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Work and Social-Ecological Transitions: A Critical Review of Five Contrasting Approaches

Patrick Bottazzi ()
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Patrick Bottazzi: Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 12, 3012 Bern-CH, Switzerland

Sustainability, 2019, vol. 11, issue 14, 1-19

Abstract: Going to work has become such a ritualized activity for the modern human that few people challenge its relevance from a sustainability perspective. Since the Industrial Revolution, the prospect of unlimited growth with the aim of jobs creation has been dramatically associated with a massive social-ecological degradation that puts the Earth system at risk. In recent decades, a number of heterodox theories and policies are reconsidering our relationship with work in view of contemporaneous social-ecological challenges. This paper offers critical review of five contrasting approaches. Those promoting ‘green jobs’ consider the possibility of transforming ecological constraints into economic opportunities by incentivising eco-efficient innovations and generating new jobs. Conversely, critical approaches, such as working-time reduction (WTR), labour environmentalism, political ecology of work, and contributive economy and justice, defend decommodifying work to liberate pro-social and pro-environmental behaviours. We additionally present two opposing scenarios mainly inspired by critical theories. One illustrates the root causes of systemic lock-in leading to the present social-ecological work-life degradation, while the other illustrates perspectives on the ‘politics of free time’ and contributive economy and justice oriented towards building capabilities, and workers’ emancipation and justice in search for more sustainable relationships with ecosystems.

Keywords: political ecology of work; working-time reduction; social-ecological transition; labour environmentalism; green job; contributive economy; contributive justice; sustainable work; decommodification of work (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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