Ecological Economics and Degrowth

Corinna Dengler und Birte Strunk
Summer Academy for Pluralist Economics, 2021
Level: leicht
Perspektive: Ökologische Ökonomik
Thema: Ressourcen, Umwelt & Klima, Soziale Bewegungen & Transformation
Format: Syllabus

This workshop was originally taught at the Summer Academy for Pluralist Economics 2021
Instructor: Corinna Dengler & Birte Strunk

Module description

Course form Credit Duration Language
Workshop (online) 5 ECTS 1 week block course English

Course Description

This workshop offers an introduction to Degrowth and Ecological Economics. It starts by surveying the socio-ecological crisis and its pseudo-solutions, and then moves to Ecological Macroeconomics as a relatively recent field of scholarship within Ecological Economics. Subsequently, Degrowth will be introduced as one specific field within ecological economics that goes beyond academic scholarship as a larger social and activist movement. During the second half of the workshop, we delve deeper into current debates around Ecological Economics and Degrowth, and engage with feminist ecological economics as well as with global perspectives on Degrowth.

Learning objectives

The course provides an introduction to:

  • The discourse on the necessity of a socio-ecological transformation and the critique of ‘green growth’ and ‘net zero’ as solutions to current challenges
  • Ecological Economics and its emerging sub-stream of Ecological Macroeconomics
  • Degrowth, both as a scholarly field within Ecological Economics as well as an activist movement
  • Feminist and global, post-colonial perspectives on Degrowth

By the end of the course, students understand how degrowth and ecological economics differ from mainstream economics as well as from mainstream solutions to environmental challenges and will be able to critically analyse and assess sustainability policy-making in the light of degrowth.

Teaching format

The course will be held entirely online with a mix of synchronous and asynchronous session that cover both lectures and interactive sessions (see the overview table below). We are excited to have such an international group with students joining from various time zones! For that reason, however, we chose to pre-record the lectures, so that everyone can attend them whenever it works best for their respective time zones. The lectures (and readings) will be made available in the drive folder of our course. We will upload all lectures by Tuesday, July 27, so students are free to watch all lectures prior to the start of the summer academy. However, we recommend watching them along the course – i.e. either in the morning prior to our synchronous sessions for the respective day, or on the evening before. To make the most of the online format, the synchronous sessions (Workshop sessions 2 and 3) will be as interactive as possible and will work with both break-out rooms and group discussions. We try to keep the structure simple: Each day has a core topic (see the box to the right), which will be introduced in the (asynchronous) lecture, and for which you are asked to prepare two readings. During the second session, we will meet for discussions in small groups, during which you discuss the readings, formulate questions about them, and discuss guiding questions that we provide at the end of each lecture. In the third session, we get together as a group and bring together as well as develop further what was discussed in the break-out rooms.

Topic overview:

Saturday – Introduction to crises
Sunday – Ecological (Macro) Econ
Monday – Degrowth
Tuesday– Feminist perspectives
Wednesday – Global perspectives


Day 1 (Workshop Session 1-3) - Introduction to the socio-ecological crises & pseudo-solutions

  • Gómez-Baggethun, Erik; Naredo, Jóse Manuel (2015): In search of lost time: the rise and fall of limits to growth in international sustainability policy. In: Sustainability Science, 10/3, pp. 385-395.
  • Malm, Andreas; Carton, Wim (2021): Seize the means of carbon removal: the political economy of direct air capture. In: Historical Materialism, 29/1, pp. 3-48.
  • Only the two-page executive summary: Parrique, Tim; Barth, Jonathan; Briens, François; Kerschner, Christian; Kraus-Polk, Alejo; Kuokkanen, Anna; Spangenberg, Joachim (2019): Decoupling debunked: Evidence and arguments against green growth as a sole strategy for sustainability. In: European Environmental Bureau.

Day 2 (Workshop Session 4-6) - Introduction to Ecological Economics and Ecological Macro

  • Hinton, Jennifer (2020): Fit for purpose? Clarifying the critical role of profit for sustainability. In: Journal of Political Ecology 27/1, pp. 236-262.
  • Stratford, Beth (2020): The threat of rent extraction in a resource-constrained future. In: Ecological Economics, 169.

Day 3 (Workshop Session 7-9) - Introduction to Degrowth

  • Demaria, Federico; Schneider, François; Sekulova, Filka; Martinez-Alier, Joan (2013): What is Degrowth? From an Activist Slogan to a Social Movement. In: Environmental Values 22, pp. 191-215.
  • Dengler, Corinna (2021): Degrowth. In: Berik, Günseli; Kongar, Ebru (eds.): Routledge Handbook of Feminist Economics. London/New York: Routledge, pp. 369–377.

Day 4 (Workshop Session 10-12) - Feminist Ecological Economics

  • Dengler, Corinna; Strunk, Birte (2018): The Monetized Economy Versus Care and the Environment: Degrowth Perspectives on Reconciling an Antagonism. In: Feminist Economics 24/3, pp.160–183.
  • O'Hara, Sabine (2009): Feminist Ecological Economics: Theory and Practice. In: Salleh, Ariel (ed.): Eco-sufficiency and global justice: Women write political ecology. London: Pluto Press, pp. 180–196.

Day 5 (Workshop Session 13-15) - Degrowth - Global Perspectives

  • Escobar, Arturo (2015): Degrowth, Postdevelopment, and Transitions: A Preliminary Conversation. In: Sustain. Sci. 10, pp. 451–462.
  • Jorge Garcia-Arias; Schöneberg, Julia (2021): Urgencies and imperatives for revolutionary (environmental) transitions: from degrowth and postdevelopment towards the pluriverse?, In: Environmental Politics, 30/5, pp. 865-871.

Essay assignment

Some of you chose to take the course for credits, and we decided to offer the option to write an essay of 2,500 words (incl. literature) worth 5 ECTS. According to the ECTS system, 5 ECTS equals 150 working hours. We will have 22,5 contact hours in synchronous and asynchronous sessions during the course and expect everyone (i.e. also those who do not write the essay) to take around 20 hours of preparation during the course (two hours per reading including taking notes, two readings per day, five days). This leaves you with 107,5 working hours for writing the essay, so you can take two to three weeks of full-time work (or 5 weeks of part-time work) after the summer academy to work on your essay. For the essay, we expect you to not only critically engage with the material covered in the course, but also substantively engage in further literature research on your topic of choice. We do not provide a list of possible essay topics, but we are happy to meet with you to support you in finding a research question and, if necessary, point you in the direction of further literature. We will likely hold an office hour during the course for those of you who will write an essay where we can discuss further details.

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