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Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 – Technologies for a Degrowth Transition. A Faustian Bargain?

Tomislav Medak

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Budapest Conference 2016


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Presentation by Tomislav Medak

I'll broach the degrowth transition from the combined perspective of social construction of technology and world system theories. I'll seek to demonstrate how dominant technological complex functions to integrate yet thwart the advancement of semi-periphery.

Narratives of a socially more just and ecologically more sustainable future would frequently have us believe that exising technologies lend themselves either to a wholesale repurposing or a strategic cherry-picking of renewable, microproduction and recycling technologies. Yet they fail to register that technological systems are co-substantial with the existing social metabolism: the division of labor in the integrated capitalist world system is only made possible by interlocking technological systems. Globe-spanning complex of cybernetic, logistic and natural resources management technologies is essential for its continued reproduction. And, in turn, the techno-scientific development is directed by the process of capitalist valorization. The de-intensification of capitalist system would thus lead to the disruption of technological development.

This has a triple consequence I'll develop in my paper: a) technologies do not lend themselves easily to disaggregation and thus the technological aspect of transition requires an integrated approach, b) degrowth transition is likely to be disruptive and thus cannot be technologically pre-figured with any certainty, c) development through technology is a negative-sum process for capitalist periphery and thus holds a strong incentive for a trajectory of alternative development. Finally, I'll indicate what technological policies might be meaningful from these constraints.

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