication version; to access the fully edited version which appears in Environmental Values (2013), you must visit the Ingenta Connect Publication website.


Degrowth is identified as a prospective turning point in human development as significant as the domestication of fire or the process of agrarianisation. The transition movement is identified as the most important attempt to develop a prefigurative, local politics of degrowth. Explicating the links between capitalist modernisation, metabolic throughput and psychological individuation, transition embraces ‘limits’ but downplays the implications of scarcity for open, liberal societies, and for inter-personal and inter-group violence. William Ophuls’ trilogy on the politics of scarcity confronts precisely these issues, but it depends on an unconvincing sociology of individuation as a central process in modernity. A framework is advanced through which to explore the tensions, trade-offs and possibilities for a socially liberal, culturally cosmopolitan and science-based civilization under conditions of degrowth and metabolic contraction.

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