Degrowth and the City: multiscalar strategies for the socio-ecological transformation of space and place
Degrowth is both an academic debate and an activist call for a necessary socio-ecological transformation. It proposes a just and selective quantitative reduction of societal throughput to achieve ecological sustainability, social justice and individual well-being. What does such a transformation imply for cities, for place and space in general? Recently research has begun to explore this question, at the intersections of the degrowth project with geography, urban and planning studies. The present systematic review of this stream of the degrowth literature argues that contributions convincingly criticise mainstream solutions of sustainable urban development and portray an inspiring variety of local and sectoral alternatives. They also discuss the possibilities of spatial planning for degrowth. But the literature, related to a limited conceptualisation of space, lacks consideration for larger geographical scales (localism is prevalent). Also, limited attention is paid to material flows (the focus is on formal outcomes in the built environment) and there sometimes is a lack of reflection about positionality (with a tendency to apparently universalist solutions).
Drawing in particular on Doreen Massey’s conceptualisation of the relationality of space and place, a conceptual framework is proposed for further research. It evidences questions neglected in the reviewed literature: how to spatialise degrowth beyond the local scale, not reducing the argument to a dualism between local=good and global=bad? And, how to transform not only the physicality of places but also the material and immaterial relations they are based on? This framework, embracing a situated, relational and multiscalar understanding of space and its socio-ecological transformation, might be a first step in approaching these and other open questions in the debate on degrowth, cities and space.
Degrowth; urban degrowth; urban geography; localism; multiscalarity; relational space