The University of Arizona

Entering the era of limits and scarcity: the radical implications for social theory

Ted Trainer

Abstract


The article argues that contemporary social theory has not recognized the significance of Limits to Growth. A global overshoot in resource consumption suggests we are at a dramatic turning point in human history, the end of the era of constant 'wealth' expansion and the beginning of an era of severe limits and scarcity. This has profound implications for critical social thought, and for addressing current social problems. Recognizing limits will influence the form that a sustainable and just society must take, and transitions to it. Radical and large scale 'de-growth' involves localized, cooperative, frugal, self-sufficient and self-governing lifestyles, settlements and systems. Key elements in the required 'Simpler Way' are discussed as workable and attractive. More importantly, the article argues that these transitions are non-negotiable; no alternative can resolve the predicament of limits. There are important implications for transition theory and practice. Social theory will pursue new directions in this context, with greater convergence around support for an Anarchist perspective on social goals and means.

Keywords: Limits to growth, social theory, transition, alternatives, The Simpler Way


Full Text:

PDF

References


Ahmed, N.M. 2017. Failing states, collapsing systems. Dordrecht: Springer.

Albert, M. 2003. Parecon: life after capitalism. London: Verso.

Alexander, S. 2012. Living better on less? Toward an economics of sufficiency. Simplicity Institute Report 12c.

Alexander S. and B. Gleeson. 2019. Degrowth in the suburbs: a radical urban imaginary. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Appfel-Marglin, F.A. 1998. The spirit of regeneration: Andean culture confronting western notions of development. London: Zed.

Avineri, S. 1968. The social and political thought of Karl Marx. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bideleaux, R. 1985. Communism and development. London: Methuen.

Bookchin, M. 1973. Post scarcity anarchism. Berkeley: Ramparts Press.

Bookchin, M. 1977. The Spanish anarchists: the heroic years. New York: Free Life Editions.

Bookchin, M. 1980. Towards an ecological society. Montréal: Black Rose.

Buber, M. 1958. Paths in Utopia. Boston: Beacon Press.

Dafermos, G. 2017. The Catalan Integral Cooperative: an organizational study of a post-capitalist cooperative. Commons Transition website.

Carrington, D. 2018. Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds. The Guardian 10th Oct.

Duncan, R.C. 2013. The Olduvai theory: heading into the Gorge. The Social Contract 23(2): 44-49.

Eckersley, R. 2004. Well and good: morality, meaning and happiness. Melbourne: Text Publishing.

Fotopoulos, T. 1997. Towards an Inclusive Democracy. London: Cassell.

Grinde, B., R. Bang Nes, I.F. MacDonald and D.S. Wilson. 2018. The quality of life in intentional communities. Social Indictors Research 137(2): 625–640.

Harvey, D. 2017. 'Listen, Anarchist!' A personal response to Simon Springer's 'Why a radical geography must be anarchist'. Dialogues in Human Geography 7(3): 233-250.

Hatherley, O. 2012. Rebel cities: from right to the city to the urban revolution by David Harvey – review. The Guardian. 12 April.

Henfrey, T. and L. Ford. 2018. Permacultures of transformation: steps to a cultural ecology of environmental action. Journal of Political Ecology 25: 104-119.

Illich, I. 1973. Tools for conviviality. London: Marion Boyars.

Kitching, G.N. 1989. Development and underdevelopment in historical perspective: populism, nationalism, and industrialization. London: Routledge.

Kolbert. E. 2014. The sixth extinction. New York: Henry Holt and Co.

Korowicz, D. 2012. Trade: financial system supply-chain cross-contagion: a study in global systemic collapse. Tipperary: Metis Risk Consulting and Feasta.

Korten, D.C. 1999. The post-corporate world. West Hartford: Kumarian Press.

Kovel, J. 2007. The enemy of nature. London: Zed.

Kropotkin, P. 1898. Fields, factories and workshops: or industry combined with agriculture and brain work with manual work. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

Kunstler, J. 2005. The long emergency: surviving the converging catastrophes of the twenty-first century. New York: Grove/Atlantic.

Latouche, S. 2012. Can the Left escape economism? Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 23(1): 74 -78.

LeBillon, P. and R. Duffy. 2018. Conflict ecologies: connecting political ecology and peace and conflict studies. Journal of Political Ecology 25: 239-260.

Lockyer, J. 2017. Community, commons, and de-growth at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Journal of Political Ecology 24: 519-542.

Lowy, M. 2015. Eco-socialism: a radical alternative to capitalist catastrophe. London: Haymarket Books.

Marshal, P. 1992. Demanding the impossible: the history of anarchism. London: Harper Collins.

Marx, K. 1871. The Civil War in France. Multiple editions.

Marx, K. 1887. Capital: a critique of political economy, Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Mason, C. 2003. The 2030 spike: countdown to catastrophe. London: Earthscan.

Meinshausen, M, N. Meinshausen, W. Hare, S.C.B. Raper, K. Frieler, R. Knuitti, D.J. Frame and M.R. Allen. 2009. Greenhouse gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 degrees C. Nature 458(April 30): 1158-1162.

Mies, M. and V. Shiva 1993. Ecofeminism. London: Zed.

Morgan, T. 2013. Perfect storm: energy, finance and the end of growth strategy. London: Tullet Prebon.

Pepper, D. 1996. Modern environmentalism. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Phillips, L. 2014. Austerity ecology and the collapse-porn addicts: a defence of growth, progress, industry and stuff. Winchester: Zero Books.

Quinn, D. 1999. Beyond civilization. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Rai, M. 1995. Chomsky's politics. London: Verso.

Relocalise. 2009. Relocalise website. http://www.postcarbon.org/relocalize

Rude, C. 1998. Postmodern Marxism: a critique. Monthly Review 50(6): 52-57.

Sarkar, S. 1999. Eco-socialism or eco-capitalism? A critical analysis of humanity's fundamental choices. London: Zed.

Shanin, T. (ed.). 1983. Late Marx and the Russian road. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Sharzer, G. 2012. No local: why small-scale alternatives won't change the world. Winchester: Zero Books.

Simplicity Institute. 2018. Simplicity Institute website. http://simplicityinstitute.org

Speth, G. 2001. A bridge at the end of the world. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Springer, S. 2017. The limits to Marx: David Harvey and the condition of postfraternity. Dialogues in Human Geography 7(3): 280-294.

Trainer, T. 1995. The Conserver Society: alternatives for sustainability. London: Zed.

Trainer, T. 2012. De-growth: do you realise what it means? Futures 44: 590–599.

Trainer, T., A. Malik and M. Lenzen. 2019. Comparing the monetary, resource and ecological costs of industrial and Simpler Way local production: consider egg supply. (In press.)

TSW. 2010. Third world development. The Simpler Way website, authored by Ted Trainer. http://thesimplerway.info/ThirdWorldDev.long.htm

TSW. 2012. The spiritual significance of The Simpler Way. The Simpler Way website, authored by Ted Trainer. http://thesimplerway.info/Spiritual.htm

TSW. 2013. The Chikukwa Project: local permaculture-based alternative development in Zimbabwe. The Simpler Way website, authored by Ted Trainer. http://thesimplerway.info/CHIKUKWA.htm

TSW. 2014. The case against the market. The Simpler Way website, authored by Ted Trainer. http://thesimplerway.info/MARKET.htm

TSW. 2015a. The Catalan Integral Cooperatives…The Simpler Way revolution is well underway! The Simpler Way website, authored by Ted Trainer.

http://thesimplerway.info/Alts.CatalanICooperatives.htm

TSW. 2015b. The case for simplicity. The Simpler Way website, authored by Ted Trainer. http://thesimplerway.info/SIMPLICITY.htm

TSW. 2016a. But can't technical advance solve the problems? The Simpler Way website, authored by Ted Trainer. http://thesimplerway.info/TECHFIX.htm

TSW. 2016b. Decoupling: the issue, and collected evidence. The Simpler Way website, authored by Ted Trainer. http://thesimplerway.info/DECOUPLING.htm

TSW. 2016c. Remaking settlements: the potential cost reductions enabled by The Simpler Way. The Simpler Way website, authored by Ted Trainer.

http://thesimplerway.info/RemakingSettlements.htm

TSW. 2017. The limits to growth. The Simpler Way website. http://thesimplerway.info/LIMITS.htm

TSW. 2018. The Simpler Way alternative society. The Simpler Way website, authored by Ted Trainer.

http://thesimplerway.info/THEALTERNTIVELong.htm

U.N. 2015. World population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. 29 July. New York.

Vidal, J. 2010. Soil erosion threatens to leave earth hungry. The Guardian. Dec. 15th.

Weidmann, T.O., H. Schandl and D. Moran. 2015. The footprint of using metals: new metrics of consumption and productivity. Environmental Economics and Policy Studies 17(3): 369–388.

World Wildlife Fund. 2014. The Living Planet report 2014. World Wildlife Fund and London Zoological Society.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v26i1.23057