portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts global

corporate dominance | environment

"Beyond Growth" congress in Berlin, May 20-22, 2011

A "Beyond Growth" congress will be held in Berlin, May 20-22. 2011. The driving forces of growth, the limits of growth, the crisis of the work society, an economy beyond growth, justice and the globalized world, sharing and the good life will be discussed.
By Marc Batko

A "Beyond Growth" congress called by Attac Germany will take place in Berlin from May 222, 2011.

Our age is an age of converging crises: global warming, financial crisis, worldwide economic crisis, structural unemployment, stagnating wages and environmental destruction. Infinite growth is a myth in a finite world. Can a solidarity economy beyond growth be envisioned? What economic models and myths must change?

20% of the earth's people use up 80% of the earth's resources. Consumption goes through the roof while population remains relatively stable.

Is a post-growth economy or model of an ecologically and socially responsible economy a way of checking exploding consumption and one-dimensional development? Can qualitative growth replace quantitative growth? Can we change consciousness so access replaces excess and minds and hearts can be full, not only stomachs? Does vulgar materialism or nonstop consumerism reduce everything inward, spiritual and divine to an addendum??

An idea differs from a chair in that it can be shared by many, even by a whole society. What lessons do we learn from history and from the limits of growth? Could the community centers in Vancouver Canada be an example of multiplying and cushioning investment? Has supply-side economics led to our inability to think in long-term necessities?

How can the financial sector be shriveled, tax havens dried up and endless war reversed? 20% of military spending is for defense; the rest is for empire. Can abandoning many of the 800 US military bases lead to more security and investment in schools, health care, housing. environmental caring and job creation?


A Call to the "Beyond Growth: Ecological Justice, Social Rights and Good Life" congress, May 20-22, 2011, Berlin

By  http://www.attac.de

{This invitation to the "Beyond Growth" congress, May 20-22, 2011 in Berlin by Attac Germany is translated from the German on the Internet,  link to www.attac.de.]

The faith that economic growth can increase prosperity and solve social problems ruled and rules the thought and policy of the most different social systems - whether they are Keynesian, neoliberal or socialist. The promises of growth advocates have often not proved true but turned into their opposite: lasting mass unemp0loyment, redistribution from bottom to top and an exp0loding gap between rich and poor globally in practically all countries. Regional and global ecological catastrophes intensify the limits of growth that have often been described. Lastly, the unbridled growth dynamic has erupted in the world financial- and worldwide economic crisis. Nevertheless economic growth is still praised as a panacea or cure-all to overcome all these crisis phenomena.

Intensified climate chaos, loss of biological diversity and other environmental destruction burden especially the poorer population sectors, in the countries of the South above all. A billion people hunger worldwide. Hundreds of thousands must now flee on account of global warming. Resource wars are waged. The fossil basis of capitalism strikes its limit worldwide. Raw materials like oil, gas and phosphates are limited.

A confrontation with new concepts of economics and a discussion about alternatives to the growth society are urgently necessary!

The ecological, economic and social limits of growth have been discussed for decades. In the meantime there is a new dynamic in the argument over the past growth paradigm. Some plead for a sustainable and/or social growth. They start from the assumption that a certain economic growth is necessary to solve social and ecological problems. Thus a combination of ecological reorganization and public investments, higher wages, new jobs and development of social security would solve the environmental crisis and create more justice.

Others regard these measures as sensible but inadequate. They demand an end of growth or a shriveling of the economy. They start from the assumption that a sustainable economic growth is not possible because growth destroys the efficiency gains and all growth intensifies social and ecological crises. Therefore they urge a fundamental transformation to a solidarity economy and a society without growth.

The "Beyond Growth" congress from May 20-22, 2011 in Berlin will discuss these different positions controversially and constructively. It will identify conflicts of interest, explore ways for a good life for all in a society without growth pressure and outline strategies.

The following questions will be discussed at the congress:

- What are the driving forces of economic growth? Can a capitalist economy survive without growth?

- Can growth increase further in light of the ecological and social limits? Independent of this, is this growth even desirable? What potentials and limits lie in concepts of sustainable growth?

