Version 3.2

Degrowth and agri‑food systems: a research agenda for the critical social sciences

Degrowth has become a recognised paradigm for identifying and critiquing systemic unsustainability rooted in the capitalist,
growth-compelled economy. Increasingly, degrowth is discussed in relation to specific economic sectors such as the
agri-food system. This paper builds on the foundational work of Gerber (2020) and Nelson and Edwards (2021). While both
publications take a rather specific analytical or disciplinary focus—the former specifically connects critical agrarian studies
and degrowth, the latter explores the contributions of the recent volume ‘Food for degrowth’—this paper takes stock of the
emerging body of literature on degrowth and agri-food systems more broadly. It proposes research avenues that deepen,
expand and diversify degrowth research on agri-food systems in four areas: (i) degrowth conceptualisations; (ii) theorisation
of transformations towards sustainability; (iii) the political economy of degrowth agri-food systems; and (iv) rurality
and degrowth. Together, these avenues devote due attention to a variety of agents (ranging from translocal networks to
non-humans), spaces (e.g. the rural), theories (e.g. sustainability transitions and transformations towards sustainability) and
policies (of the agricultural sector and beyond) that thus far have received limited attention within the degrowth literature.
The critical social science perspective on degrowth agri-food systems, which is advanced in this paper, illuminates that the
present unsustainability and injustice of hegemonic agri-food systems are not merely a problem of that sector alone, but rather
are ingrained in the social imaginaries of how economies and societies should work as well as in the political–economic
structures that uphold and reproduce these imaginaries.


Day: 2023-08-30
Start time: 16:45
Duration: 00:15
Room: ZV-8-2
Type: Paper Presentation
Theme: Hegemonic worldviews and degrowth horizon


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