Decolonizing degrowth in the post-development convergence: Questions, experiences, and proposals from two Indigenous territories 2019

Decolonizing degrowth in the post-development convergence: Questions, experiences, and proposals from two Indigenous territories

Padini Nirmal, Dianne Rocheleau, 2019

A growing coalition of degrowth scholar-activist(s) seeks to transform degrowth into an interdisciplinary and international field bridging a rising network of social and environmental justice movements. We offer constructive decolonial and feminist critiques to foster their productive alliances with multiple feminisms, Indigenous, post-development and pluriversal thought and design (Escobar, 2018), and people on the ground. Our suggested pathway of decolonial transition includes re-situating degrowth relative to the global south and to Indigenous and other resistance movements. We see this decolonial degrowth as a profoundly material strategy of recovery, renewal, and resistance (resurgence) through practices of re-rooting and re-commoning. To illustrate what we mean by resurgence we draw from two examples where people are engaged in ongoing struggles to protect their territories from the impacts of rampant growth—Zapatista and allied Indigenous groups in Mexico, and three Adivasi communities in the Attappady region of southern India. They are building economies and ecologies of resurgence and simultaneous resistance to growth by deterritorialization. We argue that a decolonized degrowth must be what the growth paradigm is not, and imagine what does not yet exist: our separate and collective socio-ecological futures of sufficiency and celebration in the multiple worlds of the pluriverse. Together, the two cases demonstrate pathways to autonomy, sufficiency, and resurgence of territories and worlds, through persistence, innovation, and mobilization of traditional and new knowledges. We offer these as teachers for the transition to decolonial degrowth.

Keywords Decolonial theory, degrowth, food sovereignty, Indigenous resistance, resurgence

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David Graeber’s Possible Worlds

Lately it has seemed possible that everything must change. Basic fixtures of American life, rules and institutions that had come to feel inevitable — in 2020 and 2021, they felt less inevitable than before. They felt perhaps untenable. Things like the cost of health care and the cost of child care. Offices, prisons, and police. Fossil fuel, the filibuster, Facebook. The pursuit of happiness via nonstop work. The monthly payments on a student loan. Every month the rent was due — unless it wasn’t anymore.

To David Graeber, it was a matter of plain fact that things did not have to be the way they were. Graeber was an anthropologist, which meant it was his job to study other ways of living. “I’m interested in anthropology because I’m interested in human possibilities,” he once explained. Graeber was also an anarchist, “and in a way,” he went on, “there’s always been an affinity between anthropology and anarchism, simply because anthropologists know that a society without a state is possible. There’s been plenty of them.” A better world was not assured, but it was possible — and anyway, as Graeber put it in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, “since one cannot know a radically better world is not possible, are we not betraying everyone by insisting on continuing to justify and reproduce the mess we have today?”

Graeber died unexpectedly a year ago this September, at the age of 59, and though he’d never sought to be a leader, he left behind a multitude of followers and fans, from artists to economists to Kurdish revolutionaries. They were people whose imaginations he had captured as a scholar and a teacher, as the public intellectual of the Occupy movement, and as the best-selling author of Debt and Bullshit Jobs, books that swept across eras and disciplines to offer scholarly provocation in layperson’s terms. After his death, friends and acolytes from around the world — from Brazil, Japan, and New Zealand — submitted video tributes for an online celebration of his life. A year later, his widow, the artist Nika Dubrovsky, still hasn’t managed to make her way through all the footage she received.

Graeber also left behind the staggeringly large project he finished three weeks before he died: The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity. Written in collaboration with the archaeologist David Wengrow, the book draws on new research to challenge received wisdom on civilization’s course. The story of humanity, as it is typically told, proceeds along a linear path. It passes in distinct stages from foraging bands and tribes on to agriculture, cities, and kings. But, surveying the historic and archaeological record, Graeber and Wengrow saw a wealth of other stories, taking humanity on varied and unpredictable routes.

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Libertarian Municipalism: Networked Cities as Resilient Platforms for Post-Capitalist Transition

The introduction to this paper is a good description of the potential and “roots” for a transition to a post capitalist society – which I wrote about in my own paper The Transition to a Post-Capitalist World. I have posted a number of pieces by Michel Bauwens of the Peer to Peer (P2P) Foundation here as well, which you can find using the search box on this page.

By Kevin Carson
Kevin Carson is an American political writer and blogger. While he originally identified as a mutualist, he now describes himself as an anarchist without adjectives. He works as a Senior Fellow and Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory at the Center for a Stateless Society. Wikipedia

Abstract (?)

