Creating digitization in the sense of post growth

Report from the Degrowth Summer School in the Land of Leipzig

This year’s Degrowth Summer School took place at the Klimacamp Leipziger Land. The versatile program also involved our research group on ” Digitalisation and social-ecological transformation ” with the two-day workshop “Attention, digitalisation is coming !?”. In glorious sunshine, the weather showed from its warmest side, matching the climate camp. In heated discussions, the participants explored the connection between digitization and post-growth goals.

A broad field of opportunities and risks

The first day took a closer look at the status quo of digitization: where does it come from, how has it developed so far? Collecting up-to-date narratives and promises of digitization has made it clear that the widespread field of application of digitization can be a long way off – from decentralized energy systems, digital currencies, sharing platforms, automation, social media, new access to education and information, e- Participation, Smart Everything, the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, all the way to compulsory self-driving cars. Conclusion: In almost every area of ​​our lives, the digital collection has held or is predicted this move at least ever. The technologies are constantly evolving. All the more difficult to outline a clear picture of opportunities and risks. For example, in the area of ​​consumption, it has become clear that today, due to the expanded access to information, action knowledge and sustainable consumption, sustainable lifestyles are greatly simplified – in fact, these offerings tend to stay in the niche, while sales-oriented online shops are booming in the double-digit growth area and the fast-paced ones Continue to cheer on consumption. Even though many hopes are linked to digitization, the promotion of sustainability in digital innovations is by no means a matter of course and heavily dependent on the motives of the actors who are currently shaping the digital environment.

From information exchange to data and material battle

So who are the actors who shape the digital spaces? As the age of digitization began, the Internet was initially established as a stable information network for military operations by military and research actors. However, civil society idealists also saw great potential: In the 1960s and 1970s, hackers and activists of the counterculture movement were already fighting against military-industrial power and a life-friendly technology. They saw the Internet as a democratic and emancipatory space in which everyone could participate and which could be freely designed. Well, some 50 years later, a somewhat sobering conclusion can be drawn: admittedly, access to information and networking has increased. At the same time, however, we are seeing monopolization, commercialization, and thus increasing consumption of resource-intensive goods and services through the Internet, which is largely dominated by a few commercial actors. In addition, data protection still remains unresolved, as network policy platforms never tire of stressing. In their current form, digital spaces are characterized by consumer incentives and surveillance risks. The thesis that digitization in its current direction would contribute to a more sustainable world seems daring from this perspective.

Conviviality and sufficiency: how digitization can become post-growth friendly

On the second day of the workshop, the focus shifted to the design of sustainable digitization. On the one hand, three guiding principles from the book “Smart Green World” by Steffen Lange and Tilman Santarius were discussed together. Under the premise that society and politics must make digitization much stronger, they propose digital sufficiency, consistent data protection and public interest orientation as guiding principles for sustainable digitization. Following on from that, it was then concretely about the design of digital technologies. The concept of convivial, ie life-friendly technique of Andrea Vetter shows on the basis of effects on interpersonal relationships, access, self-determination, interaction with the biological environment and resource consumption on the different social, social and environmental impact of technology. The group carried out this over the concept work New Economy provided exercise on the example of the smartphone. The result showed that there is still room for improvement in the life-friendly design of digital devices.

Billing with the smartphone – the workshop participants were in the red, especially in ecological, but also social effects

Invitation to join in the co-design

Due to the extent of the topic, the participants went home with more questions than answers. If and how digitization can contribute to a post-growth society; In any case, this question will continue to accompany us in the future. It became clear that it is high time to change the current digital trends, to roll up the sleeves and to become active.

A broad social debate on which aspects of digitization we want to implement for a sustainable future is long overdue. Above all, it is important to increase the diversity of the design actors and not leave the field to commercial players. This is what the nine sponsoring organizations of the conference “Bits & Trees – The Conference for Digitization and Sustainability” thought. Therefore, on November 17 and 18, they invite the communities of sustainability and techie movements to address these very questions. If you feel like joining in the design of digitization, the event is highly recommended. As participants, but also as active designers: the Call for Participation is still open until 19.8.18 and we are looking forward to receiving contributions, especially from the post-growth movement!


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Away with the work ethic!

Why we urgently need to rethink the construct “work”

How can it be that we are increasingly questioning the hamster wheel – and at the same time increasingly hopping towards self-exploitation? An attempt to explain – and a plea for a collective rethinking.

In fact, there seem to be contradictory trends. On the one hand, more and more young people are seeking meaning in their lives beyond work and questioning their centrality in our society. We want to live and work freer, more flexible and more fulfilling, alternative models to the classic 9 to 5 job are becoming more popular. Some even dream of working as digital nomads while traveling around the world. Behind it is always the dream of a self-determined, fulfilled and varied life, which has more to offer than a stuffy office in the gray hometown and periodic Majorca vacations.

Such new lifestyles are made possible and favored by radical changes in our economic and social structure: automation, digitization and the flexibilisation of labor markets. These lead to a proliferation of non-classical, often short-term working relationships, such as temporary contracts and the outsourcing of many tasks to freelancers instead of permanent employees. While trade unions and many people, especially in the older generation, criticize these developments for good reasons – for example because of dwindling security, social security and predictability of life – many of us young people are somehow quite right. For nowadays, hardly anyone wants to commit to an employer for more than a few years, we want to remain flexible in every way. You can find it good or bad, but the trend is clearly visible.

