Zero growth and austerity as opportunity

This post is initial thoughts and ideas on a new research project. The post degenerates into a set of notes that will be fleshed out over the next few weeks and various issues will become the topics of further posts.

It looks like we will have flat-line growth for another 4 to 5 years due to the economic crisis by which time the evidence we are closing in on the ecological buffers and unsustainable reliance on fossil fuel, oil in particular, will be even more irrefutable. In a recent talk by John Hollway in which he discussed three ways we can start both imagining and living in a way that is not dependent on monetary relations and consumerism he pointed to the role of necessity in Greece and Argentina as the driver for beginning to organise socially and live differently.

Tim Jackson in his book Prosperity Without Growth demonstrates very clearly that we are in a confronted with a seemingly impossible dilemma  between social and economic collapse if we don’t continue to grow (as defined by GDP) on the one hand and ecological collapse (leading to social and economic collapse) if we do. His book is concerned with defining a new form of macro-economics that is based on new definitions of prosperity that does not rely on continuing capital accumulation and consumption of consumer goods. The sort of decoupling between economic growth and the throughputs of energy and material that is needed to preserve the rate of growth capitalism needs will be impossible to achieve. The only alternative is to devise a zero growth economy and find new ways of defining and achieving prosperity and a meaningful and satisfying way of life.

We seem to have achieved a zero growth economy.

Survival, Greece, Argentina, Detroit, etc. How are people adapting through necessity – the wasted lives and collateral damage of globalised and deregulated capitalism. Growth me return in the short to medium term but the ecological horn of the dilemma will kick in as some time. With peak oil this could be well before the end of this century. If so a zero growth economy and life style will only be delayed. The conditions we now face may just be a dress rehearsal for what the current younger and subsequent generations will have to deal with as their enduring reality.

Opportunities in terms of investigating new ways of living, new ways of deriving meaning, satisfaction and fulfilment from life, new ways of relating to one another, new forms of sociability and conviviality, new understanding about the social function of work, a new understanding of the public sector and civil society, new forms of citizen local, national and global citizenship. Empirically, what is happening already as a reaction to and accommodation of austerity – philosophically, culturally, economically and socially. What is the significance of this for imagining a more generalised non-growth economy and way of life. What are the implications of this for education, given the massive and cumulative investment in indoctrinating individuals socially and psychologically into the world based on monetarised social relationships, mediated through the language and ownership of consumer goods, carried out by the marketing and advertising industries explicitly and government policy and subtler forms of ideological indoctrination.

Related resources:

One small Greek island’s relentless struggle to get by

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