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Degrowth, Democracy and Autonomy

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The quest for real democracy is one of the components of sustainable degrowth. But the incipient debate on democracy and degrowth suffers from general definitions and limited connections to political philosophy and democracy theory. This article offers a critical review of democracy theory within the degrowth literature, taking as its focal point a relevant debate between Serge Latouche and Takis Fotopoulos. We argue that the core of their contention can be traced back to the relationship between the concepts of democracy and autonomy as defined by philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis, which both authors and generally the degrowth movement consider as one of their theoretical reference points. We show how both Latouche and Fotopoulos hold a misconception of Castoriadis' notions of autonomy, the social imaginary and politics, which in turn limits their cognisance of democracy and hence confuses their debate concerning the possibilities for a degrowth transition within the confines of a liberal parliamentary democracy. With a clarified theoretical understanding of the interconnected democracy-autonomy assemble, we proceed to an evaluation of the revolutionary potential of the degrowth movement and to a better understanding of a possible relationship between democracy and degrowth.
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Keywords: Castoriadis; autonomy; degrowth; democracy; direct democracy; revolution; social imaginary

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2018) of 1.933. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.493.
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