- What development chances exist for countries of the South if growth possibilities are redistributed from North to South? Is growth in the South the right way or are there alternative growth paths?

- How will we work in the future? What can be the role of reduced working hours? How can social security be organized beyond growth?

- What are the consequences of growth or a post-growth economy for distribution-justice particularly in the North-South context?

- How can economies function "beyond growth"? How can the financial markets be disarmed? What will be the significance of money and what role will the solidarity economy play. What will a social-ecological conversion of industries look like? What importance comes to the service sector in a social-ecological reorganization and what forms of economic democracy are possible?

- Under what conditions can a gender-just economy contribute to growth satisfaction?

- Is "good life" possible (only) with or (only) without growth?

The congress consists of two parts. In the first part, analyses and criticism will analyze the individual and structural driving forces and problems of the current growth economy, its ecological and social limits and the crisis of the work society. In a second part, alternatives and strategies for a society beyond growth will be explored. Themes like solidarity economy, global justice, solutions to the crisis of the work society and the good life in a limited world will be in the foreground of discussion.



On Causes and Long-Term Effects

By Hans-Peter Studer

[This compilation of quotations is translated from the German on the Internet,  http://www.postwachstum.de/home/buch/thesen-postwachstumsgesellschaft.html.]


The monetary generation contract of old age security must be complemented by a non-monetary social generation contract in a post-growth society. (Francois Hopflinger)


The health system is one of the few remaining growth markets today. With regard to a post-growth society, this system should be transformed into a cost-efficient solidarity system marked by personal responsibility. This should be oriented in the health both of individuals and society and strive to heal people with sicknesses in a way that tackles causes and has a long-term effect. (Hans-Peter Studer)


Education is both the prerequisite for a post-growth society and an end-in-itself. Education makes persons rich beyond the waste of resources and status symbols. Knowledge alone is not enough. The term education must be expanded with empowerment and the art of living or survival. (Christine Ax)


In all highly developed industrial countries, the growth rates of the gross domestic product decline with the shriveling industrial- and growing service sector. Economic policy should recognize and utilize these trends. Reduced working hours and the creation of services - particularly state-financed services - must play a decisive part. {Norbert Reuter)


The goal of a just distribution is not in conflict with economic- and social policy oriented in post-growth. On the contrary, orientation in post-growth enables raising the question of a just distribution for the current situation of trifling or non-existent growth instead of postponing this question to the distant unattainable future of high growth thrusts. {Matthias Mohring Hesse)


Economic growth is driven by growing consumption. This growing consumption is made possible and marked by the confluence of global inequalities, cheap resources, free enterprise competition and technological change. A post-growth society must reduce the growth of the consumption of material goods and limit social inequalities - globally and nationally. (Inge Repke)


Fiscal policy hardly considers important factors: the globalization of production and markets, particularly the markets of the financial sector; the aging of society, the increasing environmental strain and the slowed economic growth. Today's tax system reflects the situation of its genesis in a largely national economy with strong growth rates. A post-growth society requires proper taxation of incomes, business activity and assets, the relief of strain on wages, taxes and fees and a social-ecological fiscal and financial reform. (Lorenz Jarass)


Economic growth and sustainability are only compatible when an explicit resource consumption goal is set alongside the climate and when these ecological goals dominate over economic goals. The necessary enhancement of resource productivity can be attained in Germany with information- and counseling programs and economic instruments. (Bernard Meyer)


Past economic growth was based on the exploitation of common property through externalizing private costs. Externalization is prevented when sustainability replaces growth as the overall economic goal so that individual production grows more sustainably in the limits of substance maintenance while the less sustainable shrivels. This requires a market- and business order where capital is subject to the social bonds of property. If the primacy of endless capital accumulation continues, the common property will also be consumed in the future. (Gerhard Scherborn)


A change of consciousness brought about by financial enlightenment and reform of the financial market are urgently necessary. Such a reform must include a prohibition on financial services that do not serve the real economy. Banks should finance and accompany those economic activities that directly or indirectly serve people - their social needs and their needs regarding nature and the environment. (Thomas Jorberg)


