Keynotes and plenaries


21 August

Opening of the conference in Folkets Park

Topic: Malmö/Sweden in turbulent times

In this opening plenary, we set the theme of the conference, Dialogues in turbulent times, in the Swedish context. Even in Degrowth and other critical circles, Sweden is often imagined and somewhat romanticised as, for example, a stable and peaceful country with low levels of inequality, a generous welfare system, good working and living conditions for all, progressive environmental and migration policies. Problems, even if they exist, are seen not as substantial and growth-centrism not as ruthless as in many other places across the world. The speakers at this plenary, all very familiar with the local context, will problematise (or substantiate?) these images, as well as discuss how the turbulences of our times echo here in Sweden.

To challenge another myth about Sweden – that it’s cold and closed – the opening plenary will be followed by a convivial gathering with music and food.

Speakers: Ellie Cijvat (Friends of the Earth Malmö), Shora Esmailian (journalist and writer), Daniel Sestrajcic (Left Party, Sweden)

Chair: Ekaterina Chertkovskaya (Lund University)


22 August

Keynote: Yasin Duman (Coventry University)  

Title: Rojava: A challenging struggle for self-determination and survival

The de facto autonomous administration in Rojava, meaning West in Kurdish and referring to West Kurdistan in Kurdish politics, has been encountering very demanding and challenging conditions in northern Syria. Besides founding and expanding armed units, the Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Arameans, Turkmen, Armenians and Chechens in Syria have been leading ‘once unimaginable’ social, political, and economic developments in a very short time. The trajectory of Kurdish politics and struggle in Syria has so far shown that Kurdish self-determination has influenced local, regional, and international dynamics that will impact survival of autonomous administration as a democratic federation. My speech will invite the audience to trace this trajectory and look at Rojava from a perspective that has not been covered much. Acknowledging the regional and international dynamics, I will attempt to provide a detailed picture of the works that people and their movements have achieved so far towards self-determination and survival.

Chair: Pinar Dinc (Lund University)


Plenary:  Migration and conflict

Degrowth is a movement as well as a highly interdisciplinary approach that draws attention to multiple crises and contemplates prospects for sustainable and just living beyond growth. In recent years, migration has been narrowly viewed as a phenomenon that creates a governance crisis mostly for the so called developed countries. In this plenary we bring together Marxist, feminist and post-colonial scholars to discuss a range of issues such as the role of migration industry, linkages of migration to the imperial mode of living, Degrowth and new internationalism. The plenary will also examine potential opportunities for international solidarity by identifying linkages between human mobility and social transformation.

Speakers: Miriam Lang (Universidad Andina Simón Bolivar), Martin Lemberg-Pedersen (University of Aalborg), Malin McGlinn (Malmö University)

Chair: Mine Islar (Lund University)



23 August

Keynote: Inge Røpke (Aalborg University)

Title: Radical sustainability transitions: a new economics is needed

As the activities of the degrowth community emphasize, radical sustainability transitions require both a clash with business-as-usual and the development of experiments that can demonstrate better ways of living and organizing the society. In these endeavours, both practical and conceptual activities are needed, including the development of a new economics. Mainstream economics constitutes a serious barrier to sustainability transitions in many ways: by analysing economic conditions in misleading ways, by providing ideological support for inequality, and by promoting insufficient or even counterproductive measures. Since ideas from mainstream economics permeate media debate and influence policies heavily, there is a strong need for a new economics that is supportive of socially just sustainability transitions. Ecological economics is well positioned to ensure that a biophysical perspective becomes foundational in the development of such a new economics, but it has to be combined with contributions from other streams of so-called heterodox economics (institutional, evolutionary, marxist, feminist, post-keynesian, etc.) to constitute a strong critical alternative to mainstream. As these communities tend to focus on their particular difference with mainstream, the integration of key elements from these approaches into a new economics should be a high priority.

Chair: Hubert Buch-Hansen (Copenhagen Business School)


Plenary:  Dialogues between critical social theories, science & Degrowth

Degrowth brings together inseparable issues of social justice, ecological sustainability and human flourishing. An open and living research area, it is informed by natural sciences, as well as critical schools of thought. Natural sciences keep building scientific evidence of severe environmental consequences of the growth-centric mode of living. Critical social theories scrutinise contemporary issues in theoretically nuanced ways and have historically inspired people across the globe to mobilise in struggles for justice. This plenary aims to bring critical social theories and natural sciences in dialogue with Degrowth and each other, and explore how alliances for a socio-ecological transformation can be built.

Speakers: Stefania Barca (Centre for Social Studies - University of Coimbra), Ruth Kinna (Loughborough University), Andreas Malm (Lund University), Nicholas A. Ashford (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Chair: Giorgos Kallis (Autonomous University of Barcelona)


24 August

Keynote:  Max Koch (Lund University) 

Title: Welfare without Growth

The presentation introduces the concept of 'sustainable welfare'. Central to this concept is the notion of human needs and how these could be satisfied for everyone, now and in future, within planetary limits and without economic growth. The contribution presents recent research results, addresses structural challenges to degrowth and sustainable welfare such as the hegemony of the growth paradigm, the manifold and complex links between growth, existing societal institutions and agency as well as the potential role of the state in an economic and social transformation. Finally, it suggests some ways forward. 

Chair: Tuuli Hirvillami (University of Jyväskylä /Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius)


Plenary:  Money, finance and Degrowth

Money is a key component of a growth-oriented capitalist society. Since the financial meltdown about a decade ago, money – as a unit of measure, as a means of exchange and as stock of value – has been facing increasing criticism. Some argue that the money system, manifested in the power of the banking and financial sector, is to be challenged and organised to serve the interests of the public. Others would point to the need to change money itself and towards more bottom up ways of using it,  arguing, for example, for local currencies or time banks. In this plenary, we discuss the recent critiques of money and its connection to critical social theory, political philosophy, ecological economics and experiences with local currencies.

Speakers: Ole Bjerg (Copenhagen Business School), Alf Hornborg (Lund University), Ruby van der Wekken (Siemenpuu Foundation)

Chair: Alexander Paulsson (Lund University)


25 August

Keynote: Lynne Segal (Birkbeck University)

Title: Resources for Hope: Moments of collective joy

Looking at popular culture around the globe, we appear to be living in rather dystopian times, with any form of utopic yearning all but obliterated from our fantasies of the future. This dystopic imagination resonates with what we should all know by now, the chilling reports on climate change, water shortage, ongoing conflict, displacement, widespread despair. Yet, I still take seriously the words of Raymond Williams, ‘To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing’. Moreover, a spirit of resistance to the disorders of the present never entirely disappears, rising and falling as circumstance allow. What is exciting about this moment is that despite, and also because of, so many shared anxieties, there is today greater engagement in politics than has occurred for a very long time. In Radical Happiness, for instance, I note that we sometimes renew our attachments to life by embracing both its real sorrows, alongside the possible joys of collectivity, when confronting troubles far larger than our own. For it is increasingly clear to many that some form of utopian spirit, rejecting the commodified life enshrining consumption, competition and ubiquitous subservience to corporate market interests, is now essential for us to have any tolerable future at all. Just trying to envisage how we can help to create a more sustainable, peaceful and fairer world brings a certain audacity and energy to life, at least in the process of sharing such imaginings. As Brecht asked and answered, ‘In dark times/Will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing/About the dark times’.

Chair: Giacomo D'Alisa (University of Coimbra)


Demonstration in the city