Degrowth – Taking Stock and Reviewing an Emerging Academic Paradigm

Martin Weiss, Claudio Cattaneo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 The Authors Degrowth has evolved within a decade from an activist movement into a multi-disciplinary academic paradigm. However, an overview taking stock of the peer-refereed degrowth literature is yet missing. Here, we review 91 articles that were published between 2006 and 2015. We find that the academic degrowth discourse occupies a small but expanding niche at the intersection of social and applied environmental sciences. The discourse is shaped by authors from high-income, mainly Mediterranean, countries. Until 2012, articles largely constitute conceptual essays endorsed by normative claims. More recently, degrowth has branched out into modelling, empirical assessments, and the study of concrete implementations. Authors tend to agree in that economic growth cannot be sustained ad infinitum on a resource constraint planet and that degrowth requires far reaching societal change. Whether degrowth should be considered as a collectively consented choice or an environmentally-imposed inevitability constitutes a major debate among degrowth thinkers. We argue that the academic discourse could benefit from rigid hypotheses testing through input-output modelling, material flow analysis, life-cycle assessments, or social surveys. By analyzing the potentials for non-market value creation and identifying concrete well-being benefits, the degrowth discourse could receive wider public support and contribute to a paradigmatic change in the social sciences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-230
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • Degrowth
  • Economic growth
  • Steady-state economy
  • Sustainable development


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