Version 3.2

Capitalism and the meaning of life

Philosophical considerations have always been woven into economic thinking. However, in the 20th century, having developed into a separate discipline, economics largely lost its connection with philosophy (Hédoin, 2018). Despite the recent renewal of interest in studying intersections between these two disciplines, the place of the biggest question of Western philosophy — the question of the meaning of life (Klemke & Cahn, 2008) — in economic thought has not been systematically analysed yet. In degrowth literature, the topic of life’s meaning and the economy has been touched upon through the concept of dépense (Romano, 2019) and in discussions about the “good life for all” (Barlow et al., 2022). This research project aims to explore how interpretations developed around the question of the meaning of human life have contributed to creating and also sustaining today’s capitalist economic system with its drive for continuous expansion. It is suggested that specific interpretations of this question play a role in shaping economic theory, although they usually remain implicit. Through theory, eventually, these interpretations can impact economic practices. From this point of view, this research project studies conceptual connections between Western philosophy and the economic theory underlying capitalism. It also looks at the history of capitalism and how the idea of the pursuit of meaning could be used to sustain capitalist growth. From the degrowth perspective, identifying beliefs around the question of life’s meaning that make part of the capitalist imaginary (Castoriadis, 2005) can help better understand capitalism as a socioeconomic system and way of living, and find entry points for its unmaking (Feola, 2019).


Day: 2023-08-31
Start time: 12:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ZV-KC-1
Type: Paper Presentation
Theme: Communicating degrowth within a consumerist common sense



Concurrent Sessions