A year ago, in August 2020, we launched our jointly authored book Exploring Degrowth: A Critical Guide (Pluto Press). ‘The book you hold in your hands’ states Jason Hickel of the University of London and author of Less is More 2020, ‘paints a picture of the new economy that lies ahead — an economy that enables human flourishing for all within planetary boundaries.’ Discussion about degrowth has exploded since then when a cluster of general interest books on degrowth appeared in 2020.
As we furiously wrote the book, sending drafts and redrafts of chapters back and forth between one another with an occasional online meeting — vast areas of Anitra’s home country Australia were burning in unprecedented flames in what has become known as the Black Summer. Since then, numerous and various places all over the world have faced destructive and alarming tragedies associated with global climate heating.
By August 2021, hundreds of communities in western Canada and the USA, Siberia, Greece, Turkey and more had been tormented by massive uncontrollable and damaging fires while others in China, Germany, Belgium, India and Ethiopia had to deal with record-breaking rains, flooding and subsidence. Meanwhile, water shortages have led to starvation in Madagascar and halted production of semiconductors in Taiwan, a node of the global industrial chain — pushing industrial sectors across the world to close their factories.
‘Exploring Degrowth outlines alternatives to a capitalism that expands like a cancer,’ points out Jeff Sparrow, author and journalist, including for the Guardian — ‘Vincent Liegey and Anitra Nelson provide a lively and accessible introduction to the ideas, theorists and controversies associated with degrowth, in a book relevant to both scholars and activists.’ Indeed, our unique approach was to explore degrowth as a bourgeoning social movement.
As we finished the manuscript, we entered an era of global pandemics with social distancing, confinement, debates on what really matters, social justice, care, and risks of authoritarianism. Degrowth offers meaningful insights to understand the systemic roots of such challenges. In this context, it is no wonder that degrowth books, articles and conferences are all attracting a greater audience from people in the street. More significantly, degrowth offers pathways for creating more participatory, democratic and fair, sustainable, caring and regenerative responses to effectively managing the collapse of thermo-industrial civilisation.
Even if the pandemic stopped us convivially connecting and debating directly with readers, our book succeeded in attracting a lot of praise. Well-known degrowth advocate Giorgos Kallis, from Autonomous University of Barcelona and author of Limits (2019) chimed in: ‘the perfect introduction to the burgeoning intellectual and activist movement of degrowth. Short, crisp and provocative, this is the place to begin if you want to know more about degrowth.’ ‘A superbly written reflection on degrowth politics — from 20th century intellectual origins to 21st century action agendas,’ wrote Ariel Salleh from University of Sydney and editor of Eco- Sufficiency and Global Justice (2009) urging: ‘Be sure to add it to your list!’
We were honoured that the Global Tapestry of Alternatives offered their global-South oriented forum for the premiere launch of Exploring Degrowth — a main pillar of degrowth is to radically critique western so-called ‘development’ and to strive to decolonise our imaginaries. We participated in the Building Alternative Livelihoods ISEE, ESEE and Degrowth online international conference hosted by University of Manchester in July 2021 after presenting our book as an episode of Pluto’s FireWorks series hosted by the Marxist Education Project in New York City in February 2021. A silver lining of the pandemic cloud is the capturing of all such events as webinars. Európa Pont, the European Culture House informing European Parliament, European Commission (EU) in Budapest, where he lives. Meanwhile Anitra was interviewed in podcast series such as Climate Conversations and Post-Growth Australia and we were interviewed together for Utopian Horizons.
Perhaps our favourite quote comes from the acclaimed John Holloway of the Autonomous University of Puebla (Mexico) and author of Crack Capitalism (2010), We are the Crisis of Capital (2016): ‘This is an excellent introduction to the degrowth perspective, an important contribution to an urgent debate.’ Numerous complimentary reviews and comments have been published about the book in several languages. You will find a couple of dozen links to all kinds of material here. The book is being used in courses and, at subscribing universities, freely available in the JSTOR library.
Over the past year we’ve continued to be productive. In January 2021, Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practices, co-edited by Anitra and Ferne Edwards, was issued in the same Routledge Environmental Humanities series as her earlier work co-edited with François Schneider, Housing for Degrowth: Principles, Models, Challenges and Opportunities (2018). Meanwhile, we welcome Vincent’s new book out in September 2021, in French, Décroissance for a new collection, Fake or Not?
And we still hope to realise a dream postponed because of the ongoing pandemic — a degrowth tour of Europe by train, to spread the prescient and now even more relevant ideas of degrowth. Meanwhile, we thank our publisher Pluto Press, our readers and everyone who contributes every day to experimenting with degrowth for a better world for all.
Meet you soon,
Vincent and Anitra
While it is now largely clear what degrowth is striving for, how to realize the transformation towards this end state has not been engaged with satisfactorily. The Future is Degrowth (TFiD) and Degrowth & Strategy (D&S), two books that now complement the burgeoning popular literature on degrowth, set out to find answers to this underexplored question.
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Hickel succeeds once more in making a clear yet robust case for degrowth, providing an accessible introductory text that the movement has long required. Degrowthers may remember 2020 as the year their ideas entered the mainstream, or at least the edges of it. As the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a renewed societal conversation around alternative futures, discussions of degrowth are...