Voluntary Simplicity and the Social Reconstruction of Law: Degrowth from the Grassroots Up
22 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2012
Date Written: February 10, 2011
Degrowth scholars and other growth skeptics have done a considerable amount of important work exposing the many defects inherent to the dominant macroeconomics of growth (Kallis, 2011; Latouche 2009; Jackson 2009; Victor 2008; Daly 1996). In recent years a growing body of literature has also emerged exploring what structural changes could be undertaken to facilitate the emergence of a degrowth or steady-state economy (Alexander 2011a, Jackson 2009; Hamilton 2003). Very little has been written, however, on what role social or cultural evolution may need to play in providing the necessary preconditions for such structural change. The neglect of this issue is problematic for two main reasons. First, it seems highly unlikely that a degrowth or steady-state economy will ever arise voluntarily within cultures generally comprised of individuals seeking ever-higher levels of income and consumption (Hamilton and Denniss, 2005). Accordingly, before growth economics can be overcome, this significant cultural obstacle must be acknowledged, confronted, and somehow transcended. Secondly, even if notions of degrowth or steady-state economics were to gain widespread acceptance within a culture, it seems highly unlikely that a degrowth or steady-state economy would arise voluntarily unless people had some idea of what needed to be done at the personal and community levels to bring about such an economy (Trainer, 2010; Hopkins, 2008). In other words, it is not enough merely to offer a critique of existing structures of growth; it is equally important to explore the question of how one ought to live in opposition to those structures. This paper engages some aspects of these complex issues by looking into what role social movements may have to play in creating the preconditions needed for a degrowth or steady-state economy to materialize. More specifically, this paper examines the potential of the Voluntary Simplicity Movement to socially reconstruct law to that end.
Keywords: voluntary simplicity, degrowth, steady state, post-growth, social movements, law, social construction
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