For me, I find an internal conflict in this respect: On the one hand, I can understand the criticism of the above trends from a left perspective quite well and also largely share. But on the other hand, I also want to be flexible and I am afraid of the idea of ​​a permanent position. It may be that this view comes from a privileged academic middle-class bubble, and that we would find it less relaxed in poorer economic conditions. However, the fact is that development is progressing and that we probably will not return to the “old” – ie the manageable economic structures and employment relationships of the 20th century. What I want to point out is that the “old one” is not necessarily the best – and we have a real chance to make our society more worth living for all if we think collectively about work.

Self-realization and self-exploitation – a contradiction?

As indicated at the beginning, another phenomenon can be observed simultaneously with the increasing questioning of the classic 9-to-5 model in the younger generation. Paradoxically, the willingness to self-exploit, to market one’s own person, and the fundamental acceptance of the capitalist system seem greater than ever. Many young people do everything they can to maintain a perfect CV, sacrificing their 20s in endless learning and internship marathons, and are willing to work long and hard. Flocks of students are still looking for a well-paid and prestigious job. For example, at one of the major management consultancies. Often the focus is not on future work, but on the status, on the pay and on the winners. It does not matter if you have to do regular 60-hour weeks. When you think you have a lot of free time, many career people are terrified – they would not know what to do with themselves. This shows that status, self-esteem and identity in many parts of society continue to be attained primarily through the labor market.

These two trends, which at first glance seem to disagree – the search for meaning in life beyond work and the increasing career fixation – seem to be in parallel. While the career-minded are not hard to find, radical career objectors are still rare. However, those who simply do not want to spend most of their time working and who would like to change their priorities in life, are more and more likely to encounter it. And as contradictory as the two tendencies seem at first glance, they are two sides of the same coin. Because they are based on the same economic, social and technological upheavals: the breaking up of once secure social structures, the liberalization and flexibilisation of the markets, the digital revolution. The consequences of this are, on the one hand, increased individual freedoms, a multitude of new possible life plans and an acceleration in almost all areas of life, on the other hand growing insecurity, stronger competition and much shorter planning horizons. In response, they develop alternative life models and increasingly question old conventions, while others try to secure their own economic and social position as far as possible. Of course, there are also all imaginable shades of gray between these two ideal types.

In principle, the trend of increasingly questioning paid work as a central purpose of life is to be warmly welcomed. But how is it compatible with the simultaneous flexibilization and precarisation of working conditions and with an increasingly competitive, demanding and unpredictable reality? In other words, how to make one’s life free – by developing one’s personality, potential and individuality – when one is constantly forced to work full-time to make a living? There may be few lucky ones who have an absolutely fulfilling job. But for the vast majority of eight hours of daily working time (or more) hardly time and energy for self-realization.

Work needs are individual

Now you can ask various fundamental questions that lead us to the crux of the problem. For example, is not it a pity that work continues to be the main purpose of life for many people? Is man not so much more than a workhorse – connoisseur, potential artist, explorer? Does work, as many claim, have an intrinsic value that gives us dignity and meaning – or is this a system-stabilizing lie that we have swallowed in good faith? Should we not demand “less, and then better work for all,” instead of “more work for all”?

At the moment, politicians should not expect answers to these questions. In the land of Protestant work ethic, in which too many people still pay homage to work as an end in themselves and as a source of salvation, no politician wishing to win the election will risk it. If the demand for less work for all in this country would bring voters’ votes, it would probably long be found in the election programs of employee-friendly parties. Nevertheless, it is necessary that more people ask these questions. And that we can find timely answers to them – because only in this way can we meet the different life plans that are currently developing in the future. And this is the only way we can develop our society in a truly meaningful direction and give everyone more freedom and sovereignty.

The problem with the popularity of “enjoy-your-life” narratives of many hamster wheel critics is that it does not fundamentally question our understanding of work – and the value we ascribe to it individually and collectively. Instead of thinking seriously about a post-work society, we try to individually arrange ourselves as comfortably as possible in the existing system – ie to achieve a pleasant work-life balance or to lead a more diversified lifestyle as a digital nomad. As a rule, however, we accept the system and its precarious working conditions for ourselves and others. At the same time, we accept the existence of a large and growing number of dependents who, for a variety of reasons, can not compete in our competitive society – but are important to the functioning of the system as they maintain competitive and wage pressures. In this point, so few postmodern full-time critics differ from the careerists.

So far, so complicated – but what do we do with this realization? We must somehow manage to think and act collectively and in solidarity – and at the same time meet the increased need for individual freedom. The change must begin with a fundamental, collective questioning of our working world and morals. This may then result in concrete political demands aimed at a lasting improvement in the quality of life for all.

David Graeber has elegantly demonstrated in his essay ” Bullshit Jobs ” how superfluous and meaningless (in the sense of affability for the common good and society) is a frighteningly large part of the jobs that are being done these days. And how the most important and indispensable jobs – like educators and carers – are those with the lowest pay and low social status. At the same time, socially unimportant and sometimes even destructive activities (for example, a large part of the advertising industry or investment banking) enjoy the best pay and the most prestige – because our economic system primarily rewards what generates profit. Here is something fundamentally wrong!

These observations lead to further fundamental questions: Which activities and products are really important for our coexistence? How much work do we need and want in our society? I would dare to lean out of the window and say: Definitely less than now! Work is not an end in itself and in most cases annoying and tedious. And it keeps us away from the things that are really important: friendship, love, creativity, sports, nature, art and culture – just to name a few examples. We should therefore take a radical step and end the idealization of gainful employment once and for all!

