Degrowth and Capital: Assembling a Power-Centred Theory of Change

Degrowth and Capital: Assembling a Power-Centred Theory of Change
Vastenaekels, Julien. (2023). Unpublished PhD Dissertation. Faculté des Science. Universite Libre de Bruxelles. (Thesis; English).

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Abstract or Brief Description

In the context of contemporary socio-environmental shifts, the concept of “degrowth” advocates for transforming societies to ensure environmental justice and a well-being for all within planetary boundaries. This PhD thesis, positioned within degrowth studies, provides a processual, holistic and interdisciplinary exploration of the dynamics between degrowth transformations and capital accumulation, understood as an all-encompassing power process.

I start by critically exploring the role of capital accumulation in the unfolding of degrowth transformations, highlighting some shortcomings of conventional views that predominantly see capital accumulation as a primarily production-oriented process. While, historically, the degrowth project has opposed economism, these perspectives tend to overlook the deep intertwinement between economics and politics in the intersection between degrowth transformations and capital accumulation. This thesis then considers the theory of “Capital as Power” (CasP), which dissolves the boundaries between economics and politics in the study of capital. Key implications of CasP for the unfolding of degrowth transformations are highlighted. Through this lens, I identify four distinct elements of dynamics, each represented as a causal loop diagram (CLD), capturing the complex relationship between degrowth transformations and the power processes of capital accumulation. Using insights from Social Practice Theory (SPT), I further investigate how degrowth-aligned practices, reforms, and ruptures may be inhibited by “strategic sabotage” processes that bolster capital accumulation, conceptualising four modes of sabotage, set into motion through two additional elements of dynamics. These six elements of dynamics are then assembled into a single CLD, which is used to explore four scenarios for the unfolding or marginalisation of degrowth transformations against the process of capital accumulation.

In short, as the journey progresses, this thesis assembles a power-centred theory of change for degrowth against the process of capital accumulation. It emphasises the importance of understanding and navigating these power dynamics for those willing to move towards a degrowth society.



Publication Type



capital accumulation capitalism degrowth ecology power sabotage socio-ecological transition


BN Methodology
BN Power
BN Production
BN State & Government
BN Business Enterprise
BN Capital & Accumulation
BN Civilization & Social Systems
BN Class
BN Comparative
BN Conflict & Violence
BN Cooperation & Collective Action
BN Crisis
BN Distribution
BN Ecology & Environment
BN Growth
BN Institutions

Depositing User

Jonathan Nitzan

Date Deposited

10 Feb 2024 00:05

Last Modified

14 Feb 2024 00:25


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