In this article Christa Wichterich reflects on the discourses and strategies discussed during the 4th De-Growth Conference. De conference brought 3000 people together in Leipzig, in September 2014, through 450 workshops, cultural events and plenaries.
In terms of discourse the current “de-growth” discourse can be seen as a third wave of growth critique. It stands for a concept and grassroots social movements in Europe responding to the interlocking crises. The movement is diverse and the concept offers a broad range of critique of capitalist growth strategies. This was clearly shown at the conference in Leipzig. Also the concept of de-growth itself was at times critiqued, especially as model for the global South.
A key message at the conference was that “many small people who in many small places do many small things can alter the face of the world”. It echoes the feminist saying that the private is political in a reverse way: the political is private. Related to this focus, (traditional) political power plays, violence and wars were not discussed. The answer of the conference on how to bring about change in societies remained located at the grassroots level in the diverse initiatives such as city farming, public kitchen, alternative care-arrangements, etc. The many small initiatives and alternative projects are a kind of practical critique of the corporate-driven neo-liberal globalization.
It was difficult to asses whether the conference helps to overcome the fragmentation of critical social movements. Nevertheless it provided a huge potential to learn, reflect and be inspired. While in scholarly discourse on de-growth feminist positions are marginalized, the feminist approaches in particular the care approach were prominently represented at the conference. In the feminist approaches the ultimate goal is good living and secured livelihoods. It was an important addition that the perspective of care and with it alternative forms of caring were discussed and connected.