Which political decisions are needed?

Technical progress would allow us to work much less and have more freedom over our time. For this to be possible for all, however, the course had to be set at the political level. A first possible step would be, for example, a significant increase in the minimum wage. As a result, more people could decide to work a little less while maintaining their standard of living. In addition, we could redefine “full time” – about 20, 25 or 30 hours per week. This would be an incentive to spread the work more fairly and on more shoulders – and incidentally we would reduce involuntary unemployment. For most workers currently work unnecessarily much – while millions of unemployed do not work, although they want. The absurdity of this situation is actually obvious, but is far too rarely pronounced.

A particularly promising remedy against work delusions would probably be an unconditional basic income (BGE) in the long term. For those who do not have to work hard to survive will be more likely to consider whether and how much he / she wants to work – and what he / she wants to use his / her precious energy for. For a BGE to become majority in Germany, however, the questioning of our work ethic must first go on and arrive in the social mainstream. And we need to think and act more in collective and political rather than individual categories – and steer the debates in the right direction.

If these conditions are fulfilled and more people are aware of the value of their (free) time, we can see automation as a liberating force rather than a threat to our jobs. If the machines can do my job better, faster and more efficiently, they should! I have more important things to do. And if careerists still want to go to work because they think they are lucky, they can do that. The main thing is that everyone else gets the chance to find meaning and identity outside the working world and to develop more freely. The burial of our work fetish is the first step towards the liberation of the individual from the forced corset imposed on us by the meritocracy – the inevitability of dependent wage labor and the marketing of one’s own person. Until it comes to that, there is probably still a lot of (persuasive) work ahead of us.

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2084: Why the venture into the unknown is worthwhile

“It was a bright [warm] day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

It would hardly have been surprising if Paul Raskin’s utopia of a “homeland earth” had begun with these words. Given the current global developments, a dystopia based on Orwell, an updated Twenty Eighty-Four version, would be a likely outcome in an attempt to look to the future. But Raskin delivers with his Journey to Earthland [2] the exact opposite: the vision of a positive future.

The co-founder and President of the US Tellus Institute has spent many years developing models and scenarios to describe humanity’s potential development pathways in terms of water and energy consumption, economic and demographic growth, and CO 2 emissions (Raskin et al., 2010; Raskin et al 2001, SEI 2006).

In Journey to Earthland, Raskin summarizes the results of his work and outlines in the first part of the book the path of human history so far, which describes the well-known curves of uninhibited growth. Arrived in the here and now, the author shows possible development paths of the future (various Tomorrowlands ). Of these different paths, however, the author chooses neither the dystopian nor the business-as-usual scenarios (if there is any difference between them). Instead, in the following section, the author looks at the “Great Shift,” the viable path to a civilized, planetary future.

This path represents a departure from the previously dominant growth paradigm. Raskin describes this way (and this is what distinguishes the book) that readers are not afraid of a future of privation and renunciation. Raskin succeeds in doing this in the third and last part of the book by taking a look at this future or, better still, by looking out of this future in the year 2084, a snapshot of Future II, the “perfect future”. He emphasizes the many gains in the coexistence of people through a new global “we-feeling”, without denying diversity and individuality.

That does not mean that Raskin has written down pure fiction or even castles in the air. His scenarios are based on solid scientific work (see Raskin et al., 2010). This is also the foundation of his vision of the future of Earthland , which, albeit fictitious, is in the best sense of the word a scientific or science fiction .

In Part 1, Raskin begins the journey into “Homeland Earth” in the forgery through human history, which he describes as a history of ongoing exponential acceleration. While the Stone Age lasted about 100,000 years, the following phases of human history are each one-decade shorter. The early phase of civilization, beginning with sedentary life of 10,000 years, on the modern age, including nation states and industrialization (about 1000 years) to the planetary phase of globalization, which may have passed before the end of the century. Today, after entering the planetary phase, whose many changes have brought us to a historic crossroads, mankind must make a directional decision despite the described acceleration: The signpost shows the three main paths “Great Change”, “Conventional Worlds” and “Barbarization” , The author sketches these paths with their different branches from “collapse” to the “new paradigm” before embarking on the path of “great change” with his readers.

In the second part of the book, Raskin describes the guard rails of this path to planetary civilization through two retrospectives of the future in 2084. In the first part of the book, he follows the turn “Political Reform” on the path “Conventional Worlds”. In this way, the many voices for a reform of the current political rules of the game will slowly become established and lead to the formation of a global social democracy. The world would become a “well constructed shopping center” that could service most people, but not allow people and nature to flourish. The second review comes from a “world of fortresses” after humanity has followed the path of “barbarization”. Raskin sees the emergence of climate disasters, pandemics and social chaos as a consequence of this future.


Following on from these future reports, Raskin contrasts the adherence to the growth paradigm (scenario “market forces”) with the departure from this (“Great Change” scenario). He uses these two scenarios to show the range of possible developments of variables such as the world population, working hours, carbon dioxide emissions or energy consumption (Raskin et al., 2010).

