The best books on Degrowth from a fellow traveller

Why am I passionate about this?

When I grew up I assumed growth is good. Tomatoes grow, so do people—and economies too? Certainly, recessions were bad: many workers were made ‘redundant’. But as we grew older we noticed that growth continued yet people’s lives were getting harder. Looking back, the 1970s in Britain appears a golden age: almost everyone had plenty to eat, society was relatively equal, and all to a soundtrack of fabulous music. With climate change and other environmental threats it’s getting more obvious with each passing season that a global social transformation is required. These are the questions that have driven my own research, on climate politics, growth ideology, and technology fetishism.


I wrote...

Revolutionary Rehearsals in the Neoliberal Age

By Gareth Dale (editor), Colin Barker (editor), Neil Davidson (editor)

Book cover of Revolutionary Rehearsals in the Neoliberal Age

What is my book about?

Histories of the neoliberal era are shaped by an overwhelming sense of defeat for radical movements. Revolutionary Rehearsals in the Neoliberal Age presents another side to it. Tracing insurgent uprisings from 1989 to 2019, it’s a map of resistance in the face of tremendous odds. The country studies illuminate situations where the hold of capitalist order was anything but assured. And yet the book is not a wistful history about what might have been. Rather, it is a strategic assessment of near-victories to help think ahead to the next upsurges. In addition to empirical chapters, it explores theoretical issues: the patterning of revolutions in history, the relationship between class struggle and social movements, and what, if any, revolutionary kindling will exist in decades to come.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Future is Degrowth: A Guide to a World Beyond Capitalism

Gareth Dale Why did I love this book?

On my shelf, there are many outstanding books on degrowth—by Giorgos Kallis, Jason Hickel, and others. But one with the most coffee stains is this one.

I dip into it often because it covers all the angles. And it begins to tackle the ultimate question: If economic growth is trashing the planet, and if growth is the engine of capitalism, then what could come after?

By Matthias Schmelzer (editor), Andrea Vetter (editor), Aaron Vansintjan (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Future is Degrowth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Economic growth isn't working, and it cannot be made to work. Offering a counter-history of how economic growth emerged in the context of colonialism, fossil-fueled industrialization, and capitalist modernity, The Future Is Degrowth argues that the ideology of growth conceals the rising inequalities and ecological destructions associated with capitalism, and points to desirable alternatives to it. Not only in society at large, but also on the left, we are held captive by the hegemony of growth. Even proposals for emancipatory Green New Deals or postcapitalism base their utopian hopes on the development of productive forces, on redistributing the fruits of…


Book cover of Marx in the Anthropocene: Towards the Idea of Degrowth Communism

Gareth Dale Why did I love this book?

Kohei Saito has become a media sensation in Japan, where one of his books on degrowth is a bestseller.

This one, Marx in the Anthropocene, argues that successful degrowth must be communist, i.e. with a democratic sharing of resources as its foundation. Saito’s other aim is to challenge a common preconception about Marxism.

For a hundred years, most Marxists were gung-ho about economic growth. But Saito has been researching in Marx’s unpublished notebooks. They reveal that in his final years the German communist was moving toward a degrowth politics. This is a revelation.

Together with other eco-Marxists writing over the last two decades, Saito is transforming our understanding of the relation of Marx and Marxism to ecology and the economy.

By Kohei Saito,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Marx in the Anthropocene as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Facing global climate crisis, Karl Marx's ecological critique of capitalism more clearly demonstrates its importance than ever. This book explains why Marx's ecology had to be marginalized and even suppressed by Marxists after his death throughout the twentieth century. Marx's ecological critique of capitalism, however, revives in the Anthropocene against dominant productivism and monism. Investigating new materials published in the complete works of Marx and Engels (Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe), Saito offers a wholly novel idea of Marx's alternative to capitalism that should be adequately characterized as degrowth communism. This provocative interpretation of the late Marx sheds new lights on the recent debates…


Book cover of Half-Earth Socialism: A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change and Pandemics

Gareth Dale Why did I love this book?

Should one species dominate half the entire planet? To some that seems greedy, but others think it’s not enough.

This book suggests a middle way: half the planet for us, but no more. It’s the most sumptuous book on my list, and even comes with an online game (which my students enjoyed playing in class). The book blends fictional passages with socio-ecological analysis. One fantasy paints a disturbingly plausible eco-dystopia, another portrays an attractive utopia—a future where people develop forms of democratic planning to enable rich human lives amidst flourishing fauna and flora.

