Version 3.2

Shifting paradigms of health, illness and death: challenges for degrowth concepts of wellbeing

Degrowth envisions societies overcoming resource depletion, uncontrolled pollution, climate catastrophe and biodiversity loss while promoting planetary regeneration, human well-being and autonomy in a post-capitalist future that entails less material consumption, particularly in the Global North.
“Health” is central to the idea of wellbeing in the degrowth framework and degrowth proponents proclaim the benefits of future “alternative health models” and improved living conditions in a degrowth society. However, the concept of health remains undefined and tied to surrogate parameters such as life expectancy, which, notably in high-income countries, are related to increased health expenditure and depend on GDP growth.
In this paper, I argue that the collective imaginary of adequate health care in growth-oriented – capitalist – systems is almost exclusively shaped by the belief that ‘more –a longer life and more health care – is better’ which configures illness as an individual defeat that must be mastered with the assistance of scientific and technological progress, defying – or even denying – the inevitability of death. Therefore, I propose that the current concept of health will require a paradigm shift in a future degrowth society that must include notions of illness and death – so far absent from the degrowth debate – that go beyond parameters such as life expectancy and the prospect of wellbeing. Future research will have to explore prevailing representations of health, illness, and death among the population in order to identify openings for necessary paradigm shifts that recognize human needs in the face of social and ecological limits.


Day: 2023-08-31
Start time: 12:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ZV-8-2
Type: Paper Presentation
Theme: Hegemonic worldviews and degrowth horizon


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