28 - 31 August 2013
Torino, Italy

RS02 – Capitalist Crises, Critique of Growth and the Perspectives for a Post-Growth Society

Barbara Muraca barbara.muraca@uni-jena.de Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena, Germany

Modern societies are growth societies: they stabilize and reproduce themselves dynamically. With the rise of modern capitalism, material growth and the prospects of welfare gains associated with it became a primordial societal goal – and came to be seen as effective means of overcoming economic crises. In recent years, this societal constellation is beginning to change, as the recourse to conventional growth patterns as a strategy for fighting economic crises now inevitably aggravates the ecological crisis. On the other hand, slowdowns in growth under current conditions inevitably result in unemployment, poverty and precariousness. Moreover, as many scholars convincingly point out, if the countries of the Global South are to have even the most basic prospects of economic growth, given the increasing ecological constraints in terms of resources (peak oil etc.) and sinks (climate change), the developed countries in the Global North will have to quickly renounce from conventional growth patterns. However, given the tight link between growth and institutional stability in modern societies, a path of economic decline automatically risks to erode the integrating powers of basic social institutions, such as commodified work, the market economy, the welfare state and parliamentary democracy.

Even if such a gloomy scenario may seem to be overly dramatic, it demonstrates the socially explosive potential inherent in growth and its crisis. Intellectual and scientific positions critical towards growth and the growth society are emerging in multiple and heterogeneous ways across disciplines, countries, political affiliations, and social movements: they stem from different backgrounds, such as environmentalism, alterglobalization, Marxism, political ecology, and ecofeminism Their critique addresses not only economic or material growth as such, but also the logics of intensification, escalation and acceleration of cultural and social dynamics, which is held to be immanent in the more general and encompassing ‘social imaginary’ of growth.

Europe and the European societies are expected to play a key role in tackling the economic, social and ecological challenges of the future. For European sociology, this entails the need to pose anew the question of how forms of dynamic self-stabilisation of modern societies, on the one hand, and their basic legitimizing principles, on the other, are related to each other. In the process of struggling to find ways out of the current dilemmas of capitalist growth societies, possible avenues of transition towards alternative social orders need to be explored as well as the factors that are obviously blocking them.

Papers are welcomed addressing one or more of the following topics in the following two sessions:


  • 01RS02 Crisis of growth-based Societies
    Contact: Barbara Muraca <barbara.muraca@uni-jena.de>, University of Jena, Research Group Post-Growth-Society. Chair: Stephan Lessenich <Stephan.Lessenich@uni-jena.de>, University of Jena, Research Group ‘Post-Growth-Societies’

    The session will focus on the crisis of growth-based societies addressing a more general view of the history of growth as well as dynamics of destabilization and specific case studies: * Cultural and social dynamics of the growth logic * Social conflicts in growth societies * Diagnosis and analysis of the multiple crises of growth societies * Relation between Capitalism and Growth

  • PosterRS02 Poster Session
  • 02RS02 From Growth Critique to Degrowth
    Contact: Barbara Muraca <barbara.muraca@uni-jena.de>, University of Jena, Research Group Post-Growth-Society. Chair: Stephan Lorenz <stephan.lorenz@uni-jena.de>, University of Jena, Institute of Sociology

    The session focuses on limits to growth, knowledge regimes, degrowth perspectives, and challenges

  • 03RS02 Practices of Transformation Beyond Growth and Paths of Transition
    Contact: Barbara Muraca <barbara.muraca@uni-jena.de>, University of Jena, Research Group Post-Growth-Society. Chair: Viviana Asara <viviana.asara@gmail.com>, ICTA, Autonomous University of Barcelona

    The session focuses on practices, actors of change, and social movements including, but not limited to the degrowth-movement, from the point of view of alternative practices, leading concepts (such as commons), and perspectives of transition.

  • 04RS02 Towards Degrowth: Lifestyles, Happiness, and the Good Life
    Contact & Chair: Barbara Muraca <barbara.muraca@uni-jena.de>, University of Jena, Research Group Post-Growth-Society;

    Within the debate about growth critique and degrowth the perspective of happiness and the good life play a major role both in terms of alternative indicators and in the sense of a more general cultural critique. The session includes both, empirical and theoretical perspectives.

  • 05RS02 Relations between capitalism, neoliberalism and post-growth societies

    This session will focus on the institutional configurations of post-growth societies, on the issue of degrowth-capitalism compatibility, divergences between neo-classical economics and ‘steady-state theory’ and neoliberal assumptions about growth.

  • 06RS02 Paths of Transition towards a post-growth-society

    The session includes papers with a more specific focus on perspectives and actors of change.

Thank you very much to all participants for making esa torino an outstanding conference.