Despite the economic growth of the last decades, public indebtedness has increased enormously. State budgets were rarely balanced. Straightening out public finances is absolutely necessary to prevent short-term, medium-term and long-term crises and breakdowns. Economic growth is not needed for this. A post-growth society can master the great challenge of revitalizing state finances because it abandons the illusory hope in economic growth as a problem-solver and opens up new conceptual possibilities and action alternatives. (Irmi Seidi and Angelika Zahrnt)


The way to a post-growth society must be supported by extensive democratic deliberation and participation. (Claudia von Braunmuhl)


By Angelika Zahrnt

[Angelika Zahrnt is a professor, honorary chairperson of BUND and member of the Council for Sustainable Development of the German government. This short article is translated from the German on the Internet, ]

Politicians rejoice. The crisis is over, growth is here and everything will be fine again. The self-healing powers of the market will accomplish this.

The population is skeptical. The recent poll of the Emnid Institute shows that most Germans are critical of growth and regard a "new economic order" as necessary.

A sober openness is necessary in politics instead of being out of touch with reality and holding to faith in growth. The phase of economic growth is over in industrialized countries. What happens when economic growth breaks down as an (alleged) problem-solver?

How do we attain the goals of general participation in working life, social balance and social security?

How can the tax system be rebuilt and state debts reduced?

How can the economic dynamic be realized with drastically lower consumption of energy, resources and land?

The organization of the post-growth society is the political challenge now. Politicians, parties, the economy and unions must face this challenge - instead of invoking growth like a prayer-wheel.

By Michael Mueller

[This article published in: Frankfurter Rundschau, 1/14/2011 is translated from the German on the Internet,  link to www.fr-online.de.]

On the initiative of the SPD and the Greens, the Enquete Commission "Growth, Prosperity and Quality of Life" takes up its work. The 17 parliamentarians and 17 experts will be occupied with the mega-theme of our time: the limits of growth. These limits are a deep turning point because growth was the great machine that made possible social integration and social progress in the last decades. As a bicycle can only be kept stable in movement, growth is regarded as the prerequisite for democracy and progress. This was actually attained between 1950 and 1975 when a high economic dynamic combined with building the social state.

By growth we understand the sum of prices of goods and services produced in an economy. However the gross domestic product says little about the quality of growth and the factors labor, policy, raw materials and technology. The GDP says nothing about whether there is a functioning competition or whether the state can play an active guiding role. Growth can be promoted from that self-contained point of view. However the economic processes - work, production and commodities - have a double character: consumption of nature and draining of substance and not only exploitation and value formation or profit.

"The ecological footprint demonstrates this. The ecological footprint calculates the surface a country needs to harmonize its economy with nature's power of regeneration. In Germany, this amounts to 5.32 hectares per person. To be sustainable, Germany needs a surface of 3 million square miles but actually only has 250,000 square miles. Berlin, Hamburg and Munich alone use nearly the whole biological capacity of our land."

Even a zero-growth in the use of raw materials in Europe, Japan and the US would not be enough to protect nature and give chances to developing countries. A "post-industrial service society" requires considerable material streams and high energy consumption. The limits of growth cannot be overcome through a "green technology." The alternative called qualitative growth is not explained today.

We have reached a point where development changes abruptly. At the edge of climate change, dwindling oil supply, resource wars and global conflicts over distribution, growth is a prescription with dangerous side-0effects. The natural foundations of life are finite. The dependence of social systems on growth is two-edged. Economically substance consumption increases.

The growth trap has formed since the beginning of the 1970s. At that time the social democrat Erhard Eppler raised the question: end or turn? The German chancellor then Helmut Schmidt knew only one answer: growth. While different from current policy, Schmidt tried to steer future development. The points for finance capitalism were set first in Great Britain and then in the US in the 1970s and adopted worldwide in the 1990s to achieve high growth rates. The results are well-known since the financial crisis.

