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A Limits to Growth Critique of the Radical Left: The Need to Embrace the Simpler Way

Abstract: "The radical left in general has failed to recognise the significance of the "limits to growth" analysis of the global situation, and as a result its understanding of the required alternative to consumer-capitalist society is unsatisfactory. The most serious implications concern the many ways in which traditional radical left thinking on the transition process now needs to be revised or abandoned. The core element in the limits case is that we are entering an era of intense and irremediable scarcity, which rules out notions of emancipation in terms of centralised, industrialised, technically sophisticated or globalised systems, growth economies or affluent lifestyles. There must be dramatic reduction in rich-world levels of production and consumption and "living standards". The Simpler Way vision is of an alternative which achieves this goal while liberating us to enjoy a higher quality of life. It involves mostly highly self-sufficient zero-growth local economies, self-governing via local participatory processes, driven by commitment to cooperation, stability, the common good, frugal lifestyles and non-material satisfactions. This vision can only be realised via the gradual development of local communities informed by Simpler Way ideas and values. It cannot be imposed or given by a vanguard or state. This defines the revolutionary task and traditional radical left thinking is of little assistance in approaching it. Thus limits, scarcity, self-sufficiency and frugality are among the concepts that are now focal and that urgently need to be integrated into left theory and practice."

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