This article discusses the role of culture in political ecology, with a focus on degrowth. Environmental scientists increasingly consider systemic societal changes such as degrowth as indispensable for the effective tackling of current climate and ecological crises, while governments and civil society remain skeptical of it. To tackle this challenge, this article argues for the strategic employment of cultural practices, values, narratives and identities within degrowth politics. The majority of existing degrowth scholarship considers cultural politics in terms of prefiguration – the act of performing degrowth futures in the present. Drawing on Stuart Hall's concept of politics as production, Chantal Mouffe's plea for a left populism, John Jordan's practice of artivism and Caroline Levine's notion of strategic formalism, this article advocates an extended understanding of cultural politics. It proposes a conceptual framework and research agenda that considers three dimensions of cultural politics: prefiguration, popularization and pressure. To illustrate these dimensions, it gives examples from contemporary activism and popular culture. The article's scientific goal is to conceptualize the functional and strategic role culture can play as instrument in the campaigning and activist uprising for degrowth. Its practical goal is to offer degrowth advocates and activists insights on how to mobilize various existing and emerging cultural forms towards their end.
Keywords: Degrowth, cultural politics, prefiguration, popular culture, activism, Stuart Hall, Chantal Mouffe, John Jordan, Caroline Levine
How to Cite:
Meissner, M., (2021) “Towards a cultural politics of degrowth: prefiguration, popularization and pressure”, Journal of Political Ecology 28(1), p.511-532. doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.2972
- Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (grant 016.Veni.195.126)