At the center is the question whether fixation on growth of the gross domestic product can still make possible prosperity, quality of life and progress or whether this is a cause for the crises of our time. Is an exodus from growth pressure or overcoming capitalism necessary? The Enquete Commission should find ways to a sustainable development. How can the ideas of emancipation, freedom and justice be realized beyond a false and misguided faster, higher and more?

A political process is necessary that neither persists helplessly at the limits of growth nor only promotes a "green growth." This requires more democracy and a social-ecological transformation. Sustainability cannot be reached either by debt brakes or a growth-acceleration law. The economy needs a taregete3d growing and shriveling through the recombination of innovative products and production- and consumption processes according to social and ecological guidelines emphasizing moderation and justice. Politics must annul the liability-limitation for ecological risks, shift taxation from the factor labor to consumption and enforce a social bond of the capital market.

We will see how courageous the proposals of the Enquete Commission are.

By Andreas Exner

[This article published in 2007 is translated from the German on the Internet.]

Since 2008 capital has been in a fundamental crisis. The effects of economic packages, state bank guarantees, new investor illusions and "unemployed riches" on the stock markets quickly fade. The inflation of "fictional capital" on stock exchanges is not eliminated but is only shifted to the state and thus directly to wage-earners. State bankruptcy is only one of the dangers that now replace the "core meltdown" of the financial system.


This crisis has a prehistory that goes back to the 1960s. The growth model of the postwar era that many nostalgically transfigure today as the time of "full employment" and believe could be restored with enough "political will" broke down in a series of factors at that time. Higher capital costs, the resistance of workers and declining productivity growth led to the fall of the profit- and growth-rates of capital.

Therefore a counter-offensive of neoliberalism was launched at the end of the 1970s. Profit rates recovered through a consolidation of work, social cuts, stagnating real wages and low prices of raw materials and energy. A new unstable "growth model" of property ownership was formed. The rich could get even richer effortlessly on the liberalized financial markets.

This system had to collapse sooner or later. A system becomes precarious when claim to profit negotiated on the financial markets in the form of securities surpass the total volume of profit. If investors conclude they can no longer make their claims liquid in money, they sell out of fear of losses and in the hope of converting their profit-expectations into cash. A panic starts if many investors do this. Everyone wants to sell and the prices of securities fall. The excessive claims to profit are destroyed. A vast crisis erupts. Businesses go bankrupt and credits become scarce.

Finally, a multitude of wage-earners bite the dust. The only possibility for capital to restore its profit rates is to force down wages even more intensely, cut social benefits and destroy surplus capacities. Financing full employment through state indebtedness was unsuccessful in the past thirty years but is not completely illusory.


Profit or surplus value does not fall from the sky. Only under the rule of capital can the surplus in products produced by people take the form of abstract value, money profit, or surplus value. People must be forced to continuous production of this profit. They have to work more than they need to work to ensure their livelihood. Surplus value is only created through labor, unpaid labor. If wages were equal to the total value of the products, all work done under the regiment of capital (including housework etc) would be paid and there would be no profit.

Capital is not a thing or mere money but the forced relation between two classes of people: wage-earners and owners of the means of production. Thus capital is nothing but the other side of paid labor. Persons who do not own any means of production must sell their skills on a labor market. The owners of the means of production buy this commodity to draw a profit from its exploitation.

Capital is not only based on paid labor and its exploitation but on many forms of labor that are unpaid and made invisible. Housework, the work of students and volunteer work are all works done voluntarily and in personal motivation. This is also true for a large part of paid labor.

In addition capital and its exploitation system are founded on the unpaid work of past generations, the whole accumulated knowledge and the social abilities and structured created unpaid and produced and redeveloped daily. Many of these works are not paid because they cannot be ascribed to an individual or are not quantifiable. With increasing use of machines, accumulated knowledge becomes the "real productive force." The cooperative power of wage-earners strengthened by machines cannot be squeezed into any money value or wage.


Historically people make themselves "wage slaves" when they have no other possibility of life. Blood-stained expropriation created this state of affairs. Wherever people do more paid work than they want or are forced to a labor market, what makes possible a life without or with little paid labor must be taken from them: free government services, adequate unemployment benefits, subsistence possibilities and common property. State authority arranges this.

