Guest Post: Degrowth, Anti-Consumerism And Peak Consumption

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog


Degrowth embraces the ongoing devolution of paid work and wealth that cannot be reversed.

The anti-consumerism Degrowth movement is gaining visibility and adherents in Europe. Degrowth (French: décroissance, Spanish: decrecimiento, Italian: decrescita) recognizes that the mindless expansion of mindless consumption fueled by credit and financialization is qualitatively and quantitatively different from positive growth.
Degrowth is based on a number of principles:

1. Consumerism is psychological/spiritual junk food (French: malbouffe) that actively reduces well-being (bien-etre) rather than increases it.
2. Better rather than more: well-being is increased by everything that cannot be commoditized by a market economy or financialized by a cartel-state financial machine-- friendship, family, community, self-cultivation-- rather than by acquiring more. The goal of economic and social growth should be better, not more. On a national scale, the cancerous-growth measured by gross domestic product (GDP) should be replaced with gross domestic happiness/ gross nation happiness (GNH).
3. A recognition that resources are not infinite, despite claims to the contrary. Even if fossil fuels were infinite and low-cost (cheerleaders never mention costs of extraction and refining or the external costs), fisheries, soil and fresh water are not. For one example of many: China Is Plundering the Planet's Seas

 (The Atlantic). Indeed, all the evidence suggests that access to cheap energy only speeds up the depletion and despoliation of every other resource.
4. The unsustainability of consumerist consumption dependent on resource depletion and financialization (i.e. the endless expansion of credit and phantom collateral).
5. The diminishing returns on consumption. Investing in clean air and water, public transit, universally accessible knowledge/information--these forms of consumption yield high returns in public health, affordable mobility, etc. Buying clothing to wear once or twice and then throw away does not.

The investment in the rule of law, public infrastructure and universal access to clean air, water and education moves nations from developing to developed and greatly improves the material lives of the residents. Beyond this, consumption of resources offers diminishing returns up to a point of social/spiritual/ psychological derangement. Consumption beyond this point actively reduces well- being.
6. The failure of neoliberal capitalism and communism alike in their pursuit of growth at any cost.
7. We have reached Peak Consumption (video 27:30 minutes).
The Degrowth movement explicitly questions what John Michael Greer calls the religion of progress (i.e. growth). The civil religion that growth equals progress is akin to the Cargo Cult of Keynesianism, the notion that growth is so essential that expanding debt exponentially to drive diminishing returns of growth is necessary.

But both the religion of growth and its Cargo Cult enablers are merely superficial facades masking the real force: the expansion of global finance via financialization.Expanding capital, profits and power is the key agenda, and the quasi-religion of growth is just the public-relations narrative that mesmerizes the debt-serfs, political toadies and media sycophants.
What does Degrowth mean in practical terms? Use the thing until it cannot be repaired. Don't ditch the mobile phone, auto, dress or digital device until it can no longer repaired. Buy local rather than than global-corporate whenever feasible. Crave less, need less, want less, resist the brainwashing of 24/7 marketing. Learn to become a person who does not need corporate-status signifiers for a sense of identity.

In a very real way, Degrowth embraces the devolution of paid work and wealth that cannot be reversed. Growth and consumption based on financialization, expanding credit and phantom collateral is unsustainable and will devolve or implode. Rather than pine for what cannot be, it's far healthier to embrace using less of everything and increasing well-being by leveraging the web, the commons and what cannot be commoditized or financialized.

New video with CHS and Gordon Long: Peak Consumption (27:30)


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W T F II's picture

When you cannot do something you're told you need to do you eventually give up.

Should be BULLISH for markets, banks and sovereigns...NOT

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Disintermediation should bring growth to a local community, not de-growth.

jbvtme's picture

Vote up!

Vote down!


i have cut my consumption to books, food and gas.  no restaurants, theater, clothes, music, real estate... fuck 'em

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Vote Up:  I have stopped exporting most of my capital to other cities, states, and nations.

Vote Down:  I heart Wal*Mart, Nike, Happy Motoring, and Globalism.

Butter from our Milking Shorthorn.


McMolotov's picture

You say it's butter, but it could be yellowcake uranium. Prepare to be droned, comrade.

Kobe Beef's picture

Don't look now, but Colon (sic) Powell is gassing up the ol' Power Point.

Manthong's picture

Here is some consumerism …


Illinois, the SOK’s (son of a Kenyan) “home” state gets $2 Million in brand new, unplanned revenue since the beginning of the year.. and they are vexed.. why?

Manthong's picture

btw.  The SOK is a soks fan..  that is where “kaminski field”  is

zipit's picture

What about dating budget (or are you down to porn streams and torrents)?

jbvtme's picture

i have a wife on that payroll

Scarlett's picture

and what do you do for sex?

TeamDepends's picture

Damn.  On another thread we are discussing Hollywood and predictive programming.  One can't help but wonder if shows like The Walking Dead (title says it all) isn't setting us up for some ungodly situation.  After all, masses of starving people would probably be moving pretty slow....

McMolotov's picture

The first thing I thought of when I read the article and saw HH's zombie picture was this song and video by Pearl Jam:

All of our "progress" will end up killing us.

Sean7k's picture

This article might as well been written by the Elites. Expect less, live on less, but trust is government and law to provide a better standard of living. Dressed up as a report on degrowth and conservation, this is propaganda of the worst type.

All of it is true, until you associate the State with an improved standard of living- because tyranny is the wost standard there is. Any guesses on who will determine the allocaion of resources? The State?  The cost of said resources? The State?

I didn't realize CHS had gone over to the other side...



NotApplicable's picture

Umm... there's only one sentence even mentioning the state's "public goods." The remainder of the article is true regardless of intention of the messenger. I didn't watch the video.

IMO, it's just a restatement of Mises' credit-fueled crack-up boom.

Sean7k's picture

I believe I stated that. Since that is the only resource provided, I believe the charge is appropiate. If you can't see the propaganda value, it is valuable indeed.

Matt's picture

Also, where does he think positive exports are going to come from? Someone else will have to become a net importer for that to happen.

drdolittle's picture

Thanks hedgeless, I needed a laugh before work today.

BTW, new laws are making it very hard to eat local. Many times your not even told country of origin ( I will not knowingly eat food from China but apparently it's unfair trade to label food)

Kroger sells "pink salmon" "wild caught". Used to be from China but now has no label hmmmm...

I would rather buy grass finished steak froma guy an hour away than steak from "product of china, mexico or canada" that was raised in a feedlot with 10k other animals basically walking on a mountain of cow shit

Whoa Dammit's picture

Degrowth just tries to make poverty seem better. 

BobPaulson's picture

I'm certainly open to a new definition of "wealth" because the current one seems headed to cause our annihilation if we don't focus on happiness instead of useless shit.

Whoa Dammit's picture

The fact of the matter is that most people are working to just maybe pay  bills for food, clothing, shelter, car expenenses, utilities, and insurance while a few loll around in luxury. I don't care what its called, or how its sugar coated, it's not right and it SUCKS!!!

Matt's picture

If the clothes, shelter and cars didn't need constant replacement due to planned and percieved obsolecence, the people would have a lot more.

As long as there is "free trade" / globalization, real wages will continue to fall towards the global median. 

drdolittle's picture

and environmntal protection will also go to the lowest common denominator

mayhem_korner's picture



If you are content, why worry about the definition of "wealth" or even who has it?  If others' wealth (relative to yours) is a cause of discontent, you are stuck and it won't matter how you define "wealth".

ThirdWorldDude's picture

Welcome to Earth, home of the sheeple who're thriving on endless pastures of propaganda of all kinds...

Seriously, your comment implies that a large chunk of the population is self-aware and have developed critical thinking. I think you need to go out more often.

SheepDog-One's picture

America- FUCK YEAH!

mayhem_korner's picture



Was this the final version, or the 3am hemp-influenced draft?

(still looking for the zero on the rating scale...)

LawsofPhysics's picture

That which cannot be sustained won't be.  Lots of things look great on paper, or in the world of paper promises, but talk to an engineer about making things a reality. 

NoDebt's picture

Agreed.  Reality is deeply out of favor these days, obviously.  It isn't always fun, pretty or cheap.  Which is why I still like it.

I'll be helping to swap a new TH-400 transmission into my buddy's turbocharged 72 Chevelle later today.  He's never changed a transmission out before, but he just HAS TO HAVE a better transmission in his car.  ENTER REALITY!  On paper, it seems simple.  In reality, laying on your back in the driveway..... he's gonna pay his dues on this little project!

No ammount of friendship, love or togetherness is going to get the old trans out and the new one in.  Only tools,  labor and the knowlege of how to do the task will get it done.

NidStyles's picture

It's a tranny swap. It's not like he's disassembling it and putting it back together or anything.

Sofa King Confused's picture

It's a tranny swap..........that sounds nasty

NoDebt's picture

He's not ready for that yet.  Guess who did the upgrade and rebuild on the new trans prior to it going in?  I'll give you three guesses and your first two don't count.

WhiteNight123129's picture


As for commodities, Drucknemiller is correct, misreading on the part of miners of the trend in base metals and China reason for massive stimulus back in 2009. I think though I spotted a massive error from Druckenmiller.

There it is:

"The last 11 years was an aberration, a deviation from the long-term trend of declining commodities prices as technology reduced the cost of extraction.”

The statement from Druckenmiller is correct only at equal resources quality. I.e. if Saudi oil is enough to serve all the oil demand, the higher technology will lower commodity prices, but once you have used up this, you are forced to get fracking or tar sands.

This statement from Druckenmiller is equivalent to assume the world food supply can be grown in a flower pot or that there is a infinite supply of equal quality commodity resource.

The aberration is neither the increase nor the decline.


Mercury's picture

"Degrowth" is cool with this crowd....but not when it comes to government.

How come technology keeps making everything better, faster and cheaper and more work gets accomplished with fewer and fewer workers but the government keeps getting bigger and more intrusive every year?


Is  "peak government" ever a concern or can it expand forever?

hooligan2009's picture

very interesting..

how much are degrowthers willing to reduce their liestyles by paing back odious debt? or is it a "revolution now" with debt repudiation?

RaceToTheBottom's picture

Why not just say Small is Beautiful.  Nothing was said here that wasn't said back in the eighties, and then it was said far more understandably

mayhem_korner's picture



...and the sixties, and the seventies, and ever since.  New un-speak, nothing more. 

csmith's picture

Beyond this, consumption of resources offers diminishing returns up to a point of social/spiritual/ psychological derangement.


Problem is, 1/2 the world's people are still very far from the point of diminishing returns from consumption. Tell the 100 million young mothers in China and India, for example, that disposable diapers are a luxury that will lead to "derangement". They'll look at you like you have two heads.

Classic limosine liberalism in disguise.

insanelysane's picture

I believe I saw something yesterday that said that Chairman Mao's granddaughter has $800million.

BooMushroom's picture

There has to be a happy medium between not being able to afford disposable diapers, and not being willing to sew a button back on. Hard to calibrate the blunt object of government towards anything but extremes.

kito's picture

Degrowth...or prosperity without an extractionist, debt fueled growth mentality....will occur only after the world resets....the world will need a huge kick in the ass to wake up and learn Einstein's definition of insanity........

fonzannoon's picture

Remember that seinfeld episode when Elaine hangs out with the gang that resembles Jerry, George and Kramer?

Except they were completely different personalities?

I just pulled this off another investing website. This comment shows exactly how opposite things are sometimes.

"I rarely watch CNBC,but if I do I mute the tv when Santelli comes on. What value he brings to the show is unknown. Except a lot of people hate him so maybe it helps their ratings. After all,CNBC exists to sell advertising"

insanelysane's picture


After talking with coworkers I have to remind myself that I am not the crazy one.

BooMushroom's picture

Exercise left to the reader: how do you know what value Santelli brings to the channel, if you mute it every time he speaks?

ebworthen's picture

"Live simply so others can simply live."

"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without."

These are not hippy slogans or progressive values but those of frugal hard working normal folks who recognize that waste has a cost.

They are anathema to MBA's, the Corporatocracy, the Crony Capitalist, and government mandarins.

Doubleguns's picture

I would add to that "learn self sufficiency". Spend your money in that direction where ever you can and if your resources do not allow it move as far in that direction as possible.