Stephen Quilley

System Innovation and a New ‘Great Transformation’: Re-embedding Economic Life in the Context of ‘De-Growth’

Abstract: The political-economic limits to system innovation are explored through the Polanyian concepts of disembedding and the ‘double movement’. The Keynesian Welfare State is examined as the final outcome of a much broader ‘counter movement for societal protection.’ In place of reciprocity and autarchy, the Keynesian social compact involved the establishment of new, top-down circuits of redistribution, designed to facilitate continuing processes of capitalist modernization. Where social innovation is directed at the broad dynamics of marketization and the commodification of goods and services, this growth imperative continues to present an insuperable obstacle to system-level change. But as ecological capital at the level of the biosphere becomes a critical focus for a new protective ‘counter-movement’ and ‘degrowth’ becomes the de facto context for social innovation, systemic transformation becomes more thinkable. Hodgson’s ‘evotopia’ is recommended as a heuristic for a provisional, experimental and incremental exploration of the ‘adjacent possible.’

December 20, 2012

‘Degrowth is not a liberal agenda: Relocalisation and the limits to low energy cosmopolitanism’

Democracy, individualism , liberalism and many of the dimensions of modern societies that we most cherish and take for granted, emerged on the back of high energy throughput and growth. The pacified, individuated personality structure which allows the ‘I’ to be partially dissociated from the ‘We’ is itself historically and metabolically specific. It is very difficult for people with such an elaborated sense of self even to imagine the worldview of other people living in the past, or in those very few simpler societies in the present which have not been forcibly integrated into the connected modern world.

It is equally difficult to imagine the values, predispositions or likely attitudes of our children’s children’s children, living in a world which, if James Kunstler and Richard Heinberg are correct, will have become larger, more closed and less connected. But one thing does seem clear: degrowth is not a liberal prospect [excerpts from a to-be-published paper].

October 2, 2012

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