Not without good reason Marx spoke of the "industrial reserve army" as a prerequisite for capitalist production. Persons with no other possibility to stay alive than paid labor but are not employed exert pressure on all who sell themselves to capital (at rotten conditions). Capital loses its absolute power of self-assertion wherever the pressure of paid labor is relaxed and unavailable paid labor loses its sting. [What is the difference between a chair and an idea? Only one person can sit on a chair while a whole people can share an idea. Translator note on a new economic system.]

Paid labor must be pushed back from the perspective of an emancipative-oriented union that wants to expand freedom instead of merely playing as "another management." Wage-earners are dependent on capital. Anti-capitalism is struggle against paid labor and building an alternative.


The current crisis goes far beyond the destruction of exaggerated claims to profit. An unparalleled climate- and energy crisis occurs. For this reason, a return to full employment is a hallucination program. This program cannot achieve reduction of working hours - as important as this is. Reduced working hours without cuts in payment is not an option. With full wage compensation, the pressure on capital intensifies and labor undermines itself as an employment strategy.

For ecological reasons, many branches should be drastically restructured or shut down: the auto industry, its suppliers, large parts of marketing, infrastructure branches (road construction etc), large parts of the chemical industry, all financial institutions and so forth.

Given this challenge, whoever calls for the state only repeats the command socialist illusion. The state depends on capital exploitation because it gains its tax revenue from that. The state is not a neutral instrument to rationally plan production. In a society where people consciously determine their production, there are institutions that govern this but they are not splintered rule machines called the state.


A strategy that brings together the struggle against paid labor with immediate improvements and builds a solidarity economy is the command of the hour. Only part of existing enterprises can be transformed in self-government or autonomy. A large part of the enterprises should be simply shut down. This is an important reason why social benefits must be uncoupled from paid labor. Otherwise loosening the fixation on maintaining existing jobs is impossible.

A money economy will exist in the future. The priority must be making the infrastructure and resources free of charge and reducing sales relations as much as possible. A "transition program" is needed to build a solidarity economy. The basic income starts here.

As an unconditional individual money payment above the poverty level that realizes the human right to life, basic income could be the only need-oriented payment. It would be paid out to everyone and taxed away from those with adequate incomes. This would happen progressively like conventional income support and unemployment benefits and does not prevent the "incentive" of pursuing paid labor.

A basic income is not a subsidy for the low-wage sector. Quite the contrary, basic income strengthens union labor struggles so that work at rotten conditions can be rejected. The solidarity struggle against paid labor and steps to the practical uncoupling of decent living and income could overcome the defensiveness of the unions that has intensified since the 1980s on the backdrop of high structural unemployment.

The fundamental crisis of capital makes unworkable every strategy that aims either at a "new upswing" like the "Green New Deal" or the nonsense of a "non-growing capitalism." Rather a "transition program" is necessary that gives orientation for converting production and distribution to a society of common property. The dignity of the unemployed who are hostages of unions and whom they use as an argument for "full employment" must be respected in the struggle for a basic income. State bureaucracy that has the audacity of opposing an "activating labor market policy" as a neoliberal re-education program would define activities "worthy of financing" and "unworthy" lifestyles from the view of capital and break withy a basic income.

Nevertheless the basic income is not the final wisdom. It must be transformed in the medium term to a basic decent living that is more than a payment. The importance of sales relations must recede in a society where blind market relations are replaced by conscious cooperation. The labor- and commodity-market disappears with capital and the money economy.


A solidarity economy must overcome the patriarchal split between "important" and "unimportant" work. Notions that patriarchy and its gender division of labor could be vanquished by a "redistribution of housework" or equal pay of women and men can just as little overcome the problem as capital rule can be overcome by a little "co-determination."

Patriarchy means certain qualities, authorities and "spheres" are defined structurally as unimportant and discriminated against because they do not correspond to sales relations and market competition. Supposedly "feminine" activities and behavior patterns are ascribed structurally to "women." This does not mean that patriarchy does not also mark and oppress "men" (as capitalists can in no way serve as guidelines of a "good life." Liberation is not divisible.] Real criticism of patriarchy does not mean allowing the "feminine" and the "masculine" to exist and playing a little "redistribution." Real criticism must put in question the forced definition of "feminine" and "masculine."

