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Social policy in a future of degrowth? Challenges for decommodification, commoning and public support

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  • Kristian Kongshøj

    (Aalborg University)

Abstract

Achieving sustainability within planetary boundaries requires radical changes to production and consumption beyond technology- and efficiency-oriented solutions, especially in affluent countries. The literature on degrowth offers visions and policy paths with the explicit aim of ensuring human wellbeing within an economy with a lower resource metabolism. This paper reviews and discusses the academic literature on degrowth with the aim of deriving the main inherent challenges where further research is needed. Proponents of degrowth envisage radical redistribution and decommodification with ‘floors’ and ‘ceilings’ for income and wealth, as well as extensive public service provision. This paper outlines how results from other research support such a policy direction. However, the paper discusses three inherent challenges for such a future with respect to the feasibility and desirability of degrowth policies, as well as their legitimate underpinning in public support. This includes the internal growth dependencies of established social policies, which require changes to financing, output-based management and perhaps even curtailing input (service demand). Secondly, it concerns the role of public welfare provision when degrowth advocates also envisage the proliferation of alternative and informal economies. The paper emphasises that these two challenges invite more work on where public service provision should play a lesser role. Thirdly, the paper covers popular legitimacy. In affluent democracies, popular support needs to expand further beyond the ‘new left’ or the ‘green left’, even if larger shares of the population exhibit some potential for growth-critical stances. At the heart of these challenges is the need for new norms and values with respect to wellbeing, which is envisaged in the literature as a shift from materialist and hedonic towards needs-oriented and eudaimonic conceptions of wellbeing and happiness.

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  • Kristian Kongshøj, 2023. "Social policy in a future of degrowth? Challenges for decommodification, commoning and public support," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 10(1), pages 1-11, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palcom:v:10:y:2023:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-023-02255-z
    DOI: 10.1057/s41599-023-02255-z
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