In the face of an increasing awareness of environmental issues and the urgent need to tackle them without shifting the burden onto the most vulnerable social groups, calls for a socio-economic transformation are growing louder. However, there is no consensus on what transformative strategies should look like. Within the German-language literature one can broadly distinguish two transformative paradigms: the green economy paradigm, arguing for soft political steering mechanisms and technological innovations in order to green the current economic system and the degrowth paradigm, drawing the current growth-oriented economic system into question. In both approaches a tendency to marginalize issues of quality of work prevails. We argue that work is not only an integral part of one’s income, but also of one’s identity and psychosocial wellbeing as well as of social peace and cohesion and that it should therefore be at the heart of socio-ecological transformative strategies. We apply these theoretical considerations to the analysis of the Smart City Vienna Framework Strategy (SCWR), which is promoted as a holistic sustainability strategy paper. Additionally, we conducted expert workshops and interviews in order to analyze how stakeholders within the sectors with the highest CO2 emissions in Vienna perceive the SCWR in relation to work. We found that the SCWR does not live up to its potential as an eco-social policy as it remains tightly rooted within the green economy paradigm and does not account for the ecological dimension of work. The stakeholders’ perspectives on the SCWR vary according to the degree to which they are embedded within the green economy paradigm as well as their position within the economic system. However, generally the SCWR is not perceived as an eco-social policy and no connection is made between environmental issues and quality of work. We argue that transformative degrowth strategies could greatly benefit from making this connection explicit.
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 859