We live in a time of terminal crisis for centralized institutions of all kinds, including the two most notable members of the genus: states and large corporations. Both a major cause and major symptom of this transition is the steady reduction in the amount of labor needed to produce a given level of output, and consequently in total aggregate demand for wage labor. This shows up in shrinking rates of workforce participation, and a shift of a growing part of the remaining workforce from full-time work to part-time and precarious employment (the latter including temporary and contract work). Another symptom is the retrenchment of the state in the face of fiscal crisis and a trend towards social austerity in most Western countries; this is paralleled by a disintegration of traditional employer-based safety nets, as part of the decline in full-time employment.

Peak Oil (and other fossil fuels) is creating pressure to shorten global supply and distribution chains. At the same time, the shift in advantage from military technologies for power projection to technologies for area denial means that the imperial costs of enforcing a globalized economic system of outsourced production under the legal control of Western capital are becoming prohibitive. The same technological trends that are reducing the total need for labor also, in many cases, make direct production for use in the informal, social and household economies much more economically feasible. Cheap open-source CNC machine tools, networked information and digital platforms, Permaculture and community gardens, alternative currencies and mutual credit systems, all reduce the scale of feasible production for many goods to the household, multiple household and neighborhood levels, and similarly reduce the capital outlays required for directly producing consumption needs to a scale within the means of such groupings

Put all these trends together, and we see the old model of secure livelihood through wages collapsing at the same time new technology is destroying the material basis for dependence on corporations and the state.

But like all transitions, this is a transition not only from something, but to something. That something bears a more than passing resemblance to the libertarian communist future Pyotr Kropotkin described in The Conquest of Bread and Fields, Factories and Workshops: the relocalization of most economic functions into mixed agricultural/industrial villages, the control of production by those directly engaged in it, and a fading of the differences between town and country, work and leisure, and brain-work and muscle-work.

In particular, it is to a large extent a transition to a post-capitalist society centered on the commons. As Michel Bauwens puts it, the commons paradigm replaces the traditional Social Democratic paradigm in which value is created in the “private” (i.e. corporate) sector through commodity labor, and a portion of this value is redistributed by the state and by labor unions, to one in which value is co- created within the social commons outside the framework of wage labor and the cash nexus, and the process of value creation is governed by the co-creators themselves. [1] Because of the technological changes entailed in what Bauwens calls “cosmo-local” production (physical production that’s primarily local, using relatively small-scale facilities, for local consumption, but using a global information commons freely available to all localities), the primary level of organization of this commons-based society will be local. Cosmo-local (DGML = Design Local, Manufacture Local) production is governed by the following principles:

  • Protocol cooperativism: the underlying immaterial and algorithmic protocols are shared and open source, using copyfair principles (free sharing of knowledge, but commercialization conditioned by reciprocity)
  • Open cooperativism: the commons-based coops are distinguished from ‘collective capitalism’ by their commitment to creating and expanding common goods for the whole of society; in Platform coops it is the platforms themselves that are the commons, needed to enable and manage the exchanges that may be needed, while protecting it from capture by extractive netarchical platforms
  • Open and contributive accounting: fair distribution mechanisms that recognize all contributions
  • Open and shared supply chains for mutual coordination
  • Non-dominium forms of ownership (the means of production are held in common for the benefit of all participants in the eco-system. [2] In this paper, we will examine the emerging distributed and commons-based economy, as a base for post-capitalist transition, at three levels: the micro-village and other forms of cohousing/co-production, the city or town as a unit, and regional and global federations of cities.

1 Bia Martins, “Michel Bauwens: our society and economy have to become ‘commons-centric’,” Em Rede, <>.
2 Michel Bauwens, “The History and Evolution of the Commons,” P2P Foundation Blog, Sept. 28, 2017

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COP26: Can a Singing, Dancing Rebellion Save the World? – Other News – Voices against the tide

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies (*) – CODEPINK

COP Twenty-six! That is how many times the UN has assembled world leaders to try to tackle the climate crisis. But the United States is producing more oil and natural gas than ever; the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere and global temperatures are both still rising; and we are already experiencing the extreme weather and climate chaos that scientists have warned us about for forty years, and which will only get worse and worse without serious climate action….

