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Degrowth : a movement or a vision? Identifying barriers and potentials for a powerful agent of change for the socio-ecological transformation in Barcelona

Fromm, Sara LU (2018) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20181
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
Our current economic system is inherently unsustainable. The ‘growth fetishism’ not only is the dominant paradigm of our economies, but goes way deeper into our understanding of how well-being is defined and can be improved. The concept of ‘degrowth’ tries to question this hegemony. However, so far, degrowth has not entered the public debate in a sufficient way. I argue that degrowth needs more insights in how to steer the transformation, besides the extensive research that has already been done on the question of “why degrowth?”.
Drawing on the example of Barcelona, I identify social movements as the agent of change towards a socio-ecological transformation. I follow Erik Olin Wright’s concept of emancipatory social science and his call... (More)
Our current economic system is inherently unsustainable. The ‘growth fetishism’ not only is the dominant paradigm of our economies, but goes way deeper into our understanding of how well-being is defined and can be improved. The concept of ‘degrowth’ tries to question this hegemony. However, so far, degrowth has not entered the public debate in a sufficient way. I argue that degrowth needs more insights in how to steer the transformation, besides the extensive research that has already been done on the question of “why degrowth?”.
Drawing on the example of Barcelona, I identify social movements as the agent of change towards a socio-ecological transformation. I follow Erik Olin Wright’s concept of emancipatory social science and his call for ‘real utopias”, diagnosing that in the present day, there is no real degrowth movement in Barcelona, but rather a so-called ‘critical community’. I identify a strong degrowth movement in Barcelona as a desirable alternative to steer the socio-ecological transformation. Using mainly Felix Kolb’s ‘Partial theory of social movements’, I show its viability.
Based on interviews with different scholars barriers to a degrowth movement are uncovered. The strength is undermined by an insufficient connection of academia to the local setting, the population’s material needs and different social classes as well as weak ties between academia and activism. On the strategy level, missing alliances and competing viewpoints on strategic choices hinder the formation of a strong movement.
I further analyze the potentials for the emergence of a degrowth movement in the political sphere. I conclude that the political institutional structure of Spain and Barcelona can be classified as rather ‘open’ and evidence of an existing elite conflict is given. Additionally, a relative instability in alignments as well as several potential allies in the political sphere do provide a range of potentials for a degrowth movement. However, the window of opportunity in the aftermath of the economic crisis is closing. Besides, a current lack of support amongst the popular public opinion and a closed political space due to the Catalan independence struggle can hinder the emergence of a degrowth movement.
I propose several leverage points to overcome the existing challenges, including the formation of alliances to a broader movement which incorporates claims of redistribution to acknowledge the material needs of the people struggling in Barcelona in the present day. (Less)
Abstract (Spanish)
Nuestro sistema económico actual es intrínsecamente insostenible. El 'fetichismo del crecimiento' no sólo es el paradigma dominante de nuestra economía, sino que influye de manera más profunda en nuestra definición de bienestar y cómo este puede ser mejorado. El 'decrecimiento' intenta cuestionar esta hegemonía. Sin embargo, hasta ahora, este concepto no ha tenido mayor presencia en el debate púbico. En esta tesis, afirmo que el decrecimiento necesita perspectivas sobre cómo direccionarnos hacia la transformación, que vayan más allá de la amplia investigación que ya se ha hecho sobre la pregunta: "¿Por qué decrecimiento?".
A partir del ejemplo de Barcelona, identifico a los movimientos sociales como el agente de cambio hacia una... (More)
Nuestro sistema económico actual es intrínsecamente insostenible. El 'fetichismo del crecimiento' no sólo es el paradigma dominante de nuestra economía, sino que influye de manera más profunda en nuestra definición de bienestar y cómo este puede ser mejorado. El 'decrecimiento' intenta cuestionar esta hegemonía. Sin embargo, hasta ahora, este concepto no ha tenido mayor presencia en el debate púbico. En esta tesis, afirmo que el decrecimiento necesita perspectivas sobre cómo direccionarnos hacia la transformación, que vayan más allá de la amplia investigación que ya se ha hecho sobre la pregunta: "¿Por qué decrecimiento?".
