Progress is a powerful concept that is called on by politicians of all persuasions; indeed, we might argue that much of our everyday political debate is fundamentally about the meaning and desirability of progress. The details of what constitutes progress seem to capture the essence of various moral and ideological divides. One person’s idea of medical advancement might well be another person’s idea of unethical meddling; where I see social progress, you may see the interference of the nanny state; in my desire for environmental regulation, you might see needless restrictions on economic growth.
Monthly Archives: June 2009
In France, where the concept originated and where it has had considerable impact, it is decroissance; in English it is degrowth, and in any language it is a significant symbolic challenge to the “tyranny of growth.”
Degrowth activists in France have formed a political party, and publish a monthly magazine; sadly for English speakers such as myself, this French language material remains largely inaccessible. Fortunately, a very useful summary of the politics of degrowth has been provided by Valerie Fournier in a paper currently available here.
Here I’ll pick up on some of the points that caught my attention.
This is the era of ‘post-ecologism.’ On the one hand, we have:
“a general acceptance that the achievement of sustainability requires radical change in the most basic principles of late-modern societies.”
And yet, on the other hand, there is
“a general consensus about the non-negotiability of democratic consumer capitalism – irrespective of mounting evidence of its unsustainability” .
This crazy paradox is, undoubtedly, an accurate summation of the societal self-deception we live with: “a realm where the management of the inability and unwillingness to become sustainable has taken centre ground.” And so the disturbingly ambiguous politics of unsustainability holds sway .
Well over a year ago now, Barry wrote about how irony is the only sane response to a world of paradox and ambiguity. But it is a response that is easier to manage at a personal level than at the level of organised politics. So how are green parties coping with this situation?