For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Degrowth: from theory to practice"

by Sekulova, Filka; Kallis, Giorgos; Rodríguez-Labajos, Beatriz; Schneider, Francois (2013)


The collection of articles reviewed in this editorial presents an eclectic sample of the best contributions from the Second international conference on degrowth, exemplifying recent debates in the field and touching on different aspects of the multi-dimensional transition at stake. Moving beyond theory and the construction of the degrowth proposal, the articles in this special issue look at particular applications, new methodologies and fresh policy options. For example, social enterprises are evaluated as primer candidates for a sustainable degrowth economy in the North. Lessons are also drawn from very different parts of the world, such as Cuba's experience with an oil and commodity shock, to which it adapted through the introduction of ecological labour-intensive agriculture in urban regions. This Special Issue approaches from a degrowth perspective important sectoral issues in agriculture, resource consumption and water. The unsustainable fuel-dependence of the Spanish agrarian sector, where the energy input for the production process is six times higher than the energy contained in finished food products, is analysed in the context of the industrialization of food production. Rather than efficiency, sufficiency (in consumption) is proposed as an organising societal principle and a call is made for stronger NGO action and coalition-building in the direction of absolute (rather than relative) consumption reduction. The obstacles to sufficiency policies are illustrated with a case-study on water in the city of Barcelona, where a growth discourse is still dominant and a source of a technological and institutional deadlock against softer, decentralized and more participatory forms of water management. Finally, many of the contributions in this issue focus on work. The policy option of a Job Guarantee scheme is examined as a tool to decouple jobs from economic growth and fiscal policy by bringing them to the realm of political rights. This is complemented by a discussion of the social benefits of an “amateur economy” through work-sharing and a socially beneficial reduction in labour productivity. Original data from Barcelona analysed for this Special Issue shows that household activities, an essential component of a more amateur economy, have a much lower intensity of energy use than the paid-sector delivery of equivalent services, especially government and privatized caring services. Interesting research questions are identified concerning work under a degrowth trajectory, not least whether reducing paid work will be possible in an energy-scarce future. Put together, the diverse contributions of this issue show that there is a vibrant and fertile degrowth research agenda with a range of open questions to which the community of this journal has much to offer.


Degrowth, Sustainability, Social Enterprises, Green Work, Ecological Labour, Political Change



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