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  • Azra Karaman

Less is More: Can Degrowth Lead to a Better Economy?

Although the idea of economic degrowth isn’t new and has gained popularity in recent years, its key attributes can be difficult to conceptualise. It is still an evolving field of thought with various approaches. Mainly, it is a concept that challenges the capitalist idea of perpetual

economic growth. It suggests that unlimited growth leads to corporations’ exploitations, overproduction, and environmental destruction. Instead, it proposes that societies prioritise social

and ecological well-being. This calls for a reallocation of wealth, a decrease in the global economy's material scale, a transition to cleaner energy sources, and a change in our shared values to one of empathy, tolerance of diversity, less materialism, and more collaboration

(Schlegel et al).

For a long time, conventional economics were in favor of economic growth. Having

more of everything was perceived as a solution to every nation’s problem. That was until, with concepts like efficiency and sustainability rising, economists started viewing a country’s welfare differently. Then, the legitimacy of fundamental concepts that were considered key to modern economics, like GDP, started to get questioned; hence, degrowth became significant in the transformation of economic models. The idea "less is more” gained popularity with supporting

views from ecologists and environmentalists as events like the pandemic had a waking effect on the whole globe. As climate awareness took a toll, experts advocated for economic degrowth to help prevent climate cataclysm. After this notion spread, many people realised that apart from reducing production, degrowth is a reorientation of society in terms of well-being, sustainability with reduced resource consumption, interactions with nature, and social structures. From a new perspective to a social movement, degrowth quickly gained popularity with other concepts like

green economics and circular economy.

It is hard to pinpoint when degrowth was first mentioned. Yet, it is known that in 1971

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen in his book argued that endless economic growth is unsustainable, and questioned the foundations of modern economics. In the 20th century, other economists started advocating for smaller localised and sustainable economies, and in the 21st century, it gained momentum. For instance, in 2008 The first International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity, held in Paris, discussed and promoted the concept. This conference concluded that growth should be seen as a failure and that further research on

degrowth is necessary to evolve through its objectives (Schneider).

Subsequently, many various approaches were taken towards the concept, attempting to address many sides to the story. One of these important outlooks on the theory is how climate change takes part in the theory. The truth is, that many of the conversations involving degrowth

are formed around this factor. Climate experts are generally in favor of degrowth and support the transition to a sustainable state where there is less. Hence, it can be said that the climate lens on the concept is mostly advocative. The degrowth movement claims conventional solutions

centered around further growth are ineffective and aims to replace them. Similarly, the sustainable development goals are “a collection of 17 global goals aimed at improving the planet

and the quality of human life”, with the 8th goal being decent work and economic growth (National Geographic). Degrowth claims these approaches are unreliable because they are rooted in capitalism. Nevertheless, most of the policies implemented by governments and institutions (like the US or the EU) focus on green growth rather than degrowth, much to their capitalistic approaches. The question of whether green growth can be successful is yet to be answered. Still,

those in the degrowth movement believe reduction in production is necessary in any case.

Azra Karaman is an 11th grader in an American high school called Robert College located in İstanbul, Turkey, and is planning to study economics in college, with a view to researching various economic models.

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