Along the way, Vettese and Pendergrass introduce us to a galaxy of visionaries—from William Morris to Otto Neurath to Ursula Le Guin—who have developed ideas and planning techniques that could make that utopia real.

By Troy Vettese, Drew Pendergrass,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Half-Earth Socialism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the next generation, humanity will confront a dystopian future of climate disaster and mass extinction. Yet the only "solutions" on offer are toothless cap-and-trade programs, catastrophic geoengineering schemes, and privatized conservation, which will do nothing to reverse the damage suffered by the biosphere. Indeed, these mainstream approaches assume that consumption in the Global North can continue unabated. It can't.

What we can do, environmental scholars Troy Vettese and Drew Pendergrass argue, is strive for a society able to provide a comfortable standard of living while stabilizing the environment: half-earth socialism. This means:
- Rewilding half the Earth to absorb…


Book cover of Towards a Political Economy of Degrowth

Gareth Dale Why did I love this book?

Degrowth is a new field of thought and political strategy and is throwing up lots of questions. That’s why I like books such as this, in which many critical thinkers jostle together in one volume.

Crucially in my view, this volume brings voices from the Global South, where degrowth has to be discussed differently to the ways it’s approached in rich countries of the North.

By Ekaterina Chertkovskaya (editor), Alexander Paulsson (editor), Stefania Barca (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Towards a Political Economy of Degrowth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since the 1970s, the degrowth idea has been proposed by scholars, public intellectuals and activists as a powerful call to reject the obsession of neoliberal capitalism with economic growth, an obsession which continues apace despite the global ecological crisis and rising inequalities. In the past decade, degrowth has gained momentum and become an umbrella term for various social movements which strive for ecologically sustainable and socially just alternatives that would transform the world we live in.

How to move forward in an informed way, without reproducing the existing hierarchies and injustices? How not to end up in a situation when…


Book cover of The Disenchanted Earth: Reflections on Ecosocialism and Barbarism

Gareth Dale Why did I love this book?

Humans are destroying the planet on which they live. Their economic system is exterminating thousands of species and they themselves will be at risk of species suicide if they carry on this way much longer. I am constantly pinching myself at how little this is registering among intellectuals and the wider public. Thank goodness for Richard Seymour.

By Richard Seymour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Disenchanted Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Richard Seymour, one of the UK's leading public intellectuals, comes a characteristic blend of forensic insight and analysis, personal journey, and a vivid respect for the natural world.

A planetary fever-dream. An environmental awakening that is also a sleep-walking, unsteadily weaving between history, earth science, psychoanalysis, evolution, biology, art and politics. A search for transcendence, beyond the illusory eternal present.

These essays chronicle the kindling of ecological consciousness in a confessed ignoramus. They track the first enchantment of the author, his striving to comprehend the coming catastrophe, and his attempt to formulate a new global sensibility in which we…


You might also like...

Magical Disinformation

By Lachlan Page,

Book cover of Magical Disinformation

Lachlan Page Author Of Magical Disinformation

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in Latin America for six years, working as a red cross volunteer, a volcano hiking guide, a teacher, and an extra in a Russian TV series (in Panama). Having travelled throughout the region and returning regularly, I’m endlessly fascinated by the culture, history, politics, languages, and geography. Parallel to this, I enjoy reading and writing about the world of international espionage. Combining the two, and based on my own experience, I wrote my novel, Magical Disinformation, a spy novel set in Colombia. While there is not a huge depth of spy novels set in Latin America, I’ve chosen five of my favourites spy books set in the region.

Lachlan's book list on spy books set in Latin America

What is my book about?

This book is a spy novel with a satirical edge which will take you on a heart-pumping journey through the streets, mountains, jungles, and beaches of Colombia. Our Man in Havana meets A Clear and Present Danger.

Magical Disinformation

By Lachlan Page,

What is this book about?

In the era of ‘fake news’ in the land of magical realism, fiction can be just as dangerous as the truth... Discover Lachlan Page’s Magical Disinformation: a spy novel with a satirical edge set amongst the Colombian peace process. Described by one reviewer as “Our Man in Havana meets A Clear and Present Danger.”

Oliver Jardine is a spy in Colombia, enamoured with local woman Veronica Velasco.

As the Colombian government signs a peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, Her Majesty’s Government decides a transfer is in order to focus on more pertinent theatres of operation.

In a desperate attempt…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in economic development, environmentalism, and economics?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about economic development, environmentalism, and economics.

Economic Development Explore 65 books about economic development
Environmentalism Explore 197 books about environmentalism
Economics Explore 392 books about economics