Would the West actually be happier with less? The world downscaled.
Downscaling must not be confused with negative growth, which is an oxymoron: it means progressing backwards. What the French call décroissance does not have an easy English equivalent since shrinkage, decrease and reduction all have negative connotations that décroissance, which means de-growth, does not. This says a lot about the psychological domination of free-market economics.
We have seen how even a slowdown in the rate of growth plunges our societies into disarray, causing unemployment and destroying social, cultural and environmental programmes that maintain at least the basics of a decent life for most people. So what would happen if the growth rate were actually negative? Like a work-based society without work, there would be nothing worse than a growth society without growth. The mainstream left will remain trapped within this thinking unless it can radically revise its most deeply held beliefs.
Downscaling can only be thought about in the context of a non-growth society, which we should attempt to define. The policy could start by reducing or removing the environmental impact of activities that bring no satisfaction. Many areas are crying out for downscaling: we could review the need for so much movement of people and goods across the planet and relocalise our economies, drastically reducing pollution and other negative effects of long-distance transport. We could question the need for so much invasive, often corrosive, advertising. We could ask ourselves how many disposable products have any real reason to be disposable, other than to feed the mass production machine.
Le Monde diplomatique, December 2003