The third part of his book is dedicated to a report from the civilized future in 2084. This report first tells the story of the Great Transition in its five stages: Takeoff (1980-2001), Rolling Crisis (2001-2023), General Emergency (2001-2023). 2023-2028), The Reform Era (2028-2048) and Commonwealth of Earthland (2048-2084). To give some color to the “homeland of Earth”, Raskin again borrowed from Orwell and translates its tripartite division into the super- states of Oceania, Eurasia and East Asia into new ” superregions ” of Earthland. While Orwell’s tripartite division clearly reflects the ideas of the “First World to the Third World”, Raskin also tries to take into account today’s ideas of geographic, cultural and ideological differences: Agoria, a market-believing “Sweden 10 times”, about ecodemia , an economic democracy socialist traces, to Arcadia, a region of idyllic, rural and anarchistic dreams. Detailed descriptions of political and economic structures, of the people themselves, of education, spirituality as well as justice and environmental aspects give a picture of Earthland with great courage to detail. Finally, the Future Report – and thus the book – ends with words of gratitude to the previous generations who have taken the first steps on the path of Great Change.

In a time when, despite niggling doubt, in the global North the passive persistence of preserving the status quo in the false hope is the supposedly safer choice than the active departure into a new future, one thing is lacking above all else: a concrete idea of the future – a goal for which a departure into the unknown is worthwhile. Although it may not be the original task of scientists to design such a vision of the future, it is the task of every human being who is committed to the survival of (human) life on earth. And this group should – like Paul Raskin – confess all who do science.


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Society must move together

Sufficiency, especially in construction, still does not receive the necessary attention. According to the Federal Environmental Agency, living space consumptions per person increased from 39.5m² to 46.5m² between 2000 and 2014, even if different groups of people work bravely and tirelessly on the subject: environmental associations and growth critics inform about the necessities, have solution words at hand and hope that enlightened citizens promote implementation. There are theoretically far-reaching solution concepts that sustainability-oriented planners offer. However, although the construction of Tinyhouses, cluster apartments or shared spaces has been thought through, the market has only picked up these impulses at its edges.

Other intentions are Daniel Fuhrhop . Only with his (so called by him) pamphlet and the same name and always liked by me blog, prohibits the building ‘. This has made him a respected representative of a radical position on many podiums in Germany. Because his attitude is clear and understandable, but also a bit strange in a society that unrestrained sealed their land with new buildings.

Now he’s presenting a new book: ” SIMPLY OTHERWISE . Over 66 space wonders for a relaxed home, vibrant neighborhood and green cities “.

That sounds like a change from Fundi to Realo and surprised. No more not building is in the foreground, but there are proposals made to less harmful construction. But why not? If you light a candle on two sides, it burns faster. Because the thrust of both books is ultimately aimed at the content-related phenomena: insufficient space consumption, local housing shortages, rising housing costs and corresponding resource consumption for construction and operation.

While Fuhrhop in the pamphlet reveals grievances that could be corrected in many cases only regulatively, the author tries with the room wonder stories and examples such as the conversions by Gerd Streng, us, the Wohnflächebenutzer / inside to make you want to purify and slimming our grown claims and habits.

Whether one understands the suggestions and examples as appeals or as opportunities, this is left to the reader. There are no abstract and theoretical ideas, no ideological demands on the irresponsible consumers, but lovingly researched themed offers. Positive images, a cheerful color scheme, a lively and varied layout try to convey the benefits of the proposed measures. Instead of triggering forefinger or anxiety, Fuhrhop tries to make you want to focus on the diet.

Interactively with a questionnaire on whether to be an Entrümpler (for me, the questionnaire was the middle class on the Entrümpler scale), with innovative concepts for communal living, with plans by the occupying (rather than sprawling) architect Gerd Strict or space-saving furniture, such as beds under which there is a workplace during the day and which can be lowered from the ceiling in the evening.

But Fuhrhop does not only illustrate and report on the trend towards space-saving furniture (incidentally already taken up by furniture stores a few years ago), but also expands the theme beyond the four walls in which we live.

He suggested that it be possible to check whether it would be possible to move together in one’s own home (usually associated with small conversion measures), report on the more flexible use of space in innovative concepts for communal living, and expand his proposals to the neighborhood. If the prevailing anonymity of residential environments is resolved, if a neighborhood is well connected, then some of the consumer needs shifted to the private sector can be reduced. You can share lawnmowers, lend tools to each other, unused find new users and the resulting more intense social contacts make you feel a safer, more familiar, comfortable and common in the immediate vicinity. Not always measurable in square meters, but quite relevant sustainability aspects.

With the chapter “Re-use houses”, he closes the line to his first book and stays true to himself: avoiding new construction.

Unfortunately, unfortunately, an important reduction of living space will not be achieved by dazzling construction concepts or entertaining stories to the extent that is necessary. There are – absurdly – the so immensely increased housing costs in the sought-after metropolitan areas much more powerful. You live smaller again because bigger is not affordable. But in addition to this area-wide reduction in demand due to price increases, legislative restrictions will be required.

But as long as they are not decided, only positive, useful and inspiring example stories will help. She delivered Fuhrhop, thinking far into a comprehensive whole of topics.


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Towards a trade-off between sustainability and return

Companies are confronted with a conflict of objectives, also referred to as trade-off in English. This arises when objectives and financial goals are not compatible. Companies often face the dilemma: should they invest in socially and ecologically sustainable measures or where a financial gain can be expected?


On a limited planet, the economy can not grow indefinitely. This insight is based on the model of a post-growth economy, which focuses on sufficiency and the lowest possible consumption of raw materials, energy and land . What does that mean for the companies? A post-growth economy requires companies to operate sustainably and conserve natural resources. Profit-oriented companies easily find themselves in a conflict of goals. Especially corporations (AG, GmbH) often find it difficult to reconcile sustainability and profit.

The Business Case for CSR

Established circles in politics and business like to claim that sustainability and profitability are readily reconcilable, based on the so-called Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This requires companies to set innovative CSR measures and generate profits. CSR companies should also be able to service a conventional bank loan and generate attractive returns for investors. Against the business case argues that CSR measures are associated with additional operating costs that reduce the profit of the company and give the owners a lower return.
Now, if a company is planning a sustainable investments? with low returns, then it does something for the common good, but is unprofitable from a classic perspective. In this case, investors would have to forego returns and the state would have to subsidize the company so that it does not go bankrupt. And because this is not an option for classic economists, they only allow the favorable case: that CSR companies also need to be able to generate profits and generate a positive return.

Open questions

The trade-off between sustainability and return raises completely new questions:

  • How profitable are sustainable investments?
  • Are companies able to take sustainable CSR measures while generating a return that satisfies both creditors and owners?
  • If not, to what extent is the state required to promote CSR measures?
  • What is the overall economic potential of eligible CSR measures?
  • If the state promotes CSR measures, then how can one exclude that state private-sector
    Profits subsidized?

The topic seems so complex and can not be dealt with the well-known, financial-economic theorems.


What are the implications of the trade-off between sustainability and return? To investigate this question, a favorable and an unfavorable case should first be considered. In the best case, a company generates a positive return high enough to service a conventional bank loan. In the worst case scenario, the company’s return is low or fluctuates around the zero line. From a classic point of view, such a company is unprofitable and will find it hard to find investors who join the company or get a loan from a bank.

When the economy slows down

In general, starting from the favorable case and a positive performance, seems in the face of recurring crises no longer timely. When the economy slows down, the trade-off between sustainability and return is particularly acute. Companies are more likely to invest in measures that ensure their continued existence than in social and environmental CSR measures. In order not to jeopardize sustainable economic development in such a situation, the state should create favorable conditions for sustainable investment.

Government regulation with taxes and subsidies

The trade-off between sustainability and return can not easily be resolved according to a classical pattern. Market economy concepts reach their limits here. What is needed is a new policy of state regulation with taxes and subsidies. Especially in a weak economy, the state should take countermeasures with fiscal measures and ensure that sustainable companies receive cheap equity and debt.

One instrument to help companies access equity is a special wealth tax on risk-free investments. A tax of 3% on overnight money and time deposits, safe government bonds and other risk-free and quasi-risk-free investments over a tax-free allowance of € 100,000 would be conceivable in order to protect the small savers. If risk-free investments are taxed more heavily, then investors are more willing to invest in companies and provide equity capital to companies.

Another instrument for the targeted promotion of sustainable investment is the interest-free or low-interest development loan, which is awarded according to strict, social and ecological standards. This can be a conventional bank loan, where the state grants a subsidy to cut interest costs. In this way, companies can reduce the interest burden and get the financial leeway they need to carry out social and environmental CSR measures.


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Will the right to advertising freedom come soon?

A Berlin initiative has big plans: it wants to usher in the end of the era of commercialization of the city

How prevalent advertising and consumption are on the streets and squares of our cities, many people notice at most unconsciously. If one addresses the subject in the circle of acquaintances, one often gets questioning looks – so much have we got used to the ubiquity of commerce and perceive it as a normal part of public space. However, since I heard of the citizens’ initiative Berlin Werbefrei , I am increasingly struck by how obtrusive and intrusive are the constant advertising messages in buses and trains, on house walls, at bus stops and on freestanding billboards. In the meantime, in certain parts of the city, I sometimes feel like I’m in a long-distance TV commercial – with a broken remote control. Because I can hide or switch off the advertising in the city unfortunately not. The initiative is now working with a bill to reduce this constant sensory overload through product and service advertising on our streets and squares to an absolute minimum. Whether that can work?

Yes, according to Fadi El-Ghazi. The lawyer and co-founder of the initiative runs since the announcement of the project from one press date to the next. There is a lot of interest, and opinions differ enormously on the subject. With a friendly smile, he explains what the activists are all about: “Our main concern is to signal against the commercialization of the city and to make a democratic decision on the use of public space. We believe that not only large corporations should serve as a projection screen for their advertising campaigns, but should be used and designed by all citizens. After all, he is common property and living space, and not a commodity. “

According to the bill, which the group has submitted to the Berlin Senate and for which it is currently initiating a referendum, commercial advertising in the public area of ​​Berlin would be inadmissible with few exceptions from the entry into force. Advertisements for events and charitable and cultural purposes, however, would still be possible, but on designated areas (eg Litfass columns) and limited to the maximum dimension A0. In addition, every store on its own façade should continue to promote itself as long as a height of 10 meters is not exceeded. That such a step is possible, have already proven cities like Sao Paulo in Brazil and Grenoble in France with their outdoor advertising bans.

The impact of the law on the face of the city and the perception of public space would be enormous. “I’m looking forward to a city without advertising. Without the annoying, constantly and everywhere insistent purchase requests, the often tasteless or degrading advertising messages … Instead, the view would be free again on architecture, green areas or simply the sky. And one or two dreary walls would be a wonderful area for art without advertising, “says Sarah Mohs, product designer and co-founder of the initiative.

Apart from a visual reassurance of the cityscape, such a ban on outdoor advertising means a noticeable revaluation of public space – as a place of encounter, of social life and of exchange. It would be a sign that not all areas of commercialization need to be divulged and that public goods as such are valued and protected. In addition, smaller stores would attract more attention again – which is why local retailers can look forward to it.

