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Scientific paper


Critics of dépense

Francois Schneider

Entry type:
Scientific paper

Year of publication:

Budapest 2016



In their degrowth vocabulary publication, Giacomo et al. (2015) propose “dépense” as important concept to define degrowth. In French dépense means “expenditure”, but following Georges Bataille they give it the meaning of ritualised destruction of community surpluses. Their proposal points out the importance of parties and non­rationality (degrowth is not just about consuming less). The community can support frugal lifestyles but has potentials for collective destruction, through the mimetics of destructive behaviours and collective spending. In practice the collective can often be a tremendous help to have fun by consuming less. Consuming less alone can be sad. You are alone cleaning by hand, alone dancing. Invite people and frugality can begin to be very fun but Giacomo et al. seem to favour collective physical dépense in order to have fun, and frugal loneliness. Considering the level of non­renewable material and energy consumption developed by our technological society, are we actually in debt or in surplus in terms of materials and energy? Can utilitarian activities as well as non­utilitarian activities disregard the physical throughput they generate directly or indirectly? Isn’t the essence of parties about human interaction and not so much about expenditure? The right to waste, jus abutendi, is a key element of property rights that neoliberals defend vehemently. Isn’t the right to waste in line with the right to « dépense »? Doesn’t dépense confuse the meaning of degrowth? Isn’t a concept of ritual destruction risky when we are already faced with more and more indirect and direct barbarity in society and that we wish degrowth to be an alternative to both of them?

This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Critics of dépense“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.

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