Post growth in Berlin

Last friday in Berlin. Conference about post-growth titled “Jenseits des Wachstum”, organized by attac. It was the atempt to set the debate on the national agenda after similar discussion lines (“decroissance”, “buen vivir”) already became important in other regions.

It is the question about how we are going to live in the future. Starting point of the analysis: Western lifestyle is not sustainable, regarding the ended resources of our planet. Oil peak and co2 emissions are just the the most urgent issues, but all our material consumption has to be included, surely the question of how to feed a world of 9 milliard of people.

Ecology is just one side of the coin. The other leads us to the question whether the aim of economic growth has been anyway of success. There is still a milliard of people starving, 2 other milliards have only the most necessary, and inequality kept growing in the so called developed world over the last 3 decades, making unemployment one of the most serious topic's of our time. Economic growth, athough paradigma for any political thinking in these times, does not offer solutions for either the ecological nor the social topics.

It' s the totality in which the concept influences all kind of social debates that I became aware of in Berlin. Germany is doing well these days, it has a growth of 3-4 percent – Hurray! But is it really a reason for boundless joy?

People are not only following the logic of the economic market. What about all the other decisions we take in our lives? Time we spend to grow up children, doing voluntary work, taking care of relatives, neighbors and communities. Decisions we take on education and workplaces although we know that we will gain less money. In Germany it´s just about a third of the working hours that people are getting paid for. After a certain level of wealth (around 15.000$ a year), people do not become significantly more content when they get richer. Why is it then, that in politics we just look to the growth of the GNP/BSP?

The conference offered a range of ideas about a post-growth society, from old style concepts of shortening of the work week to an unconditioned basic income, from the consensus between ecological an social aims to the implementation of other concepts of time.

It also raised questions. Are human needs really infinite? Can economic growth be sufficiently decoupled from the usage of resources? Will a post-growth society still base on capitalism or are there inherent defects in the system (accumulation of capital)? Will we have one market, no market or many different markets? What about the necessary growth in the south?

Discussion is opened to get heated.

(For those who want more: text about the question who growth entered our soules by Harald Welzer, follow the link to download. And below: video from the final discussion with Barbara Muraca, Matthias Schmelzer, Hans-Jürgen Urban, Angelika Zahrnt - in German)

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