Only for the Global North? Questioning the ‘who should degrow’ issue

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Gabriela Cabaña Alvear ab* and Vandana c

a London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom 

b Centro de Análisis Socioambiental, Chile 

c O.P. Jindal Global University, India 

* Corresponding author 

The idea of degrowth, while critiquing the dominant ideas of economic growth, also proposes an alternative paradigm to organize society and the economy while prioritizing nature and care. One of the major streams of thought that contributed to the emergence of degrowth is the criticism of development that originated in the 1970s and 1980s (Demaria et al., 2013). Despite this, engaging with degrowth from Global South contexts becomes challenging. The political and economic elites in most developing nations often assume that degrowth is a proposal for the Global North (Dengler & Seebacher, 2019). This happens even though degrowth scholars often state the implications of degrowth in terms of ‘creating ecological space’ for Southern economies to improve people’s lives in alternative ways (Hickel 2020; Kallis et al., 2015; Martínez-Alier, 2012). What ramifications does such a superficial reading have for the dominant development discourse and associated political debates in the Global South? We suggest that an argument that degrowth is only relevant for certain nation-states and not elsewhere will lead to digression from the transformative outlook of degrowth.

The position of restricting degrowth to the Global North will reproduce the ongoing ‘epistemic violence’ in the production of alternative civilisational projects, since it will not be inclusive of the voices from the Global South and their experiences of the existing development discourse that dominates polices in most developing nations. It will therefore further the imperialist developmentalist agenda. In this reflection, we align with questions of the applicability, usefulness and political pertinence of the term ‘degrowth’ for the Global South (Dengler & Seebacher, 2019; Hanaček et al., 2020). We focus on two problems that emerge from restricting degrowth to the Global North: first, the erasure of carbon and income inequalities within nations – both in the Global North and Global South, and second, how this limitation implies the perpetuation of colonial relations as the teleological narrative of growth – or ‘progress’ – gets imposed as a necessary step for all nations to ‘develop’. We illustrate these blindspots by discussing two policy priorities in the ‘developing world’: the energy transition in India and green hydrogen policies in Chile.

We recognise that, sensibly, at the level of planning political actions it is important to focus on the power currently institutionalized in nation-states. Still, we believe that reifying economies as self-contained units only perpetuates the epistemic blindness of our current economic thought. Our reflections come from our experiences engaging with degrowth with peoples from the Global South, in Chile and Latin America, and in India, both in activist and academic contexts. The overlapping and mixing of both these categories are, in particular, an important source for the reflections we share here, and we acknowledge the communities of practice, learning and transformation in which we have engaged in these issues. We have experienced, first hand, the dismissal of degrowth when debating urgent challenges of social-ecological transformation in our own countries under the banner that, even if degrowth is argumentatively sound, ‘our economies still need to grow’.  


How to cite


Only for the Global North? Questioning the ‘who should degrow’ issue . (2023). In Degrowth journal (Vol. 1).


“Only for the Global North? Questioning the ‘Who Should Degrow’ Issue .” Degrowth Journal, vol. 1, June 2023,


“Only for the Global North? Questioning the ‘Who Should Degrow’ Issue .” 2023. Degrowth Journal.


“Only for the Global North? Questioning the ‘who should degrow’ issue ”(2023) Degrowth journal. Available at: