Joining forces for a good life – blog post growth

The multiple crisis of capitalism

The starting point for ‘ radical alternatives’ is the crisis of global capitalism attested by Alberto Acosta and Ulrich Brand, which began in 2008. This one has many faces. It includes not only the finance and production sectors, but also the areas of politics, ethics, the social and last but not least – the ecology and culture. It is becoming increasingly apparent that capitalism is unable to guarantee a good life for large sections of the population. Experiencing inequality and injustice is proving popular in many countries around the world for authoritarian and xenophobic forces. Therefore, it becomes more and more urgent to set up alternatives in the political discourse “whose feasibility must be crystallized in the political struggle.” (16) It is the task of this book to point out these so-called ‘radical alternatives’ and to connect already existing ones. In particular, the transformation strategies of the global North: degrowth or post-growth and those of the South: “Buen Vivir” and post-extractivism are presented in order to point out similarities and possibilities of their mutual complementation and linkage.

Transformation as a way out of the civilization crisis

Generally, the authors point out, the crisis is not just a crisis of the economic system, but a crisis of contemporary civilization. The exploitation of man and nature is too serious, the crisis of international politics palpable, the injustice in the distribution of wealth too great. In order to prevent major political, social and ecological collapses, profound solutions were needed that would have to trigger the social protagonists of the global North and South alike, since the key to a change in the social mobilization. After all, change can not take place if it is just waiting for the industrialized countries that are committed to the mantra of economic growth to be in constant competition with the emerging economies and supported by global structures.

Dialogues between the alternatives

Degrowth and post-extractivism, which were previously hardly related, provide gem. The authors have fruitful points of connection, as they criticize the same logic of growth-based capitalism: the imperial production and lifestyle, which is increasingly adopted from the global north in the south, and the extractivism, the global south through its, to this day, ongoing colonial structures dependent on commodity demand in the north. The main obstacle to the implementation of both alternatives is primarily a clinging to the imperial production and way of life. A cultural change that redefines the concept of welfare and removes the dichotomy between nature and man is therefore essential. In addition, nature must be de-economized. The authors complain that both concepts use a very diffuse concept of politics and the state, which stands in the way of their strengthening. Legislation, in particular, is an effective instrument for protecting the achievements of the transformation process by, for example, granting more rights to communities and non-human beings, such as flora and fauna.

Transformation without master plan

For the success of a socio-ecological transformation, the authors demand a more radical democracy, for example through direct democratic elements esp. At the municipal level. However, plurality, conflict and conflicts are part of this emancipatory democracy, which requires “a lot of effort and a lot of creativity” (134). In addition, alternative lifestyles based on social justice and sustainability should be politically and institutionally supported. In addition to a learning process, this includes a democratization of knowledge and not least a “utopian dimension” (158). The authors negate the necessity of a master plan. Rather, in their absence they see “one of the greatest possibilities, since they liberate from dogmatic and authoritarian adventures” (132). All in all, the book is written in a concise and comprehensible way and is thus suitable for a broad public, which is stimulated by the coherence and passion of argumentation for thinking and – at best – acting – even without special expertise. However, it remains questionable whether Acosta and Brands timetable, which consciously evades a master plan, proves to be suitable in view of the time pressure (only 9 years to the 1.5 degree target!).


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