Degrowth Psychology - Reason 1
22 December, 2023 | Arvid Marklund
Trees covered by snow and ice.

1. To change the Context is a Resource

Much of the work in a psychological treatment is about changing the surrounding environment. You do not rely solely on the short-term, here-and-now will1, but arrange your environment so that what you want to do becomes easier. So that it will be easier to do what your short- and long-term wise self wants. This does not mean that you should ignore short-term motivation, but long experience of behavioral change has shown that this is never enough. Especially if you want the changes to last over time.

Translated to the societal level, this means that we cannot rely exclusively on attitude campaigns and other measures aimed at inducing massive mind-shifts. We need help from our contexts. Change our shared environments and meeting places. Our common infrastructure.

Someone will surely object that what I am talking about here is a kind of social engineering. They are not wrong, but I appeal to you not to throw this baby out with the bathwater. I argue that the social influence of contexts is constant and uninterrupted, but today it is not driven by the needs of citizens but from powerful capital interests. If, instead of the growth of individual capital, we would prioritize human needs, equality and respect for the ecological environment, we would not, for example, build huge parking lots outside equally huge malls, but rather a well-functioning public transport system and a robust decentralized food supply.

The same goes here, in the short term, taking the lead as an individual and showing others that you can live in less consumption-intensive ways is valuable if it serves as social proof, making it easier for others to follow without being too lonely, so to speak, but individual heroic efforts will never be enough. In short, changing contexts is, in my view, a powerful and underutilized strategy. It should be used with care and need to be deeply democratically2 rooted.

Kategorier: psychology
Sökord: economy, postgrowth, degrowth

  1. What I refer to as Power of will in my talk↩︎

  2. What we think of today as democracy, with general elections and professional politicians, is not the only way to channel civic will. See for example: Van Reybrouck, D. (2018) and specifically regarding sustainability Daw et al. 2022.↩︎