Why Budapest?

The 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016 is an opportunity as well as a challenge for both the global degrowth movement and the dispersed processes of epistemic decolonization to sharpen and entrench the postcapitalist and postgrowth mental frameworks. Budapest itself embodies multiple perspectives on European and global histories, but also houses a specific spectrum of alternative movements and emancipatory struggles characterized by Europe-centred East, real-existing socialism and globalised urbanisation. Whilst undoubtedly the metropolitan capital of 21st century Hungary, Budapest in September 2016 connects with important non-places such as the European Union, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the globalised North and the European near-East.

Why Hungary? 

Degrowth really arrived in Hungary in March 2011 with the Hungarian language publication of Serge Latouche’s book Farewell to growth. Since then, several discussions, workshops, citizen and academic projects, and lectures at Universities took place in Hungary. Also, other books (Pierre Rabhi, Vincent Liegey et al.) have been translated into Hungarian. Following this dynamic period, degrowth particularly expressed itself through a very impressive network of local initiatives, in particular through the development of alternative community spaces in formerly abandoned buildings (“ruin bars,” open work spaces, community centers). These reappropriated spaces are connected to collectives and social movements and play a very decentralized and self managed role in the citizen life of Budapest: from political discussion to communal exchange, from direct markets to practical workshops. The degrowth conference organisation in an inclusive way will initiate, connect, support and extend alternatives and in the meantime implement more intellectual and academic works around degrowth (publication of articles, translation of text/books into Hungarian) and influence the society/political debates.

Why now?

Hungary has been in the focus of media and European politics in the last years. After being the model and the “most advanced” post-socialist country in the 1990s, in the perspective of a transition toward market-economy, Hungary faces a deep social, economic and moral crisis today. In a logic of dialogue and deeper understanding of processes, we think that Hungarian political, cultural, social and economic recent past and the present position offer a very reflective and fruitful ground to re-think degrowth. In particular, as Europe is facing challenges like rise of nationalism, xenophobic tendencies, rising fears, identity questions, and also surge of inequalities between regions and territories, to bring degrowth debate to a post-socialist environment, in particular Hungary, is a worthy challenge. It is also a platform for Hungarian emancipatory movements to find paths to go above emotional political and cultural divisions and/or blockades. This region, Hungary as well, is facing a deep disillusionment with politics. Finally, the opening to the West brought deception and frustrations. Degrowth criticizing western model of over-consumption as a central value could open new paths for alternative thinking in Budapest, Hungary and European semiperiphery in general.

Degrowth coming home

One specific aspect is that the Budapest conference will, in a way, bring degrowth back home. Namely, the upcoming conference will take place in a post-socialist region, which was a home to many degrowth thinkers, like Karl Polanyi, Ivan Illich, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen and André Gorz. The conference will highlight their work, mainly by returning to the Hungarian thinker Karl Polanyi and his work The Great Transformation. Apart from being home to many degrowth thinkers, the post-socialist region faces specific social, economic, environmental and political challenges, often under-researched in degrowth thinking. This is why in the run up to the conference, preparatory events will be organised throughout the region in order to kick-off the degrowth debate in the region.