Increased economic growth has been widely and consistently advocated as a solution to poverty and inequality. Yet many environmentalists are opposed to limitless growth on the grounds that it is ecologically unsustainable. In particular, the ‘degrowth’ movement that has recently emerged in Northern Europe has challenged the paradigm of growth, promoting instead an alternative agenda of reducing production and consumption in order to attain sustainability and social justice. Yet, ironically, the rise of the degrowth movement has coincided with a severe economic recession in the wealthier countries and the result of this does, indeed, seem to have increased hardship and inequity as businesses collapse and jobs are lost (e.g. see JRF, 2012). This situation forces us to consider whether degrowth is feasible in a market economy, which appears to depend on growth – and, if not, what this tells us about the macro-policies necessary to become an equal, just, and at the same time, ecological, society. This chapter explores this debate, drawing on the relevant literature, as well as the author’s own empirical work on Cuba, a country which has been widely recognised for its social achievements in spite of many years of low or negative growth.
Bell, K. (2014). Degrowth for sustainability, equality and poverty reduction: Some lessons from Cuba. In T. Fitzpatrick (Ed.), The International Handbook on Social Policy and the Environment (249-273). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar