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

Indeed, Heideggerian-infused notions such as mindfulness and sufficiency could be key concepts for a liberal degrowth vocabulary. They represent a relaxed and, in effect, liberal stance towards life that may yield radical consequences nonetheless e if large numbers of people choose to live and vote by it. Also, note how therecent modernity critique by Rosa (2016) focuses on the impoverished relations of man towards oneself, towards others and towards nature e and thus exhibits similarities to Heidegger. In Rosa's terminology, processes of social acceleration lead to alienation (selfalienation and social alienation, both in spatial and temporal respects). This alienation does not imply an essentialist notion of moving away from some “true” nature of human being, but rather points to the neglected and diminished capabilities of responsiverelating to the world. When we are alienated from the world, it appears silent and cold, devoid of meaning. Note that the processes of social acceleration that beget alienation are ambivalent e their negative effects notwithstanding, they are partly beneficial. In consequence, slowing down is no panacea; in some respects, such as internet access, acceleration is indeed beneficial. Hence, Rosa (2016) strikes a Heideggerian chord when he advocates “resonance” as a remedy: when we cultivate an attitude of openness towards others and towards nature (instead of a controlling, calculating stance), we create possibilities for meaningful relationsof “resonance” that need to be re-invigorated for a meaningful life. (p.1164)


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


On Heidegger, Degrowth

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