A partir del ejemplo de Barcelona, identifico a los movimientos sociales como el agente de cambio hacia una transformación socioecológica. Con base en la propuesta conceptual de Erik Olin Wright sobre la ciencia social emancipadora y su llamado a “utopías reales”, determino que actualmente no hay un movimiento de decrecimiento real en Barcelona, sino más bien una llamada 'comunidad crítica'. Asimismo, identifico un fuerte movimiento de decrecimiento en Barcelona como una alternativa deseable para dirigir la transformación socioecológica. Por último, utilizo la "Teoría parcial de los movimientos sociales" de Felix Kolb para demostrar la viabilidad de tal transición.
Con base en entrevistas a diferentes académicos, se identificaron los obstáculos que enfrenta el decrecimiento. Principalmente, el movimiento disminuye su fuerza debido a la insuficiente conexión entre la academia y el ámbito local, las necesidades materiales de la población y las diferentes clases sociales, así como los débiles vínculos entre la academia y el activismo. En el ámbito estratégico, señalo que la falta de alianzas y de puntos de vista competitivos para decisiones estratégicas, imposibilitan la formación de un movimiento más robusto.
De igual manera, también analizo el potencial de que emerja en la esfera política un movimiento de decrecimiento. Respecto a este punto, concluyo que la estructura institucional de Barcelona y España se pueden clasificar como tipo “abierto” y que existe un evidente conflicto de élites. Adicionalmente, una relativa inestabilidad en las alineaciones, así como varias posibles alianzas en la esfera política, generan un amplio abanico de potenciales para el movimiento de decrecimiento. Sin embargo, la ventana de oportunidad que generó la crisis económica está llegando a su fin. Además, la falta de apoyo en la opinión pública y un ámbito político cada vez más cerrado, debido a la problemática de la independencia catalana, pueden evitar el surgimiento de un movimiento de decrecimiento.
En razón a lo anterior, propongo varios puntos de apoyo para superar los desafíos existentes, tales como la formación de alianzas, que incorporen los postulados de redistribución teniendo en cuenta las necesidades materiales de la población que actualmente lucha por tal fin en Barcelona. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Fromm, Sara LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20181
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
degrowth, social movements, real utopias, Barcelona, sustainability science
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2018:024
language
English
id
8947435
date added to LUP
2018-06-10 13:46:27
date last changed
2018-06-10 13:46:27
@misc{8947435,
  abstract     = {Our current economic system is inherently unsustainable. The ‘growth fetishism’ not only is the dominant paradigm of our economies, but goes way deeper into our understanding of how well-being is defined and can be improved. The concept of ‘degrowth’ tries to question this hegemony. However, so far, degrowth has not entered the public debate in a sufficient way. I argue that degrowth needs more insights in how to steer the transformation, besides the extensive research that has already been done on the question of “why degrowth?”.
Drawing on the example of Barcelona, I identify social movements as the agent of change towards a socio-ecological transformation. I follow Erik Olin Wright’s concept of emancipatory social science and his call for ‘real utopias”, diagnosing that in the present day, there is no real degrowth movement in Barcelona, but rather a so-called ‘critical community’. I identify a strong degrowth movement in Barcelona as a desirable alternative to steer the socio-ecological transformation. Using mainly Felix Kolb’s ‘Partial theory of social movements’, I show its viability.
Based on interviews with different scholars barriers to a degrowth movement are uncovered. The strength is undermined by an insufficient connection of academia to the local setting, the population’s material needs and different social classes as well as weak ties between academia and activism. On the strategy level, missing alliances and competing viewpoints on strategic choices hinder the formation of a strong movement.
I further analyze the potentials for the emergence of a degrowth movement in the political sphere. I conclude that the political institutional structure of Spain and Barcelona can be classified as rather ‘open’ and evidence of an existing elite conflict is given. Additionally, a relative instability in alignments as well as several potential allies in the political sphere do provide a range of potentials for a degrowth movement. However, the window of opportunity in the aftermath of the economic crisis is closing. Besides, a current lack of support amongst the popular public opinion and a closed political space due to the Catalan independence struggle can hinder the emergence of a degrowth movement.
I propose several leverage points to overcome the existing challenges, including the formation of alliances to a broader movement which incorporates claims of redistribution to acknowledge the material needs of the people struggling in Barcelona in the present day.},
  author       = {Fromm, Sara},
  keyword      = {degrowth,social movements,real utopias,Barcelona,sustainability science},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Degrowth : a movement or a vision? Identifying barriers and potentials for a powerful agent of change for the socio-ecological transformation in Barcelona},
  year         = {2018},
}