Décroissance and yurts

Much of French theory flies right over my head. I find the Situationists insightful, the post-structuralists interesting and Sartre and Beauvoir relevant, but when I read Tiqqun and the Invisible Committee I pass page after page without absorbing any information. There is a rather different theoretical paradigm that shows promise for addressing the situations we find ourselves in.

The discourse of décroissance (“de-growth”) has steadily been gaining traction in Franophone countries, but little has yet to be translated into English. The existent Anglophone discourse of degrowth seems more colloquial and upstaged by related, but more constrained concepts such as voluntarily simplicity, neo-Luddism, Slow Food, social ecology, DIY, permaculture, new communitarianism and primitivism. Perhaps décroissance could provide a unified arena of discourse for these atomized ecological movements. As in North America, the French degrowth movement seems to appeal to a lot of liberals with vague and disparate ideas about consumerism, but not necessarily capitalism itself. Alternative Libertaire has begun a dialog between radicalism and the décroissance movement, by pointing out that “A non-class-based vision of décroissance is nothing but a new ideological flavor of the month, and libertarian communists can’t subscribe to it. It would lead, in the worst case, to a policy of rationing for the working class or, at best, to various individual solutions of ‘voluntary simplicity’ with no global impact.” Though I find much of Alternative Libertaire’s position to be contingent on productivist and industrial assumptions, the concept of degrowth has opened up a bridge for discourse, and maybe even for cooperative action.

Many within the French décroissance movement have taken to living in yurts, thereby eschewing the environmental and financial impacts of typical housing. “Protest will erupt this month as yurt dwellers try to block a law they say will put them in the same sack as Romanian and Bulgarian travellers singled out by President Nicolas Sarkozy as a public menace.” The collapse of the capitalist economy has seen a rise in the utilization of alternative housing methods. As an increasingly larger world populace is squeezed out of the real estate market, this trend will increase. Though some will unthinkingly belittle this as merely lifestylism, the disenfranchised will do what they have always done; survive as best they can. They will be joined by those “privileged” people that perceive the insanity of ideologies of economic growth and want to do something outside of the ivory towers. Radical theory and degrowth theory have a lot to offer one another in terms of clear analysis of the present ecological and social crises. Let us begin this conversation.

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