Voluntary Simplicity and the Social Reconstruction of Law: Degrowth from the Grassroots Up

[Articles and opinion pieces published in this blog do not
necessarily reflect the polices and opinions of the organizers of
the International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas. They are
posted here to stimulate discussion and debate on issues relevant
to degrowth.]

Posted: 10 Jul 2011 04:01 AM PDT

The inner crisis of our civilization must be resolved if the outer crisis is to be effectively met. – Lewis Mumford

Building upon the arguments presented in the previous post, this post consists of another working paper for a journal, this time focusing on the relationship between voluntary simplicity and degrowth. The paper is entitled ‘Voluntary Simplicity and the Social Reconstruction of Law: Degrowth from the Grassroots Up.’ The paper is summarised below and the full paper can be accessed here.

ABSTRACT: Degrowth scholars and other growth skeptics have done a considerable amount of important work exposing the many defects inherent to the dominant macroeconomics of growth. In recent years a growing body of literature has also emerged exploring what structural changes could be undertaken to facilitate the emergence of a degrowth or steady-state economy. Very little has been written, however, on what role social or cultural evolution may need to play in providing the necessary preconditions for such structural change. The neglect of this issue is problematic for two main reasons. First, it seems highly unlikely that a degrowth or steady-state economy will ever arise voluntarily within cultures generally comprised of individuals seeking ever-higher levels of income and consumption. Accordingly, before growth economics can be overcome, this significant cultural obstacle must be acknowledged, confronted, and somehow transcended. Secondly, even if notions of degrowth or steady-state economics were to gain widespread acceptance within a culture, it seems highly unlikely that a degrowth or steady-state economy would arise voluntarily unless people had some idea of what needed to be done at the personal and community levels to bring about such an economy. In other words, it is not enough merely to offer a critique of existing structures of growth; it is equally important to explore the question of how one ought to live in opposition to those structures. This paper engages some aspects of these complex issues by looking into what role social movements may have to play in creating the preconditions needed for a degrowth or steady-state economy to materialize. More specifically, this paper examines the potential of the Voluntary Simplicity Movement to socially reconstruct law to that end.

The full paper can be accessed here: Voluntary Simplicity and the Social Reconstruction of Law: Degrowth from the Grassroots Up

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