Degrowth versus stagnation

April 3, 2018 by Kristine Harper

I recently stumbled upon the term Degrowth, and felt inclined to look further into it. Especially since I could sense that the term was positively charged, and thereby by definiton in opposition to the prevailing view on growth as something positively progressive.
The term degrowth has its origin in the French word Décroissance, was introduced at the first Degrowth conference in Paris in 2008, which has been followed by an international degrowth conference in Europe every second year promoted by the network Research & Degrowth. The Research & Degrowth network defines sustainable degrowth as:

A down-scaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions and equity on the planet. It calls for a future where societies live within their ecological means, with open, localised economies and resources more equally distributed through new forms of democratic institutions. Such societies will no longer have to grow or die.

Furthermore, the network emphasises that a degrowth society will focus on sufficiency rather than efficiency, and that innovation will be dedicated to new social and technical arrangements that will enable us to live convivially and frugally. The degrowth movement is generally critical of life-styles based on the ‘work more, earn more, sell more and buy more’ dogma of industrialised countries; rather it promotes the liberating qualities of voluntary simplicity and the reduction of individual consumption, and is, not surprisingly, inspired by Thoreau’s Walden; or Life in the Woods among other anti-materialistic, simplicity-promoting socio-ecological literature (DeMaria et al. What is Degrowth? From an Activist Slogan to a Social Movement. Environmental Values 22: 191–215. The White Horse Press. 2013: 195-197).

The major idea of the degrowth movement is that if less time is spent on formal work and consumption, more time can be dedicated to other fulfilling activities – and that such a shift potentially will be less environmentally harmful (Ibid: 202). Degrowth does not mean stagnation or inactivity. It does not imply doing nothing, like the fisherman of the anecdote. Rather, it is dynamic, in ‘reverse engineering’ kind of way. As the above quote demonstrates, the idea of degrowth is that by limiting ‘formal’ work and consumption, more time will be left for other fulfilling activities. Degrowth, in other words, involves a conscious choice to eradicate the 9 – 5 work-reality of the majority of people in industrialised countries, in order to make time and mental surplus for physically, socially and intellectually rewarding doings. Limiting expenses and consumption is a way to make this scenario possible. In my analysis of the degrowth movement, it includes a showdown of the assumption that human beings are what they work with, i.e. for example a teacher, a merchant, a doctor, or a waiter. A fulfilling life contains more than us limiting ourselves to our societal function. Or, as it is beautifully put in the book Degrowth – A Vocabulary for a new Era from 2015:

In other words, voluntary simplicity involves embracing a minimal ‘sufficient’ material standard of living, in exchange for more time and freedom to pursue other life goals, such as community or social engagements, more time with family, artistic or intellectual projects, home-based production, more fulfilling employment, political participation, spiritual exploration, relaxation, pleasure-seeking, and so on – none of which need to rely on money, or much money. (D’Alisa, Demaria and Kallis 2015: 133)

Why do most people wish to trade the financial markets? Most seem to do so, as they believe trading to be one way to accumulate enormous wealth. They see themselves as wealthy individuals buying expensive things, which goes hand in hand with the ‘work more, earn more, sell more and buy more’ dogma mentioned previously. This view is in no way sustainable, as it encourages over consumption as well as other activities which negatively impact the planet.

Is it possible to apply degrowth to trading?

Absolutely. Trading is a way of working smarter, not harder, which is why so many people pursue it. As previously described in our discussion regarding process oriented trading:

 If you don’t enjoy the process then you’ll likely never make it to your destination. Trading is many things so there is a good chance that you can find something about it that will motivate you to stay on track. I got into trading via a work project, which was related to a piece of software. I enjoy software development so this made the path very enjoyable. Trading is related to so many things, including macro economics, technical analysis, liquidity distribution, it’s a software problem and a great one at that it you’re into deep learning. It’s about psychology and so much more. If you want trading to stick then you have to focus on making the process of learning about it enjoyable and not on the result, which simply isn’t a good enough reason for wanting to learn about it.

In order to become good at anything you must be willing to put in the hours, be it trading, playing an instrument or taking care of people, you must find an aspect of the activity itself  that brings you into the present moment, and brings your attention to the enjoyable aspects of the process itself and enables you to detach from the outcome of the given activity. Trading is about doing things smarter and moving away from the 9 – 5 mentality. It’s about embracing ones ability to create value independent of the time it takes to create it. Traders do not sell their time. As a trader you are worth the value you are capable of creating, independent of the time it takes to create it.

Will 10 watches, cars or houses make you a happier person? Initially, yes, very likely, but once the novelty has worn off, you will be back where you started, with or without your watches, cars and houses. Degrowth is about maintaining a level of existence that you are happy with, in exchange for the time and effort it requires to create it, and trading is tremendous instrument for this no matter how or where you live.

Trading is about freeing up time so that one can contribute to initiatives greater than oneself, which is a step in the right direction according Simone de Beauvoir and  Friedrich Nietzsche, which we touched briefly upon in Trade the markets like a child, playfully, curiously and enjoy the process.