For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Degrowth, the project of modernity, and liberal democracy"

by Strunz, Sebastian; Bartkowski, Bartosz (2018)


Critiques of modernity often align with critiques of the existing institutions of liberal democracy. We argue that the degrowth movement can learn from the experience of past critiques of modernity by avoiding their major mistake – that is, (inadvertently) conflating a critique of modernity with a rejection of liberal democratic institutions. Hence, we suggest to frame degrowth as the promotion of new vocabularies within a deliberative account of democracy. Specifically, we proceed in three steps: first, we briefly review some essential critiques of modernity and their stance towards liberal democracy. Second, we illustrate how some of the argumentative patterns within the degrowth literature may inadvertently endanger core values of liberal democracy. Third, we introduce our perspective on a liberal degrowth that aims to fulfil the “unfinished project of modernity”.

Key Passage

Following Heidegger, there are two basic ways of approaching nature, Hervorkommenlassen and Herausfordern. The first implies that man lets nature reveal itself. Literally, the German word means that humanity does not actively approach nature; rather, she lets nature come out of hiding by itself. Thus, it is a contemplative stance that waits for nature to show what it truly is. By implication, man cannot produce this kind of truth or control the process towards it; it is about meditative thinking and preserving an open attitude. Unfortunately (according to Heidegger), mankind has for a long time embarked on the second way, which refers to humanity's “challenging” of nature. By way of calculative thinking, man successfully attacks and conquers nature. The emergence of modern science is pivotal here, as scientific rationalism facilitated and established this paradigm of control and management. (p.1160)


Heidegger, Degrowth, Liberal Democracies, Critique Of Modernity, Modernity


On Heidegger, Degrowth

Links to Reference



How to contribute.