Essays on Frugal Abundance (2 of 4) by Serge Latouche

The Simplicity Institute has just published the second of Serge Latouche’s “Essays on Frugal Abundance.” I have posted a short excerpt below, and the full essay is available here. In these essays, Latouche responds to common misunderstandings and controversies around the notion of degrowth.

Degrowth means unemployment

For the advocates of growth, or in fact for ordinary people in modern societies, full employment is inextricably linked with growth. Since the end of the so-called ‘Trente Glorieuses’, the three decades of massive economic growth following the Second World War, unemployment has become a nightmare for industrialised economies once again. Sluggish growth (that is, 2 or 3% GDP growth per year) is indeed not sufficient to reduce it. Degrowth, which is often understood as ‘negative growth’, even though it is ecologically desirable, is thus considered to be a terrible prospect from a social standpoint, since a stronger growth, or even a two-digit growth would be necessary to get the economy back to full employment.

This misunderstanding is largely due to the fact that it is difficult to distance oneself from the mind-set of a growth society. We saw that a growth society without growth is the worst possible situation and has nothing in common with the degrowth agenda. For ‘objectors to growth’, to kick-start the economy by stimulating consumer demand and growth is ruled out on principle. A significant and compulsory working hour reduction is therefore one of the prerequisites to finding a way out of a work-based growth society, but also to guarantee everyone a satisfying job, in a context in which the consumption of natural resources needs to be reduced by two-thirds (at least for France). In order to be efficient, the working hour reduction should be massively implemented. Though it has undeniably resulted in job creations, the failure of the 35-hour-week scheme in France shows how this measure, however sensible it is, is hardly compatible with the prevailing capitalist system. On the one hand, in the context of competitive globalisation and the European market economy, it was a risky move to go it alone; on the other hand, without the prospect of actually getting out of productivism, the measure lost significant symbolic value. Challenging the central role of work in our society means undermining the concept of the growth economy, which is all the more reason to make it a central component of our agenda.

To read the full essay, click here.

The first essay in the series is available here.

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