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Degrowth ideas can be traced back to the anti-industrialist trends of the 19th century, as an attempt to shrink production and consumption in society with the goal of social and ecological sustainability. But the term ‘degrowth’ (décroissance in French) properly appeared in literature during the 1970s, in the follow up to the Club of Rome report 'The limits of growth’. It gradually became a slogan against economic growth and developed into a social movement, most notably in France, Italy and Catalonia in Spain. (1). Latouch in his book 'Farewell to Growth' describes degrowth as a “political slogan with theoretical implications” (2: 7).

While the degrowth movement has been gaining traction since 2008, meanwhile the economies of Western countries have been collapsing into recession, illustrating the limits of economic growth and our current system, which has resulted in inequalities. The Easterlin ‘‘paradox’’ has shown that beyond the satisfaction of basic needs, happiness does not increase in line with GDP (3).

Degrowth does not aim to fit into our current society, it does not propose to be a ‘win-win’ that allows us to address environmental degradation while still maintaining our current lifestyles. It challenges ideas of ‘green economy’ and ‘green growth’ and acknowledges that continuing on our current path of economic growth is beyond planetary boundaries, is unsustainable. Rather, degrowth was born as a proposal for radical change (4).

What is Degrowth?

Degrowth is the intentional redirection of economies away from the perpetual pursuit of growth, with the eventual creation of a steady-state economic system that is in balance with Earth’s limits (5). Degrowth looks for alternative ways to bring about wellbeing, social justice and ecological sustainability in our society through equitable downscaling production and consumption.

How would it be achieved?

Within the degrowth movement and framework, there are many proposals and ideas on how to achieve this. The academic association Research & Degrowth has put together a list of 10 policy proposals, aimed at creating prosperity without growth, also endorsed by Naomi Klein:

1. Citizen debt audit.

2. Work-sharing.

3. Basic and maximum income.

4. Green tax reform.

5. Stop subsidizing and investing on activities that are highly polluting, moving the liberated public funds towards clean production.

6. Support the alternative, solidarity society.

7. Optimise the use of buildings. Stop the construction of new houses, rehabilitating the existing housing stock and facilitating the full occupation of houses

8. Reduce advertising. 

9. Establish environmental limits, such as caps on CO2 emissions, materials, water footprint or the surface area under cultivation.

10. Abolish the use of GDP as indicator of economic progress.



1. Research & Degrowth (2016). Short History, Research & Degrowth: Research and actions to consume less and share more. Available at: http://www.degrowth.org/short-history

2. Latouche S. (2009) Farewell to Growth UK, ISBN: 978-0-74564-617-6, 180 pp. – Polity Press.

3. Easterlin RA. (1974) Does economic growth improve the human lot? In: David PA, Reder Melvin W, editors. Nations and Households in Economic Growth: Essays in Honor of Moses Abramovitz. New York: Academic Press.

4. Demaria, F., Schneider, F., Sekulova, F., Martinez-Alier, J. (2013). What is degrowth? From an activist slogan to a social movement. Environmental Values 22 : 191–215.

5. Club for Degrowth (2013) Our Philosophy, Club for Degrowth. Available at: http://clubfordegrowth.org/our_philosophy

Further reading:


Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era, (2014) edited by Giacomo D’Alisa, Federico Demaria and Giorgos Kallis (vocabulary.degrowth.org), Routledge.

The Discreet Charm of Economic Growth: Part I: The Bilinguals and Part II: the making of an overriding preference. By Robert Baltazhar
Green Growth, Ideology, political economy and policy alternatives. Edited by Gareth Dale, Manu V. Mathai and Jose A. Puppim de Oliveira
A Future Beyond Growth: Towards a Steady State Economy. Edited by Haydn Washington, Paul Twomey.




Academic Publications 
Fierro, L.G. (2017) Re-thinking oil: compensation for non-production in Yasuní National Park challenging sumak kawsay and degrowth

Vetter, J. E. (2016). Metamorphosis I: A study of Degrowth, investigating conceptual sustainability in theory and transformative potential in practice.

Natale, A., Di Martino, S., Procentese, F., & Arcidiacono, C. (2016). De-growth and critical community psychology: Contributions towards individual and social well-being. Futures, 78, 47-56.

Hornborg, A. (2016). How to turn an ocean liner: A proposal for voluntary degrowth by redesigning money for sustainability, justice, and resilience. Journal of Political Ecology (Special issue on Culture, Power, Degrowth).

Drews, S., & Antal, M. (2016). Degrowth: A missile word that backfires? Ecological Economics, 126, 182-187.


Why Degrowth is not Malthusian. Watch Giorgos Kallis lecture at SOAS

Limits without scarcity.IKD Research Centre. Open University - Giorgos Kallis talks about Malthus, degrowth, eco-modernism and the commons.

ERG 22nd Annual Lecture 2016: Richard Norgaard explains how economism became a religion.


Keep connecting dots
Documental Decrecimiento (Degrowth Documentary)