Thursday, October 03, 2019

The impossibility of cosmopolitanism in one village

One of the things I write about in my forthcoming book chapter is the impossibility of “cosmopolitanism in one village”. Drawing on the work of Stephen Quilley and others, it can be argued that any substantial rematerialization and relocalization of the economy, as envisaged by degrowth advocates, would also undermine the very foundations of emancipatory values and self-expression. While degrowthers like to paint rosy pictures of what “micro-scale localism” would entail, it is fair to guess that such a world of endless agrarian poverty and material hardship would also be one of resurging survivalist values and traditional forms of domination.

When writing my chapter I tried to be mindful about not creating strawmen. However, when I received a link to a Youtube video (still above) by the Polish environmental activist Karolina Goswami who is advocating for Indian subsistence farming in response to climate change, I think my argument was actually quite spot on. I only wish that more people, who dare to go beyond the cheap anti-capitalist rhetoric, would realize that degrowth is about the transition to a completely different society and the social enforcement of a very limiting world-view. As I have said many times before, if it was only a matter of taking one flight less per year or reducing overall economic activity by 10, 20 or even 30 percent, then degrowth would be a no-brainer. But it is not.

That is why we need to look in the exact opposite direction to a future that builds on, rather than tries to reverse, the broad emancipatory forces of the last two centuries and, as such, makes possible a world where everyone can live a modern life.

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