The idea of "redistributing housework" is much too narrow for another reason. The separation of society in "spheres" on one side and 'households" on the other side is the inner core and result of patriarchy. As long as production for a market and profit is the goal, a sphere must be left in which labor power is restored for capital, children are conceived and raised - through the love of the woman or recently through migrant women from the South. Market and capital cannot exist for themselves. They need "another" who necessarily pays a subordinate role even though it is the basis for market and capital.

To melt away this deep core of patriarchy, the centrality of market and paid labor must be practically overcome. This cannot happen through a "redistribution of work." Brainwashing will always be "unimportant." In a solidarity economy, brainwashing happens automatically when it splits off the capitalist form of "business" from the "budget sphere."

Basic income partially breaks the market pressure and the definitional power of capital and paid labor about what is "important" and what is "unimportant." It prevents the command socialist trap of deciding what is now "socially useful" and what is "private enjoyment" by party decree or a political group.


Basic income and a basic decent living allow partial uncoupling from patriarchy and market pressure. "Basic income" is capital itself. That was the strategy of the radical Italian worker movement in the 1970s that wanted to drive capital into a corner with the demand of a "political wage" (basic income) (and ran aground in state repression and targeted unions).

A financial basis for basic income exists as long as capital accumulates and a market exists. This should begin with the abolition of all controls on unemployment benefits and need not be introduced in one blow. This goal can be converted in real politics. If it fails, it will fail in the need of power, capital conformity and state bondage of political functionaries or in the internalized submission of wage-earners. Polls show the majority is often for a basic income but think "the others" would 'misuse" this. Apart from the fact that "misuse" of a basic income is unclear, such an attitude can be easily decoded as a projection of unacknowledged hatred of paid labor, rule, "those shy of work" and the "asocial": the basic model of rightwing ideology.

Whoever thinks a basic income would invalidate planned social production assumes rule is natural and necessary and cannot be overcome. This is rightwing ideology, not a leftist position. A strange picture of people and activity underlies this. As though no pots and pans have to be washed, no children raised and no voluntary work performed. Unpaid creativity and motivation represent the driving force in paid labor. People react to necessities that they see by solving problems independently and cooperatively. They become active because activity constitutes their human nature (and they could not otherwise carry out biological evolution) - an everyday reality even in capitalism. The ideology of capital rule is certainly different.

Unlike the struggles of the 1970s, basic income is now taken up with an expanded perspective in building a solidarity economy of autonomy, self-government and inter-entrepreneurial cooperation.

The solidarity economy alone does not have an unconditionally liberating effect. A "complete" solidarity economy can easily flow into repression by group pressure and fixation on individual projects, enterprises and connections. Something must be added that creates real freedom, makes possible creativity and allows change between connections without problem.

Basic income is an immediate necessity and not a finished program of the future or a Cloud-Cuckoo Land of "financing models." The good life and the end of capital "cannot be financed." Rather social struggles are involved that partly defuse wage- and capital-dependence and open up possibilities for a solidarity economy. Full employment is prison jargon of yesterday.

People who make available basic income to one another and fight against the state and capital will not necessarily act as the union elites, leftist intellectuals or "moral authorities" would like. As we should have learned from history, liberation cannot be decreed. We can only further the conditions of its possibility. But that would be a great step.


Altvater, Elmar, "The End of the Dollar"

Exner, Andreas, "Fukushima and Capitalism," March 2011

Hirsch, Joachim, "Causes and Consequences of the Financial Crisis," June 2010

Kovicz, Tomasz, "The US is More Greek Than Greece"


"Enough is Enough" by Herman Daly and others

"Free Culture" by Lawrence Lessig

"Free: The Future of a Radical Price" by Chris Anderson

"Needs and Limits" by Frank Rotering

"Culture Change" by Alexis Zeigler

homepage: homepage: http://www.onthecommons.org
address: address: http://www.wearemany.org