The bill also creates regulations for public institutions such as schools, colleges and even the Berlin public transport authorities: for example, a ban on the advertising of day-care centers and schools (which does not exist at law so far), and clear rules for sponsorships at universities, which ensure transparency here should. The aim of these regulations is to protect the neutrality and independence of public institutions.

Those who are concerned with the psychological, ecological and social effects of advertising are quick to wonder why we have not banished advertising from the cityscape – and perhaps from other areas as well. Apart from the fact that advertising can promote stress and depression , it is above all one thing: massive waste of resources. Billboards use tons of paper and glue – just to be replaced after a few days. Digital billboards eat a lot of electricity and contribute to light pollution. In addition, especially in the wake of a post-growth debate, the human resources claimed by advertising should not be neglected. How much energy and creativity are wasted on constantly developing new advertising campaigns and encouraging consumerism? All the people involved could use their energy in a much more meaningful way.

But a system that relies on growth can not do without raising ever-changing needs. Anyone who campaigns for sufficient consumerism, must therefore constantly work against the overpowering advertising industry – ultimately a Sisyphus task. An outdoor advertising ban, given the variety of advertising opportunities, is certainly only a small step, but it goes in the right direction and sends an important signal. And the debate about it can help sensitize more people to the commercialization of public life and the growth paradigm hidden behind it. Should Berlin be the first European capital to be serious and introduce the “right to freedom of advertisement”, other cities will most likely follow.


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Education for the Postal Growth Society

How can education pave the way to a post-growth society? Globalization, growth orientation, digitization and de-traditionalisation, which has been taking place in our society for decades, are constantly changing their structures: challenges such as demographic change, the undeniable environmental destruction, frequent economic and financial crises, an increase in social inequality and migratory movements are becoming ever more present. Over millennia old handed down knowledge and passed on skills are replaced by highly complex forms of technical achievements as well as the introduction of new media. A resulting increase in the loss of basic survival skills and the power of existence (Marianne Gronemeyer) is palpable. How the future will look like, less and less can be derived from the present or the past.

The “present-day man” is therefore increasingly confronted with the task of designing his own biography without a historical model, in such a way that the human being and the preservation of nature as our livelihood are in the mind and trade focus with the goal of ensuring long-term life. and not primarily economic and social constraints. Then the individual needs to be prepared as part of a large-scale post-growth education initiative. An educational initiative that includes the following building blocks:

This is exactly what is being prepared in the training as a coach for career and lifestyle orientation at the Institute for Youth Work Gauting, in an educational initiative that deals with the following questions:

Building block post-growth economics (PWÖ), PWÖ projects:

  • What does our society look like today? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this form of society?
  • How can one imagine the post-growth economy as an alternative form of economy and life? What makes post-growth economics necessary for survival in our society today? Which values, which ideas are behind this orientation? Which PWÖ projects are there? How are these achievable?

Module change:

  • How should a person behave if a change is to succeed permanently?
  • How can the transition from the post-growth economy as a project to the post-growth economy as a lived everyday life succeed?
  • How can the uncertainties and fears associated with each change be countered?

Component lifestyle and career orientation:

  • How do I want to live? Which lifestyle corresponds to my individual inner and outer rhythms?
  • In which areas can I and would like to declutter, throw off wealth balloons, curb sensory overload and regain time sovereignty?
  • What role should (employment) work play? What other areas should shape my life? How can a holistically coherent post-growth-oriented occupational reorientation on the spectrum from classical gainful employment to self-employment, taking account of livelihood security and sustainability, also succeed in retirement and illness?
  • How does one rediscover skills and talents that make life self-determined?

Building block social interactions:

  • How can I free myself from a growth-, performance-, consumer- and security-oriented, job-market-oriented, self-centered socialization?
  • How can the challenges arising from a consistent change in the direction of the PWÖ be solved on the social interaction level, such as conflicts, exclusion, incomprehension on the part of fellow human beings?

As part of this educational initiative, knowledge about the necessity of a change and possible PWÖ projects will be imparted, upheaval situations will be actively shaped and the associated states of tension will be dissolved.

For this process to succeed, will / will:

  • Asked in depth questions the previous individual components of life,
  • sheds light on which fears and self-esteem issues hinder an inner as well as an external movement towards more individual coherence,
  • via a clear positioning to a decision at the interface: “Do I dare something new?” or “Do I stay in the familiar?”,
  • Through targeted mental, physical and emotional exercises and tasks, concrete steps for implementation are developed, guided and accompanied so that they can be tied to their own resources and the basis for a post-growth-oriented realignment can be created.

The profit:

Those who embark on the educational process outlined recover time sovereignty, lead a lifestyle that corresponds to the individual’s internal as well as external rhythms, restores the connection to nature and rediscovers its basic skills and talents that make it possible to live one’s life self-determined.


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End of growth – work without end?

What does a typical day in 2040 look like??

Will we freely divide our time, what are the needs of ourselves and other people in our community? How about you and me, maybe this week we’re working twenty times instead of thirty in our collective so we can finally fix this wheelchair ramp to the kids shop?

Or is our time schedule dependent on other things? Maybe you’re a nurse, you work in a hospital – in a private, public health care became almost irrelevant ten years ago – and you’re told you’ll need to take half an extra ward this week. You quickly send a cancellation to the volunteer clinic, because you suspect that you can not help out today – there you sometimes work voluntarily to support people who can not afford health treatments …

How self-determined our work is depends on the conditions in which we work, how different forms of work are recognized, and also on what motives we work. The book “End of growth – work without end” deals not only critically with future scenarios for a world of work without economic growth, it dares also to basic questions (what is work?), Makes concrete proposals, such as the concepts of electoral working time and the Commoning , and considers issues such as care work , gender equality, working time (reduction), fair wage culture, basic income, productivity and environmental impact, role of welfare state and alternative modes of production.

