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Degrowth: A Call for Radical Abundance


Degrowth: A Call for Radical Abundance

Jason Hickel

When orthodox economists first encounter the idea of degrowth, they often jump to the conclusion that the objective is to reduce GDP. And because they see GDP as equivalent to social wealth, this makes them very upset.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I reject the fetishization of GDP as an objective in the existing economy, so it would make little sense for me to focus on GDP as the objective of a degrowth economy. Wanting to cut GDP is as senseless as wanting to grow it.


“The objective, rather, is to scale down the material throughput of the economy.”

My bumper sticker equivalent of this statement is:

Libraries, not Amazon


A recent UN report detailed how the entire Capitalist system and the idea of infinite growth with ever growing GDP not only needs to be dismantled but is undergoing mass failure.

Supporters of this system continue to claim “It the only economic system that works”. They are absolutely wrong. It is a system that is not only a failure , but leaves behind it the largest negative consequences on failure.

Capitalism has only been around a few hundred years in a human history that goes back tens of thousands of years and in this few hundred years has triggered has been the single largest contributer to what being deemed a “mass extinction event”. Capitalisms so called success was due meanly to cheap energy in the way of hydrocarbon resources being used to fuel production and consumption on a massive scale. All of these cheap sources of energy have been exhausted. What is left is harder to access sources which require ever higher energy input and ever higher environmental destruction in order to be able to use.

This is same as all other resources used to fuel industry on the consumption and growth model. Gold mines, iron ore mines, Copper mines and the like all are using what were once considered “marginal” sources of the same mated with new technologies that wreak ever more havoc on natural ecosystems. You do not pluck gold out of a river anymore using a metal pan. You dig a massive pit to get out marginal ore and lace that ore with chemicals and toxins so as to seperate the gold from the ore.

Globalization is the exact OPPOSITE of what needs to be done here. Degrowth must be coupled with localization. Localization means not only the rebuild of Community , but the return of all private property to the Commons.


With you right up to the universal end to private property. The sweeping change needed is to focus on active property rather than sequestered wealth, on income rather than reserves.

I don’t speak much in the way of economics, but I think I got enough of Hickel’s argument to want to look into it further and bought the earlier US edition e-book of Divided. Yes, @WiseOwl, from Amazon, because I want to annotate as I read, and to own it, and I don’t mind paying directly into another writer’s royalties. I trust he will use my couple of bucks in his further work, or to buy a scone, and not squirrel it away in saving up for one of those £million flats.


HI SuspiraDeProfundis:
YES, YES and YES! In fact I just read this:

It was from ancient Rome from a book called , “THE Classical Compendium,” and makes me wish the emperor Vespasian was still around.

A mechanical engineer developed a new invention, which was a wonderful new way to transport heavy columns to Rome. BUT, although he paid the inventor a lot of money for this invention----he never used it. His reasoning ---- it would replace many humans with this one machine and so he refused to use it.
Vespasian said,: " I’ve got the working class to feed. " So , not only did he rule wisely, but unlike so many emperors---- he actually died of old age! : )


True. Do what’s feasible. Return the property stolen in Trump years. At least.


“Where we differ is that while they persist in believing (against the evidence) that this can be done while continuing to grow GDP, I acknowledge that it is likely to result in a reduction of GDP, at least as we presently measure it.”

Does “the evidence” have to be against it? Jason Hickle thinks his idea is radical? How bout this…export medical marijuana, export organic corn…CREATE a market for organic cotton garments, and CREATE a market for organic hemp clothing…then EXPORT! More nurses on the floor with higher pay so they can take on mortgages (granted, not the cheeriest environmental prospect but in the interum it’s right and just that it happen–face the facts!). Train the claim deniers in the cubes to become nurses…it won’t cost that much, you do need that many, and once they’re trained they’re trained. If you don’t think Americans are broke down, take a look around.

If there are bugs out on the cotton plants, the new WPA can pay workers to deal with’em by hand…as mentioned by Klein, Taylor, & Taylor in this (they merely mentioned it; but it’s come’n anyway with fewer bees around). https://theintercept.com/2018/12/20/naomi-klein-podcast-labor/

Democrats, Says Ocasio-Cortez, Have Compromised Away "Too Much of Who We're Suppose to Be"

Excuse all the typoes. Made before my morning cup of coffee :slight_smile:


Let’s start raising the stuff [natural stuff] now, and building our own supply before the seeds go out of sight and mind.


