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Degrowth, postdevelopment, and transitions: a preliminary conversation

Arturo Escobar, Arturo Escobar

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Scientific paper

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Sustainability Science


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Degrowth, Postdevelopment, Transition, Civilizational crisis, Global South

Abstract: This paper seeks to initiate a conversation between degrowth (DG) and postdevelopment (PD) frameworks by placing them within the larger field of discourses for ecological and civilizational transitions and by bridging proposals emerging from the North with those from the Global South. Not only can this dialogue, it is argued, be mutually enriching for both movements but perhaps essential for an effective politics of transformation. Part I of the paper presents a brief panorama of transition discourses (TDs), particularly in the North. Part II discusses succinctly the main postdevelopment trends in Latin America, including Buen Vivir (BV), the rights of Nature, civilizational crisis, and the concept of ‘alternatives to development’. With these elements in hand, Part III attempts a preliminary dialogue between degrowth and postdevelopment, identifying points of convergence and tension; whereas they originate in somewhat different intellectual traditions and operate through different epistemic and political practices, they share closely connected imaginaries, goals, and predicaments, chiefly, a radical questioning of the core assumption of growth and economism, a vision of alternative worlds based on ecological integrity and social justice, and the ever present risk of cooptation. Important tensions remain, for instance, around the critique of modernity and the scope for dematerialization. This part ends by outlining areas of research on PD that could be of particular interest to degrowth scholars. The conclusion, finally, envisions the dissolution of the very binary of ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’ by adopting a pluriversal perspective.

Special Feature: Review Article Socially Sustainable Degrowth as a Social-Ecological Transformation; Sustainability Science; July 2015, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 451-462

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