Money, Work, and Mass Extinction: Transformational Degrowth and the Job Guarantee
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This dissertation is composed of three independent essays. Each essay traces social and ecological crises to capitalist institutions and proposes how a job guarantee (JG) can be adapted to resolve them in the context of degrowth. The first essay focuses on the relationship between economic growth and ecological destruction. In a monetary production economy, there is a trade-off between employment and the environment. To reconcile social and ecological goals it is thus necessary to decouple employment from growth. A JG makes this possible. The essay outlines a simple two-sector model showing how a JG can be used to maintain full employment and facilitate a reduction in aggregate output. The JG offers individuals a way to opt out of monetary production and presents a pathway to fundamentally transform the economy. The second essay considers the diverse variety of strategies and policies that have emerged in the degrowth movement. These are classified into two categories. Top-down approaches insist that centralized policies relying on government control are necessary. Bottom-up approaches insist that transformation must stem from the decentralization of power and the expansion of individual autonomy. This essay proposes that a JG is uniquely positioned in between the two and demonstrates why this unique positioning enables a JG to serve as a platform for the multi-dimensional strategies and aims of degrowth. Here the argument is not that a JG alone can achieve the diverse goals of degrowth, but rather that it can serve a vital function in catalyzing, supporting, or unlocking pathways envisioned by the movement. The third essay argues that the crisis of mass extinction is equal parts human and ecological. The Anthropocene is evidence of humankind’s capacity to change the world. However, the rapid extension of market logic and money value during the neoliberal era is generating forms of alienation that destroy human meaning and rob people of their own social agency. Overcoming the problem of mass extinction thus involves developing a more anthropocentric economy. A JG presents a radical possibility for transforming for the world by reclaiming the human meaning and value of work.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Transformational degrowth -- Non-reformist reform -- Money, meaning, and mass extinction -- Conclusion
Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)