One inspiring civil society group on the streets in Glasgow during COP 26 is Extinction Rebellion, which proclaims, “We accuse world leaders of failure, and with a daring vision of hope, we demand the impossible…We will sing and dance and lock arms against despair and remind the world there is so much worth rebelling for.”…

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Guardian: Unfreezing the ice age: the truth about humanity’s deep past – Graeber & Wengrow

Archaeological discoveries are shattering scholars’ long-held beliefs about how the earliest humans organised their societies – and hint at possibilities for our own
by David Graeber and David Wengrow, 12 October 2021

This is a very long article and a very complex discussion and presentation. I have cut and pasted parts here to try to grasp the gist of it and do not claim it is comprehensive. Best read it all yourselves to get your own sense and interpretation of their findings, which I think are very important.

In some ways, accounts of “human origins” play a similar role for us today as myth did for ancient Greeks or Polynesians. This is not to cast aspersions on the scientific rigour or value of these accounts. It is simply to observe that the two fulfil somewhat similar functions. If we think on a scale of, say, the last 3m years, there actually was a time when someone, after all, did have to light a fire, cook a meal or perform a marriage ceremony for the first time. We know these things happened. Still, we really don’t know how. It is very difficult to resist the temptation to make up stories about what might have happened: stories which necessarily reflect our own fears, desires, obsessions and concerns. As a result, such distant times can become a vast canvas for the working out of our collective fantasies.

For most of our evolutionary history, we did indeed live in Africa – but not just the eastern savannas, as previously thought. Instead, our biological ancestors were distributed everywhere from Morocco to the Cape of Good Hope. Some of those populations remained isolated from one another for tens or even hundreds of thousands of years, cut off from their nearest relatives by deserts and rainforests. Strong regional traits developed, so that early human populations appear to have been far more physically diverse than modern humans.

Perhaps the only thing we can say with real certainty is that modern humans first appeared in Africa. When they began expanding out of Africa into Eurasia, they encountered other populations such as Neanderthals and Denisovans – less different, but still different – and these various groups interbred. Only after those other populations became extinct can we really begin talking about a single, human “us” inhabiting the planet. What all this brings home is just how radically different the social and physical world of our remote ancestors would have seemed to us – and this would have been true at least down to about 40,000BC. In other words, there is no “original” form of human society. Searching for one can only be a matter of myth-making.

Over recent decades, archeological evidence has emerged that seems to completely defy our image of what scholars call the Upper Palaeolithic period (roughly 50,000–15,000BC). For a long time, it had been assumed that this was a world made up of tiny egalitarian forager bands. But the discovery of evidence of “princely” burials and grand communal buildings has undermined that image.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many in Europe and North America believed that “primitive” folk were not only incapable of political self-consciousness, they were not even capable of fully conscious thought on the individual level – or at least conscious thought worthy of the name. Nowadays, no reputable scholar would make such claims… Anthropologists who spend years talking to indigenous people in their own languages, and watching them argue with one another, tend to be well aware that even those who make their living hunting elephants or gathering lotus buds are just as sceptical, imaginative, thoughtful and capable of critical analysis as those who make their living by operating tractors, managing restaurants or chairing university departments… One of the few mid-20th-century anthropologists to take seriously the idea that early humans were our intellectual equals was Claude Lévi-Strauss…

[With respect to] rich Upper Palaeolithic burials, so often interpreted as evidence for the emergence of “inequality”, or even hereditary nobility of some sort… We can’t know much about the day-to-day lives of Palaeolithic individuals buried with rich grave goods, other than that they seem to have been as well fed and cared for as anybody else; but we can at least suggest they were seen as the ultimate individuals… This suggests we might have to shelve any premature talk of the emergence of hereditary elites… The ethnographic record abounds with examples of anomalous beings – human or otherwise – treated as exalted and dangerous; or one way in life, another in death… Much here is speculation.

This is where seasonality comes into the picture. Almost all the ice age sites with extraordinary burials and monumental architecture were created by societies that lived a little like Lévi-Strauss’s Nambikwara, dispersing into foraging bands at one time of year, gathering together in concentrated settlements at another… Archaeology also shows that patterns of seasonal variation lie behind the monuments of Göbekli Tepe. Activities around the stone temples correspond with periods of annual superabundance… Ongoing research is likely to complicate this picture, but the overall pattern of seasonal congregation [for festive/carnival/egalitarian celebration and ritual which dissolve norms of hierarchy and propriety] seems well established… What’s important about such festivals is that they kept the old spark of political self-consciousness alive. They allowed people to imagine that other arrangements are feasible, even for society as a whole, since it was always possible to fantasise about carnival bursting its seams and becoming the new reality.