The book was edited by Hans Diefenbacher, Benjamin Held and Dorothee Rodenhäuser and was created from the conference of the same name in 2015. It contains contributions from various disciplines, especially economics and sociology. The contributions are diverse – most likely to be summarized as answers to the question: What can work in a world without economic growth look like and what challenges can be expected?

The basic knowledge, which is highlighted in the introduction to the book by Volker Teicher and Hans Diefenbacher, hovers over these questions: they analyze scenarios that focus on changing the world of work through Industry 4.0 and immigration – and conclude that the socio-ecological Aspects do not receive enough attention. Could these changes be used as a chance to design changes in the world of work? Such changes could include anchoring more recognition for care work in the state, as Mascha Madörin points out in her contribution to “Reflections on the Future of Care Work,” or, as proposed by Christine Ax, work based on the concept of “working” to shape craftsmanship – for example, when energy production is decentralized again taken by citizens themselves in the hand. Jürgen Rinderspacher acknowledges with the simplistic conclusion that reductions in working hours are automatically associated with relief for the environment – on the one hand they do not necessarily lead to lower productivity in the industry, because new jobs could easily be created, and on the side of the employees is unclear whether the newly gained time would not be used for polluting activities.

A concrete tool is the electoral working time proposed by Andreas Hoff, with which one could flexibly vary the working time within a certain hourly margin. A vision is also described by Brigitte Kratzwald: She sees in Commoning a mode of production based on need satisfaction and community. Michael Opielka asks how a welfare state without economic growth can organize and finance areas such as culture, health and education and proposes a “transversal” social policy. The term goes back to Nira Yural-Davis and is described by Opielka in a succinct sketch as a policy that takes human rights as a point of reference and promotes personal rather than material growth. It concludes with examples of current post-growth projects, whose employees were interviewed by the AG Postwachstumsgesellschaft (teaching research project at the Goethe University Frankfurt) around Birgit Blättel-Mink, Alexandra Rau and Sarah Schmitz on their experiences. The participating projects did not necessarily define themselves as a post-growth project: they surveyed a coffee collective, physicians who provide voluntary uninsured migrants, a solidary clinic and an ethical bank. It was about how the actors of these projects organize and perform their work – eg. For example, the question of how care work is integrated or how work is designed to promote health. The answers are as varied as the projects studied; The conclusion emphasizes, among other things, the tension between critique of capitalism and the simultaneous necessity to grow as a project in order to be able to survive (and, if necessary, to be able to pay fair wages).

The arguments are conclusive and understandable, even for readers who have no sociological or economic background. When reading, one would occasionally wish that the authors directly respond to problems formulated elsewhere in the book – as a compilation of such diverse contributions to the conference, as a reader one tends to be more inclined to produce references himself. While there are felt to be as many suggestions for this change as challenges and points of discussion are raised, the contributions are upbeat and hope that the work of the future will be oriented toward needs, community and self-determination.


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From the lonely to the common time

Desynchronization as a problem of the service society

Postal growth is not necessarily equivalent to degrowth. Growth should not necessarily be renounced. But in the growth-oriented services society, some circumstances tend to become issues that need to be addressed in new ways today. These circumstances include, according to Hartmut Rosa, temporal desynchronization. Rosa distinguishes different types of temporal desynchronization. Here, however, it is about another form of desynchronization, namely the desynchronisation of life tempi, which is of great importance for the everyday life of humans.

The historical synchronization of life tempi

Before the discussion about desynchronization, a clarification of the concept of synchronization is needed.

By synchronizing tempi of life one can understand the situation that all humans lead the life on the basis of a common temporal model, z. For example, you can go to work during the same period of time and have a break. Historically, the tempi of life in pre-modern agrarian society were already based on a common rhythm, which was determined by nature, for example by changing the seasons. However, the evolution towards industrial society resulted in a different kind of synchronization, since now the fixed, simultaneous working hours gave people a daily structure that took place independently of the rhythm of nature.

In order to increase the productive power and efficiency, the entrepreneurs, especially in the manufacturing sector, wanted to extend working hours as far as possible. U. a. against the exploitation caused by prolonged working hours, the workers turned in their subsequent labor disputes. Against the background of this class struggle, political and economic powers began exercising their right to regulate working time in the first half of the 20th century. After German reunification, the Working Hours Act (ArbZG) plays the most important role. In addition to the adequate limitation of the maximum working time, the ArbZG defines on the one hand the beginning and the end of the working time and on the other hand has an indirect influence on when leisure time can take place. In an industrialized society, the law-bounded limit between work and leisure is considered by most to be a temporal model of lifestyle. The tempi of life are also generally synchronized, since the rest of life around the working time has to be aligned.

In addition to the problems that synchronize the tempi of life, such as the imbalance between working and free time, also the change from the industrial to the service society and the associated desynchronization brings with it challenges.

