Degrowth traces its origins back to late 1960s with a social, feminist and ecological critique of growth. It has now developed into a social movement and transdisciplinary research paradigm that advocates for a socio-economic and socio-cultural transformation to guarantee human flourishing for all within ecological limits. The word expresses an aspiration which cannot be pinned down to a simple sentence because it is both a missile word, social movement, emerging political-economic theory and end goal society that grounds itself in ideas from political ecology, ecological economics, feminist political ecology, decolonial studies and environmental justice.
Put broadly, degrowth advocates for a democratically-led and equitable downscaling of production and consumption that increases human wellbeing and enhances ecological conditions at the local and global level. (Schneider et al. 2010; D’Alisa et al. 2014).
The goals of which are to reduce the environmental impacts of human activities (restructure), redistribute income and wealth within and between countries (reconceptualise) and promote a self-and-collective transformation from a materialistic to convivial society centred around autonomy, sufficiency and care (re-evaluate) (Latouche 2009; Cosme et al. 2017; Weiss Cattaneo 2017).
Degrowth transformations can be achieved primarily through three means: oppositional activism – direct action from civil society, radical reformism – actions within existing institutions, and co-creating alternatives – creating new institutions (Parrique 2019). On a personal level, people can embody ‘living degrowth’ in the following ways; (1) rethinking society, (2) acting political, (3) creating alternatives, (4) fostering connections, and (5) unveiling the self (Brossmann & Islar 2019). However, it must be noted that practising degrowth is very context-dependent and the actions taken in one location may differ from another. Nonetheless, the overall values of autonomy, sufficiency, care, solidarity, diversity, peace and justice remain constant.