Medieval peasants often found it much easier than medieval intellectuals to imagine a society of equals. Now, perhaps, we begin to understand why. Seasonal festivals may be a pale echo of older patterns of seasonal variation – but, for the last few thousand years of human history at least, they appear to have played much the same role in fostering political self-consciousness, and as laboratories of social possibility.

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Debating degrowth:Be Careful What Energy You Wish For

[This is the second part of an exchange between Robert Pollin and Don Fitz for
ZNet. The first portion consisted of two articles by Pollin which originally appeared in Truthout here and here. The third portion will be a short rejoinder by Pollin to this article. The final portion will be a short closing statement by Fitz.]

Climate change is an existential problem confronting humanity and Robert Pollin offers well thought-out plans in his first and second articles. There is only space here to respond to these themes: (1) We can reach zero CO2 emissions by 2050; (2) An enormous expansion of alternative energy (AltE) can create far more jobs than would be lost by eliminating fossil fuels (FF); and (3) Without stating so explicitly, he implies that negative aspects of AltE would be tiny.

[Thanks to Roger Annis for this link.]

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Climate change : a vidéo from UNDP

An address from the latest UN speaker.

Don’t choose extinction.

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What if Everything You Learned About Human History Is Wrong?

In “The Dawn of Everything,” the anthropologist David Graeber and the archaeologist David Wengrow aim to rewrite the story of our shared past — and future.

According to this story, for the first 300,000 years or so after Homo sapiens appeared, pretty much nothing happened. People everywhere lived in small, egalitarian hunter-gatherer groups, until the sudden invention of agriculture around 9,000 B.C. gave rise to sedentary societies and states based on inequality, hierarchy and bureaucracy.

But all of this, Graeber and Wengrow argue, is wrong. Recent archaeological discoveries, they write, show that early humans, far from being automatons blindly moving in evolutionary lock step in response to material pressures, self-consciously experimented with “a carnival parade of political forms.”

But the most striking part of “The Dawn of Everything,” James Scott said, is an early chapter on what the authors call the “Indigenous critique.” The European Enlightenment, they argue, rather than being a gift of wisdom bestowed on the rest of the world, grew out of a dialogue with Indigenous people of the New World, whose trenchant assessments of the shortcomings of European society influenced emerging ideas of freedom.

“The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity,” out Nov. 9 from Farrar Straus and Giroux, may or may not dislodge the standard narrative popularized in mega-sellers like Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens” and Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel.” But it has already gathered a string of superlative-studded (if not entirely uncritical) reviews.

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Eco-friendly sex: What is it and how does it impact on climate change?

Eco-friendly sex: What is it and how does it impact on climate change?
Now that I have your attention, beyond the environmental impact of plastic, fossil fuel based condoms, this article also raises another point where sex and the environment collide – having children. According to a 2017 study, living car-free saves about 2.3 tonnes of CO2 a year, while sticking to a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tonnes. By comparison – if you live in the developed world – not having a child saves about 58.6 tonnes per year while the carbon footprint in less developed countries is much lower, with a child in Malawi estimated to “cost” no more than 0.1 tonnes. In “The political economy of half earth” Troy Vettese notes that reforesting “only” 800 million ha. of the 3.5 billion ha. of pasture of the 5.0 billion ha. of “agricultural” land on earth would sequester atmospheric carbon pollution by some 85 ppm, bringing it to a much safer level in the low 300s ppm. The agricultural sector produces almost a third of greenhouse gas emissions – more than the transportation sector – and most of that comes from meat production. Vegans (which I confess I am not) require only a tenth as much land as an omnivore to grow their food.

Food for thought in the run-up to COP26 this week.

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Staggering global energy inequality: Pulling Funding for Fossil Fuel Projects in Africa Is Unjust

Wealthy countries are vowing to stop funding fossil fuel projects overseas while making no such commitments at home.


Video gamers in California consume more electricity than entire nations. The average Tanzanian used only one-sixth the electricity consumed by a typical American refrigerator in 2014.

Globally, the top 10 percent of countries consume 20 times more energy than the bottom 10 percent. And 1.1 billion sub-Saharan Africans share the same amount of power generation capacity as Germany’s 83 million people. At least half have no access to electricity at all.

These stark energy inequalities are fueling thorny debates around financing Africa’s energy future as world leaders and their negotiators prepare for COP26, the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

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