What does counter hegemony mean

Ulrich Brand: Post-growth and counter-hegemony

VSA Verlag, 2020, 250 pages

The book explores the question of how social life, work, social institutions and infrastructures, democracy and the state as well as the social relationship to nature can be made sustainable and globally sustainable. It gathers essays published in the last 10 years: on approaches to counter-hegemony in times of crisis, on leftist growth criticism and alternative models of prosperity, on global governance and the climate crisis, and also undertakes an excursion to Latin America, where the demands and reality of the governments of “the progressive Cycle ”is analyzed especially in neo-extractivism, in the state concept and in the distribution model and the scope for left-wing politics is also explored.

His starting point: a perspective based on post-growth against the imperial way of life must create framework conditions for a good life for all. Post-growth means a different model of prosperity and requires a societal and global perspective of social-ecological transformation.

In particular, the newly written introductory chapters for the corona crisis should be dealt with here. Ulrich Brand sees opportunities for “understanding and setting initiatives” in the Corona crisis. Crises are the hour of the executive combined with a high level of acceptance by the population, that was true during the financial crisis and now with the corona pandemic. Why not learn from this that, even in the climate crisis, it is possible to steer significantly more politically towards socio-ecological transformation? State interventions in corporate and market sovereignty, such as product conversion in the direction of health-related goods, regional and local forms of travel or the collapse of global supply chains, point to progressive demands for “de-globalization”, the legitimacy of social economic control or the relevance of a public one Sector. Instead of the growth paradigm that exists in all sectors of society, the importance of the "everyday economy", the medical, nursing and educational professions, of food production and trade, public services, but also unpaid reproductive and nursing work is shown. The discernible imbalances in relation to the previously "systemically relevant" (male dominating) industrial and financial sectors must and can be corrected. The fact that people are ready to radically change their behavior reveals potential elements of a solidarity-based way of life for a “post-growth society”, which on the one hand must result from the material deprivilegedness of those who currently live at the expense of others, and on the other hand there is space for thinking and trying out a diverse togetherness beyond opened up by compulsion and alienation. The new "we" after the corona crisis will be competitive, current everyday experiences and elements such as the basic income introduced in some countries could no longer be easily withdrawn. And finally, the urgency of international cooperation becomes clear, the global dimension of the Corona crisis creates increased awareness of the situation in other countries and calls for supranational response options from the World Health Organization or other UN organizations.

Left politics must use this window of opportunity and point out, discuss and organize further perspectives. Despite all the uncertainty and confusion, there is a great need for information, classification and orientation: What role do global supply chains play, how do they have to be designed in a socially and climate-friendly manner? How can adequate health care be ensured? What is the connection between our meat consumption, the burning Amazon rainforest and working conditions and health protection in the slaughterhouses? What economic alternatives are there for securing livelihoods, how is self-determined work possible, how solidarity-based economy between the global north and south?

In the chapter on climate justice and freedom, strategies against authoritarian green capitalism and alternative projects are developed as strategic starting points for an emancipatory socio-ecological transformation, which as “radical reformism” simultaneously points beyond capitalism. There is no shortage of entry-level projects such as radical reductions in working hours, high minimum wages, economic democracy, the agricultural or mobility transition, transformative circular economy or social infrastructures for a good life. However, there is still a lack of more far-reaching, assertive systemic alternatives. And as such, Brand sees the debates about post-growth, the political project for a left-wing Green New Deal, democratic eco-socialism and an emancipatory relationship between freedom and climate justice. And these topics are discussed broadly in the following chapters.

For those who know Ulrich Brand and his publications, the book, which was written in spring 2020, except for the introductory chapters, only includes a reprint of previously published articles. But if you are looking for an updated overview of your approaches to political ecology, multipolar crisis and socio-ecological transformation, post-extractivism and the good life, imperial way of life and new internationalism, you will find it.

The book can be downloaded as a pdf