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Degrowth Conference Budapest, 2016 - The interpretation of degrowth in local policy and planning

Katarina Buhr

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Budapest Conference 2016


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Presentation by Katarina Buhr

A significant share of the literature on degrowth focuses on macro-level units of analysis such as the global or national economy, to discuss aspects such as market logics as a central organizing principle in society or the relevance of GDP as a welfare measure or as a barrier for long-term sustainable development on the global scale. Studies on degrowth that focus on the local scale, on the other hand, have examined e.g. social movements or individual lifestyles. In addition, much of the degrowth literature consist of critical arguments about the need for, or the potential of, alternative development paths but there is a lack of empirically grounded understanding of the institutional conditions for working with degrowth as a conscious development strategy in a real world policy context. This paper directs its attention to local land use policy and planning to explore questions like: What does degrowth mean in the context of local city planning? How is local city planning affected by prevailing or changing norms and values about what is desirable? By which actors and on which arenas are matters of degrowth discussed? What tensions tend to evolve around degrowth matters at the local level? This paper presents a case study of the Swedish municipality of Alingsås in which growth as a given objective has been begun to be questioned in central planning processes. At the same time, the city planning is significantly influenced by Alingsås’ long-standing role as a commuting society and planning ideas to build for travelling. The paper combines qualitative analyses of central planning documents of Alingsås with in-depth interviews with local officials.

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