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Who promotes sustainability? Five theses on the relationships between the degrowth and the environmental justice movements

Bengi Akbulut, Federico Demaria, Julien-François Gerber, Joan Martínez-Alier

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Environmental destructions, overconsumption and overdevelopment are felt by an increasing number of people. Voices for ‘prosperity without growth’ have strengthened and environmental conflicts are on the rise worldwide. This introduction to the special issue explores the possibility of an alliance between post-growth and ecological distribution conflicts (EDCs). It argues that among the various branches of post-growth and EDCs, degrowth and environmental justice (EJ) movements have the best potential to interconnect. This claim is discussed via five ‘theses’: We argue that both degrowth and EJ movements are materialist but also more than just materialist in scope (thesis I) and both seek a politico-metabolic reconfiguration of our economies (thesis II). We also show that both degrowth and EJ seek consequential as well as deontological justice (thesis III) and they are complementary: while EJ has not developed a unified and broader theoretical roadmap, degrowth has largely failed to connect with a wider social movement (thesis IV). Finally, both degrowth and EJ stress the contradiction between capitalist accumulation vs. conditions of social reproduction (rather than that between capital and labour) (thesis V). We conclude that an alliance between degrowth and EJ is not only possible but necessary.

Ecological Economics, Volume 165, November 2019

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