Sustainable welfare without growth

Tuuli Hirvilammi, Max Koch

Research output: Contribution to journalDebate/Note/Editorialpeer-review


All growth‐critical perspectives have the common starting point that the ecological crisis and the increase in social inequality are basic features of high‐consumption capitalism and its spread from North America and Europe to the rest of the world. The common goal is thus to re‐embed production
and consumption patterns into planetary limits through a decrease in material and energy throughputs, particularly in rich countries. However, if critical amounts of exclusion and anomy are to be prevented during this transition, this will presuppose a more or less parallel transition of a range of social institutions at roughly the same speed and various scales (local, national, global) that
are currently in different ways tied to economic growth—a ‘great transformation’ for which there are few or no historical precedents under democratic circumstances.
While degrowth and postgrowth approaches in general have to grapple with the corresponding complexity problem, this Special Issue particularly addresses the intersection of the environmental and welfare systems. Hence, it aims to contribute towards reducing the complexity associated with a degrowth transition. We develop further the concept of ‘sustainable welfare’, which has generally been conceptualized in terms of satisfying human needs within planetary boundaries. Given the lack of evidence for an absolute decoupling of GDP from matter and energy consumption, we are interested in understanding how welfare systems that are less dependent on economic growth can
work and be more focused on achieving integrated sustainability goals than currently.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1824
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Feb 28

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Work


  • Sustainble Welfare
  • Degrowth
  • Eco-social policies


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