Sustainable consumption and the power of economic growth: exploring alternatives to the growth-dependency narrative

Gumbert, Tobias; Mamut, Pia; Fuchs, Doris; Welck, Tobias

Forschungsartikel (Zeitschrift)


Increasing shares of the sustainable consumption literature postulate the need for a focus on limits to consumption as a basis for achieving absolute reductions in resource use. After all, improvements in the sustainability of consumption expected from technological innovation and efficiency gains have been eaten up by rebound effects, to date. The decoupling that proponents of green growth were hoping for is nowhere in sight. However, discussions about limits to consumption immediately meet opposition from political representatives, powerful associations and industry lobby groups alike. Specifically, opponents claim that we simply cannot afford a scaling back of consumption and the economic growth it is supposed to drive due to the growth-dependent nature of our welfare systems. Such claims have become very dominant narratives that influence what societies deem ‘realistic’ and ‘possible’ regarding the politics of sustainable consumption, cementing the current status quo. It also shows that research on strong sustainable consumption governance, that is, governance pursuing a reduction in consumption levels and fundamental shift in consumption patterns (especially in the Global North), needs to target such claims head on, if existing paradigmatic barriers to a sustainability transition are to be overcome. But what counter-narrative(s) can scholars offer? To identify potential elements of such counter-narrative(s) for consumption scholars to draw on, the present article investigates what answers critical sustainability research, in particular the degrowth literature, has in stock regarding the affordability of reductions in consumption- driven growth from the perspective of democratic welfare states.

Details zur Publikation

Veröffentlichungsjahr: 2022
Sprache, in der die Publikation verfasst istEnglisch
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