Today’s desynchronization of life tempi

A characteristic of the service society is the flexibilization of the working time for a part of the employees. As a result, everyday life, which took place in the course of the development of industrial society within a rigid structure, is dissipated. There is less and less a certain period of time that serves purely as a work or leisure time. The validity of a common temporal model becomes increasingly weaker with the rise of the service society. I’m going to work now, but my friends may just go to bed; One day I finally get out while my family members have to work or go to school. Even if I finally have a period with my partner for dinner, the meal may be interrupted from time to time by the smartphone. At dinner we sit facing each other, but our souls are not in sync then. We miss more and more often; So the tempi of life are increasingly asynchronous.

This can have serious repercussions on people’s well-being, for example by undermining time with their partner, friend or family member, because there are so few shared periods of free time available. While in the industrial society it was still necessary to fight for one’s own time – time for ourselves, which can also be spent with friends and family members – in the service society it is often a problem that the own time is often not with friends or the family can be shared.

Time coordination as a task for the post-growth society

Against this background, it would be a task in the post-growth-oriented society to coordinate different life tempi in such a way that the quality of life of the people is positively influenced. We no longer just need own time, but common time. This task therefore refers to time coordination. If I want to spend time together with my family (eg a family vacation), I can not just passively wait for holidays, but I and my family members have to actively plan our time together. Maybe I need the colleagues who want to step in for me. As a result, horizontal coordination between the individuals involved plays an important role in overcoming the desynchronization problem of the service society.

However, the coordination of working hours often entails a problem of justice. For example, employee participation on the beginning and end of daily working hours today takes place mainly in a negotiation process between the works council and the employer. In companies without a works council, however, the employer often has the option of setting working hours within the framework of legal regulations alone. In addition, working hours are becoming harder to limit or define due to the tendency towards flexibilisation. Perhaps every worker should be given the right in the future to have a say in the definition and the laying down of working time. In other words, the right to codetermine working time should be considered a basic and individualized labor law in the future. How to realize such a right is, of course, a complicated question. But it pays off to think about this question on the way to the post-growth society.


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Platform Capitalism or Alternative Economy?

This year, the Association for Ecological Economic Research (VÖW) invites you to Wuppertal from the 1st to the 5th of October for the 8th Autumn Academy .

Sharing Economy: Platform Capitalism or Alternative Economy?

Sharing in itself is not a new concept and belongs in many cultures heard parts still today in all areas of life to everyday life – not least as a necessity to use scarce resources as sparingly as possible. And yet: in the course of digitization, parts of the Westernized world, most of which has become individualized and property-oriented, have also experienced a much-noticed renaissance. As part of the so-called “sharing economy”, fundamentally new business models, consumer and supply patterns have been tested and successfully brought to market in recent years. Platform vendors such as Airbnb and Uber have revolutionized entire markets and have quickly become major competitors in their respective industries. Initiatives such as foodsharing or urban gardening and co-working show how sharing can create new communities and potentially bring about positive environmental and social impacts. The integration of new mobility services such as car sharing and bike sharing enable new, multimodal transport concepts. Sharing understood as “sharing and sharing” promotes a rethinking of dialogue and decision-making processes. The examples mentioned have a common denominator – they take place at the local level.

Lifestyles, business models and sharing strategies in the city

As many examples show, sharing offers at the local level in particular have the potential for positive social and environmental effects. Here they often have the potential to shape the context, its actors and their behavior. So how can urban development look in the context of the sharing debate? What are the potentials and which solutions might be at the interface between sharing and urban development? In this year’s academy, the potential of sharing in the city in relation to a more sustainable form of economic activity will be examined. Questions to be addressed are: Which types of sharing contribute to a fundamental rethinking of one’s own lifestyle and how does that affect consumer behavior? How can civil society initiatives stand on their own two feet and stabilize or even expand their involvement? To what extent can sharing act as an “entry gate” to sustainable business management? How do companies deal with trend sharing and how does this affect their respective environment?


At the autumn academy, impulses, field visits and intensive group work alternate. Wuppertal companies and sharing initiatives present their strategies and their effects, experts provide a conceptual framework for a sustainable sharing economy and its link with sustainable urban development. Participants will be to use case studies to explore sharing in diversity and impact on business, initiatives and lifestyles, and to creatively explore its potential for alternative and sustainable urban economy. Using the Design Thinking methodology, they go through the process in teams of a problem, user surveys to innovative approaches. The results will be presented at a public closing event of the Autumn Academy as part of a Sharing Day in Wuppertal.

Program & Speakers

The Autumn Academy is organized in cooperation with the junior research group “UrbanUp”, which sets up a diversified academy program with exciting speakers and practical sharing activities and partners. In addition, the Academy is accompanied by a supporting program, which offers plenty of time and space to talk to speakers and participants.

Participation & Applications

The interdisciplinary academy is open to students, graduates, doctoral candidates, postdocs and practitioners of all disciplines. There are a total of 22 seats available. Applications with a curriculum vitae and a meaningful letter of motivation (max 1 page) must be sent to by 30 July 2018. We are also pleased about participants who would like to present their own topic-related work. If interested, a short overview of a possible input (topic, content, presentation form) can be attached to the application. Thanks to the financial support of the Christian Martin Foundation, the participation fee is only € 130 regular / € 90 reduced for members of the VÖW. The contribution includes accommodation, meals, travel expenses within Wuppertal as well as the conference documents.

Duration & location

The autumn academy starts on Monday, 01.10.18 at 12:30, ends on Friday, 05.10.18 at 16.00 and then ends informally in the evening during the Sharing-Day. The event takes place mainly in the Silvio Gesell conference center near Wuppertal as well as cooperation partners of the UrbanUp project and in different places of sharing in Wuppertal.

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