Life on the Left: Latin America: End of a golden age?

A long read which should be of interest to degrowth, eco-socialist and P2P activists.

Translated by Richard Fidler from the Spanish text published in Viento Sur, January 23, 2018

Following their participation in the international symposium that we coordinated last June on “Progessive governments and post-neoliberalism in Latin America: End of a golden age?” at the University of Grenoble, France,[1] we thought it would be worthwhile going back over the Latin American context with the sociologists Edgardo Lander (Venezuela) and Miriam Lang (Ecuador). Both of them have a sharp critical view, very often at odds concerning the present scene, and both have participated actively in recent years in the debates on the initial balance sheets of the progressive governments of 1998-2015, in particular those of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Miriam’s case[2] and of the Transnational Institute in Edgardo’s case.[3]

For example, they have written probingly on such topics as the problematics of development and the state, neocolonialism and extractivism, the lefts and the social movements, and both have tackled the difficult issue of conceiving roads of emancipation at times in which humanity is going through a profound ecosystemic crisis of civilization, challenges that mean, inter alia, re-inventing the left and (eco)socialism in the 21st century. — Franck Gaudichaud

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Downsizing – a new approach to Degrowth? 😁

Downsizing: Review of a sci-fi satire about a revolutionary new micro-utopian method of shrinking human beings to matchbox size so they consume less, help the planet and boost their own consumer lifestyle in leisure-oriented downsized community.

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What will spark a degrowth movement in the USA? – Uneven Earth

by Sam Bliss

Things are big in the United States of America. Returning home after a year away reacquaints me with big detached single-family homes, big single-occupant vehicles, and big single-species grass lawns. I find wider roads, longer distances, larger supermarkets, and more stuff everywhere.

As a student of ecological economics, it makes me a little anxious. Such individualistic extravagance isn’t ecological or economical. I remind myself: it is precisely why I came back.

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Proposal for a US (?) Degrowth gathering 2018

Hey everyone. Please see message below, especially if you’re in North America. Apologies to those of you who will get this email multiple times.
from Sam Bliss
———- Forwarded message ———-

Hi degrowth fans,

The United States arguably has the most degrowing to do of any nation on earth. Last year, one of us asked, What will spark a degrowth movement in the USA? We can start by gathering the movement that already exists. Surely we are more than we think!

We want to organize an event somewhere on the Atlantic coast this summer to bring together degrowth activists and academics in the U.S. and Canada. To our knowledge, we’ve never intentionally gotten together before. This regional gathering will complement the 3 international degrowth conferences this year in Sweden, Mexico, and Belgium. We envision something like two leisurely days with some combination of facilitated discussions, shared meals, outdoor activities, provocative lectures, maybe some art, disobedience, or a film screening. We need your help to plan this thing collaboratively.

If you are interested in such an event, please take this survey by March 1 to weigh in on possible activities, locations, dates, and so on. Forward this email to your degrowth friends — please don’t spam it to your whole listserv unless it happens to be a degrowth-focused listserv, in which case we want to know about it. (:

Also, if you want to form part of our small planning committee, email Luísa at


Luísa, Luiza, and Sam

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Theoretical Underpinnings of the Duniter G1 project | P2P Foundation

Duniter is a French cryptocurrency that squarely aims for more egalitarian outcomes and critiques the ‘propertarian’ premises of Bitcoin.

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Commoners in Transition, an interview with Enric Duran

Here we present an interview with Enric Duran

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The meaning of life in a world without work

by Yuval Noah Harari, Israeli author of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” The Guardian,  May 8, 2017

[My synthesis. I found this article both challenging and incisive in my own search for a culture of sustainability that stops our headlong rush into climate change through nonsectarian cooperative communities which respect the limited commons of our planet – where no-one will be considered useless.]

As technology renders jobs obsolete, what will keep us busy?

The crucial problem isn’t creating new jobs. The crucial problem is creating new jobs that humans perform better than algorithms. Consequently, by 2050 a new class of people might emerge – the useless class. People who are not just unemployed, but unemployable.

The same technology that renders humans useless might also make it feasible to feed and support the unemployable masses through some scheme of universal basic income. The real problem will then be to keep the masses occupied and content. People must engage in purposeful activities, or they go crazy. So what will the useless class do all day?

One answer might be computer games. Economically redundant people might spend increasing amounts of time within 3D virtual reality worlds, which would provide them with far more excitement and emotional engagement than the “real world” outside. This, in fact, is a very old solution. For thousands of years, billions of people have found meaning in playing virtual reality games.

In the past, we have called these virtual reality games “religions”.

What is a religion [or ideology] if not a big virtual reality game played by millions of people together? Religions such as Islam and Christianity invent imaginary laws, such as “don’t eat pork”, “repeat the same prayers a set number of times each day”, “don’t have sex with somebody from your own gender” and so forth. These laws exist only in the human imagination. No natural law requires the repetition of magical formulas, and no natural law forbids homosexuality or eating pork. Muslims and Christians go through life trying to gain points in their favorite virtual reality game. If you pray every day, you get points. If you forget to pray, you lose points. If by the end of your life you gain enough points, then after you die you go to the next level of the game (aka heaven). Religion is a real-life game in which we pray to collect virtuous points.

As religions show us, the virtual reality need not be encased inside an isolated box. Rather, it can be superimposed on the physical reality. In the past this was done with the human imagination and with sacred books, and in the 21st century it can be done with smartphones.

The idea of finding meaning in life by playing virtual reality games is of course common not just to religions, but also to secular ideologies and lifestyles. Consumerism too is a virtual reality game. You gain points by acquiring new cars, buying expensive brands and taking vacations abroad, and if you have more points than everybody else, you tell yourself you won the game.

In any case, the end of work will not necessarily mean the end of meaning, because meaning is generated by imagining rather than by working. Work is essential for meaning only according to some ideologies and lifestyles. Eighteenth-century English country squires, present-day ultra-orthodox Jews, and children in all cultures and eras have found a lot of interest and meaning in life even without working. People in 2050 will probably be able to play deeper games and to construct more complex virtual worlds than in any previous time in history.

But what about truth? What about reality? Do we really want to live in a world in which billions of people are immersed in fantasies, pursuing make-believe goals and obeying imaginary laws? Well, like it or not, that’s the world we have been living in for thousands of years already.

Wikipedia: Harari’s work situates its account of human history within a framework provided by the natural sciences, particularly evolutionary biology: he sees biology as setting the limits of possibility for human activity, and sees culture as shaping what happens within those bounds. The academic discipline of History is the account of cultural change.

See also Rambling Through Time

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