Exploring Degrowth: Implementing the unconditional autonomy allowance: transitionary steps

In Vincent Liegey and Anitra Nelson, Exploring Degrowth, A Critical Guide (Pluto Press, September 2020):

Appendix 3: Implementing the unconditional autonomy allowance: transitionary steps

This appendix is adapted and updated from Vincent Liegey et al., Un Projet de Décroissance, Utopia, 2013, see: www.projet-decroissance.net

The unconditional autonomy allowance is not a magical recipe but offers diverse pathways, a coherent convergence of complementary levels and approaches. It is driven by cultural transformation, a decolonisation of our imaginary, rather than being a technical tool to solve all institutional, economic and political problems. It is envisaged as one pathway within an emancipating, democratic and serene transition from growthism to sustainable, desirable, relocalised but connected, open, convivial and autonomous societies. This appendix identifies desirable, realistic steps leaving open questions: What are our basic needs? What, and how, do we satisfy/produce them?

Step Levers Achievements and advantages Barriers and risks Convergence
0 CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION

Adopting a paradigm switch, decolonisation of the growth imaginary precipitates changes in everyday practices – a continuous process

Polls and studies show urgently needed awareness is under way

But the growth ideal is still strong, in particular failing to structurally abate growth mania

Change slow due to advertising, lack of time and space for debate in elite-controlled mainstream media, debt slavery (loans) and employment

This step needs others to facilitate it, namely democratisation and the acceleration of an emancipating decolonisation of the growth imaginary

All these degrowth steps need to converge with expanding and multiplying exemplary practices and spaces for experimenting with new ways to produce, exchange and make decisions

Convergence with other social movements necessary for adoption, including in law, for direct governance of commons and for freedom from paid work

Requires progressive implementation of an acceptable maximum income; democratic re-appropriation of the monetary system (public debt, money creation, fiscal evasion) to re-embed the economy

1 GRASSROOTS PRACTICES

Implementation and extension of local concrete alternatives, initiatives, initially pilots and demonstrations, ultimately creating self-governing formations and commoning

Alternative economic structure in formation with useful results leading to developments of appropriate models.

Visible and scholarly impacts

Activities difficult to integrate with current state and market structures; compete and conflict with mainstream practices

Not fully functional until radical transformation to commons governance and commoning economies

2 ALTERING WORK

Voluntary reduction of working hours through part-time and sharing roles – allowing free time to support degrowth formations and transition

Addresses current unemployment and precarity

Addresses work–life balance

Numerous voluntary changes occurring; numbers of people consider this feasible

Need unions and parties to support part-time work and more flexible working conditions

Managers of conventional workplaces can be prejudiced against degrowth advocates and activists

Unless there is broader change beyond work sphere, elites may end up controlling even more resources

3 UNCONDITIONAL BASIC INCOME

Implementing an unconditional basic income initially depends at least in part on formal monetary flows

Under debate

Some successful small-scale pilots

Offers opportunities for liberation from work to engage in degrowth transitions

Needs mass, broad spread implementation and measures to avoid abuse, i.e. particular political, cultural and economic supports

Challenges in avoiding shocks to food supply-chain given high level of complexity and fragility

4 PROGRESSIVE DEMONETISATION

Unconditional basic income becomes a fully fledged unconditional autonomy allowance

Establishing decentralised and relocalised exchange networks

Democratic and peaceful re-embedding of the economy via voluntary democratic deliberation in favour of unconditional autonomy allowance

Open relocalisation creates solidarities balancing the logic of subsidiarity and counter-revolutionary power

Might increase inequalities and tensions between territories due to disruptions in trade and financing arrangements
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