Decreasing Theory

by Massimiliano Fanni Canelles

This is the second number of SocialNews in which we deal with the economic crisis. The first has been published in the December 2008, following the failure of Lehman Brothers, the financial speculation on Subprime mortgages and the bad management of credit rating agencies. 4 years have passed, but still we do not see a possible solution to stop the vortex that is progressively incorporating the Western finance. Generally, up to now have been the central banks to create alternating with periods of recession expansions acting on interest rates. Today, the financial situation is instead characterized by an excessive accumulation of debt by families and by speculative credit creation by the banking system. The result is that private individuals and companies cut the costs by pursuing maximum savings and reject any form of debt. In turn, the banks cut the credit and liquidity trap. It follows that the economic activity collapses and companies fail or lay off employees, leading to increased levels of unemployment and job insecurity. The era of waste and opulence is over. In his book “Stone Age Economics” Marshall Sahlins shows that the only society of abundance, existed in the society of human history has been that of the Paleolithic: the men felt a few needs and could easily satisfy them; the rest of the time was devoted to the game, the party, togetherness. The consumer society, in which each of us always looking for superfluous, cannot be sustained in an area with limited resources such as the Earth. Space and resources available per capita fall progressively. The weak link in the chain is therefore the consumption or, better, the race to the waste.

“We must return to the informal economy, where it can be ingenious without being engineers and reasonable without being rational,” writes Serge Latouche, the French economist, author of the theory of decline as a solution to the financial crisis. “In our life stormed the throwaways and planned obsolescence of the assets. Madness. 30% of the meat in supermarkets goes straight in the bin, a car gets old after three years, much less a computer. We live in mineral waters that come from far away, in the middle of energy waste demented, with Andalusia that eat Dutch tomatoes and the Netherlands that eat Andalusian tomatoes… “With regard to waste, the basic rule of well-being does not change. “The best waste is not produced … And, mind you, I say to Italian friends: the siege of garbage is not a matter of Naples, is a global issue. Saviano’s book states this clearly: every month, the United States sent in Nigeria eight hundred ships laden with toxic waste cannot be recycled.” Is therefore necessary to reduce the production and consumption in order to conserve resources and rebuild a society and a finance ecological reasons. Decrease does not mean recession, but measurement of assets and the production of goods that reduce environmental damage and allow you to reduce consumption of goods unnecessary and harmful.

Serge Latouche is an economist and a French philosopher. It is one of the leaders of La Revue du Mauss. President of the association “La ligne d’horizon.” He is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Paris XI and the Institut d’études du devoloppement économique et social (IEDES) in Paris.

Realized by Martina Delser