Ideology of Growth

Interview with Valerie Olson

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Video transcript: "In the techno-scientific elite communities growth is understood to be the equivalent of life and to not grow is the equivalent of death, or to die. And I think it's an interesting thing to contemplate - post-growth, a post-growth project, or a post-growth ideology, or post-growth collaborations, and the things that you're interested in, with an eye to figuring out what the metaphorical and even cosmological implications of post-growth mean, in relation to biological principles and understandings of life. Because I think that even among the aero-space neo-liberal utopians, thinking of Elon Musk, as someone who's imagining life on Mars and developing technologies to move human societies to other planets - the idea implicit in this is the idea of infinite growth. The idea that there can't be a cessation from infinite growth, which has religious origins in the West, but also technical and scientific origins in the ideas that growth is good. I think attending to that, attending to anxieties around choosing something other than growth; attending to the cosmological, metaphorical, discursive anxieties that this produces in societies and culture in order to fetishize growth is going to be a really important part of the work that needs to be done at this point on transitioning to post-growth.

As it's understood biologically, there's a sort of naturalization or an objectification of the idea of growth as being the central and core principle of understanding life. And biology has a lot of other contributing factors to thinking about death and transformation and the rapidity or slowness of growth - growth is not a monolithic idea - there's very very slow growth, there's actually other kinds, there's non-growth, other than decay, there might be contraction, there might be conservation of energy in an organism that is able to suspend itself and go to sleep, when it's run out of resources. There's a lot of ways of looking at growth not as a kind of normative rule or principle that biology legitimates or authorizes as being the right way to be.

I think there's an ontological imperative to thinking about growth as the optimal condition of the organism, when there are many, many ways to look at life and death not as opposites or as distinct things apart from one another in biology and ecology, but to look at life and death on a continuum and to look at growth as being one modality within that continuum, that would allow us to think differently about what it means to be alive, adopting a position outside of the de-facto authoritative position of growth is good, non-growth is bad."

Other interviews with Valerie Olson

Related tags: Growth, Life Quality, Innovation, Theory,