Green growth or degrowth? Assessing the normative justifications for environmental sustainability and economic growth through critical social theory

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Scientists agree that changes in the organization of human society and economy are needed to stop the degradation of the natural environment. The most commonly proposed solution, green growth, has been increasingly criticized, but the offered alternative of degrowth has remained a marginal undertaking in academia and in practice. This article further develops the argument for degrowth. The article conducts a comparative analysis of the normative foundations of green growth and degrowth using frameworks from critical social theory. The analysis shows that green growth and degrowth work toward different normative ideals that are justified in different ways. The analysis shows that degrowth has a stronger normative justification than green growth and therefore, should be preferred. The article contributes to the debate about green growth and degrowth by establishing normative grounds for focusing efforts for environmental sustainability on degrowth rather than green growth.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Cleaner Production
Issue numberJanuary 2019
Pages (from-to)133-141
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 21.09.2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed



  • 512 Business and Management
  • Critical social theory
  • Degrowth
  • Economic growth
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Green growth
  • Normative justification
  • Business, Markets and Societal Dynamics

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