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Reconceptualising Freedom in the 21st Century: Degrowth vs. Neoliberalism

Felix Windegger and Clive Spash

SRE-Disc from Institute for Multilevel Governance and Development, Department of Socioeconomics, Vienna University of Economics and Business

Abstract: The hegemonic role of neoliberal ideas in today’s political-economic thought and practice has shaped the common way of thinking about freedom in Western society and more generally in the international community. This involves a negative, individualistic and market-centred interpretation of the concept. In contrast, visions of a degrowth society offer a radical alternative based on Cornelius Castoriadis’ notion of autonomy. This paper outlines how this formulation of freedom can be conceptualised relative to the predominant neoliberal theory. We present an overview and contrast of both positions and then follow this up with an empirical study. More specifically, we probe the extent to which the degrowth movement actually follows the Castoriadian theory of freedom as opposed to the hegemonic neoliberal conception. Results are reported from a survey conducted at the 2018 Degrowth Conference in Malmö, Sweden. While survey participants were found to hold positions consistent with the Castoriadian theory, we also identify problematic and under-conceptualised aspects in their understanding of freedom. This points to the need for the degrowth movement to directly address its theoretical foundations, and elaborate on and strengthen its vision of freedom compatible with a future degrowth society.

Keywords: Political economy; freedom; Degrowth; neoliberalism; autonomy; social-ecological economic transformation; Castoriadis; Hayek; Friedman (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A13 B5 O44 P1 P48 Q57 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 36 pages
Date: 2021
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hme, nep-hpe, nep-pke and nep-pol
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