Any conception of a degrowth society requires a fundamental change in our communal definition of existence. For centuries, we have upheld a Cartesian view of reality: an irreducible duality between mind and matter, body and soul, enshrined in Descartes’ famous dictum Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). This conception of existence has placed humanity among an external, material environment and has rationalized the conversion of this environment for resources, production, and profit. Our long-held perception of dualism has enabled the capitalist machine to grow and sprawl unabated, leading us to the crossroads we now lie at, facing food shortages, energy crises, and ecological collapse.
The capitalist ethos is built around an inherent pursuit of growth for growth’s sake and pits individuals against each other, spurred on by the necessity to consume or perish. Its systemic pervasiveness means that the solutions to these imminent crises must address the very frameworks within which the problems are embedded. The transition to a degrowth economy must begin with a collective reimagination of what it means to be human.
Where then do we begin? How can we do away with the growth-centric paradigms that govern our everyday decisions? Can we break free from the structures that create these choices? We may be able to draw some inspiration from the philosophies and cosmologies of the Indigenous peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa and South America.