Excessive wealth inequality, spiraling CO2 levels, the rise of the precariat, and public opprobrium across Europe and America defined the foreboding tone of Davos. The health of the world economy is plagued by slowing growth, global societal tensions, rising debt levels, quantitative easing, and a cooling Chinese economy (which is far more fragile and broken than most realize). The transformative impact of Globalization 4.0 on production was presented. But the cry for “inclusive and sustainable growth” was far louder: “this is about saving capitalism.”
Today’s events are symptomatic of Karl Polanyi’s “double movement,” which characterizes the antagonism between the expansionary logic of neoliberalism and the ascriptive values embedded in a ‘gemeinschaftlich’ community. Since 2008, there has been renewed interest in ‘décroissance,’ (degrowth) by French Intellectual André Gorz. He argues the world should insulate social capital and ecological capital at the expense of GDP growth.
The utopian dream of living in a ‘gemeinschaft’ is far more dystopian. Yet, the macroeconomic policy discussed at Davos is also not the remedy to the world’s problems. Globalization is extremely unsustainable in a world with a finite amount of resources. 1 If every one of India’s households consumed as much energy as American households, it would result in an environmental catastrophe. Instead, we need to re-accelerate the rate of technological progress and overcome stagnation to save our future.