Challenges for the degrowth transition: The debate about wellbeing

Elsevier, Futures, Volume 105, January 2019, Pages 155-165.
Milena Büchs and Max Koch

Degrowth scholars and activists have convincingly argued that degrowth in developed nations will need to be part of a global effort to tackle climate change, and to preserve the conditions for future generations’ basic needs satisfaction. However, the barriers to building a broader degrowth movement appear to be very entrenched at present. To improve the political feasibility of degrowth it is important to better understand these structural obstacles and develop arguments and strategies to address them. To contribute to the degrowth debate we focus in this paper on current generations in rich countries and their concerns about possible short- to medium term wellbeing outcomes of degrowth. In particular, we highlight the ‘growth lock-in’ of current societies and how a transition away from this model might therefore affect wellbeing. We also argue that taking the basic human needs framework as a new ‘measuring rod’ for wellbeing outcomes is suitable for a degrowth context, but likely to clash with people’s current expectations of ever improving health and wellbeing outcomes. We propose that deliberative forums on future needs satisfaction can help establish a ‘dialogue’ between current and future generations which could support cultural shifts on wellbeing thinking which will be much needed for advancing the cause for degrowth.