It’s strange, isn’t it? The ideology of capitalism is that it is a system that generates immense abundance (so much stuff!) But in reality it is a system that relies on the constant production of scarcity.

This logic reaches its apogee in the contemporary vision of austerity. What is austerity, really? It is a desperate attempt to re-start the engines of growth by slashing public investment in social goods and social protections, chopping away at what remains of the commons so that people are cast once again at the mercy of starvation, forced to increase their productivity if they want to survive. The point of austerity is to create scarcity. Suffering – indeed, poverty – must be induced for the sake of more growth.

What a wonderful, clear and accessible piece on the basic origins of capitalism! No, Virginia, we don’t have to read Marx - or Piketty’s corruption of Marx - to get this stuff. Hickel is an anthropologist for pete’s sake, not an "economist’. Just wonderful!

PS: though this is longer than a Tweet, I bet some of our Kongress Kritters - at least those who could call themselves ‘progressives’ - could get this. If they kept their thumbs off their phones that is. Oh, never mind…


I think it’s like war. A few at the top know what will really happen (and they gamble on surviving). Most others believe the theory [less the case in the very recent past re war]. I think their mistake is like my mistake. They believe each dollar really represents [to me, I believe should represent] assets in the economy, like say 9 ounces of oatmeal (at the dollar store). When economists like Hudson say it’s ok to print money out the wazoo, I’m skeptical. They gloss. Thing is…they don’t feel the inflation. To me it’s better to say: put up bonds for sale, and use the money folks’ll pay for the bonds before hand. I know the nation is VAST, and I know things are elastic, and I know they could print (without any bonds) an extra billion today, let it loose [“helicopter” money?]…and we wouldn’t feel it (inflation) in months. My theory is 95% of deficit hawks, pols or average citizens, think the dollars in our system do represent some quantifiable assets out there. They’re biased against Social Security, so they think real assets are being wasted on it. They don’t see the quality of life or wellbeing or upbeatness or “spirit” of those on Social Security as contributing tangible value to the overall system [how to educate’em on that??]. They don’t see the printing or the hoarding (banksters) in terms of the almost living flux the system has the dollars in. A lot of us need to understand it better, including me. There should be an app to teach it. Print $500 billion and see what happens to the price of gas. Sell bonds to get same amt (and set it free) and see the impact on gas prices in 10 yrs. Doing it with pencil and paper would take what, calculus? Or an equation for every commondity price? But a program or an app would teach more people a whole lot faster.

Ellen Brown…HELLLLLP!!


Precisely. it creates scarcity and does it through the concept of Private Property at its base. The reason a house in Vancover costs 1.2 million Median is not because this its real value. It is that value because of artificial scarcity for housing created by claiming land as Private property. Take away the market value of the land, which is ALL artificial and is not some natural event and many more people could afford housing.

The other thing the concept of private ownership does is turn that private property into a store of the individuals wealth. Instead of providing its intended purpose which is shelter from the elements it becomes “How I get rich”. This leads to the desire to preserve scarcity.

This is made evident in a town like Ft MacMurray Alberta. There vast swathes of land available to build houses but the Municipal Government and Provincial Government deliberately keeps this land under lock and key so it can not be developed. This puts upward pressure on the land that is made available from a cost perspective. Land values would plummet if all these reserved lands released.

In Major Cities across North America, there an ever growing problem with homelessness even as houses sit empty and even as land that is available that could be developed to build housing , is used instead for massive mega-malls or projects that have as the only goal “increasing land values”.

Capitalism has two major platforms that allow it to function and create all those mega wealthy. Creat artifical scarcity of the necessities of life via the concept of private property and using the “Investor controls the means of production” meme and creating artificial demand for things not needed to fuel the consumption side of things. The consequences of these together are negative consequences and bad behaviour is rewarded.


Supply and demand. These days, especially in the urban areas, we have farmers markets weekly throughout the warm seasons. Organic is the usual fare, and price is generally better than the grocery store. It may be a bit further than the store for travel but worth the adventure.


Always risky: