Call for Papers for a Special Volume on Technology and Degrowth

JoCPChristian Kerschnera, Petra Wächterb, Linda Nierlingc, Melf-Hinrich Ehlersd

a   Department of Environmental Studies, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
b   Post-Doc, University of Vienna, Austria
c   Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe     Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany
d   Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group, The James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland

Received 24 June 2015, Accepted 24 June 2015, Available online 10 July 2015

Under a Creative Commons license

Few issues in the rapidly expanding body of Degrowth research (e.g. D’Alisa et al., 2014, Sekulova et al., 2013 and Kallis et al., 2010) are as controversial and at the same time scientifically underexplored as the role of technology in the transition to a Degrowth society. The declaration of the Barcelona conference in 2010 called for selective moratoria on certain technologies (“Barcelona Declaration”, 2010), but discussions in Leipzig in 2014 were far from such a consensus. Two contrapositions were apparent: technology criticism following Illich, 1973, Elull, 1964 and Schumacher, 1973 and other critical authors versus technology enthusiasm that, for example, agrees with Gorz (1994) on the potential of digital fabricators. Ideas of simplification of life with less or low technology clash with visions of a true democratisation of society through the use of certain technologies (both high and low tech) such as open source programming, DIY tractors and photovoltaic panels. However
, reality is not as “black and white” as it may seem. There is a wide range of potentially overlapping positions around scepticism and enthusiasm towards the role of technologies in Degrowth. This special volume aims to present and discuss these positions based on theoretical and empirical perspectives from authors with diverse backgrounds such as Science and Technology Studies, Philosophy of Technology, Ecological Economics, Industrial Ecology, Technology Assessment, Innovation Studies, Political Science and Anthropology. It focuses on how technology transforms ecology, society and the economy and emphasizes inter- and transdisciplinary approaches.

The special volume aims to both provide 1) a state of the art selection of current discussions of the role of technology within Degrowth in academia and practice and 2) a deepened reflection on technologies with the aim to specify perspectives and to overcome their entrenchment. The first section will revisit influential thinkers (Illich, Elull, Schumacher, Georgescu-Roegen, Castoriadis, the Luddites, etc.) and introduce promising approaches towards technology, which have not yet entered the Degrowth discourse. The second section will provide space for authors calling for a “democratisation of technology”, including practice-oriented case studies. These argue, among others, that problems of technology can be overcome through open access and elimination of undemocratic control by corporations and elites. A third section includes contributions from authors showing how technologies can be evaluated and assessed from a Degrowth perspective. These contributions depart from the premise
that technologies are neither per se beneficial nor detrimental for a Degrowth society. They develop normative guidelines and selection criteria for a framework to map roles of technologies in the Degrowth context. Finally, we are open to complementary analyses of Degrowth and technology, which explore novel takes on this important issue and provide outlooks on how future practice and research on technology and Degrowth might or should unfold.

1. List of sub-topics for this special issue

1.1. Degrowth and technology: theoretical and historical perspectives

The existing Degrowth literature builds on the ideas and concepts of a variety of past and contemporary perspectives on technology (Latouche, 2009), starting from the works of Georgescu Roegen (1971), Illich (1973), over Mumford (1967) to Elull, 1964 and Castoriadis, 1985 and others such as Bijker, 1995, Dickson, 1975, Feenberg, 1999 and Sclove, 1995 and Winner (1980). 1.1.1. Key authors revisited

We would welcome contributions, be it reviews, empirical applications or other rigorous analyses that revisit these authors and others that further the debate on technology and Degrowth. We are looking for new insights and interpretations as well as succinct summaries from a Degrowth perspective. How can the work of these authors shed light on the challenges of today and provide an interpretative framework for the role of technology in a Degrowth society and for mainstream concepts such as the Green Economy or of Alternative Technology as it was popular in the 1970s? We also encourage authors to scrutinize theories of democratization of technology, which are popular in the Degrowth community, particularly with respect to feasibility of democratization of technology in Degrowth contexts.

1.1.2. Historical events and analyses of alternative approaches to technology

Continuing to examine the past, we would like to invite historical analysis of past events or experiences of communities that consciously rejected the introduction of new technologies for cultural, social or other reasons. Movements like the (Neo-)Luddites or communities like the Amish would be examples. These reject, for example, goals of economic rationalization and technological efficiency and optimization, in favor of other values. Authors should look into these phenomena with scientific rigor and method and avoid mere description. Biophysical (e.g. social metabolisms), social, economic and political science perspectives are welcome.

1.1.3. New developments and debates

Research on the relationship between society and science and technology has developed its own fields such as STS (Science and Technology Studies), Philosophy of Technology, Risk Research and Innovation Studies. We are looking for authors from these fields, who engage critically with the role of technology for a Degrowth society. Authors may take critical standpoints towards the mainstream dogma of accelerating whatever technological development and adoption to pursue economic growth. We are looking for new ways of seeing innovation and technologies, well-elaborated critiques of mainstream technological optimism and economic efficiency improvements as well as insights from other perspectives, which do not necessarily engage directly with technology, like ethics, feminism, critical theory or Marxism. Contributions can focus on technology in general or on specific (controversial) technologies. Many of these may be reactions and developments in relation to unavoidable decisions, like whe
ther or not to apply a controversial, or new and potentially harmful technology.

1.2. Democratisation of technology – practical approaches

For the second topical area, we are looking for contributions from authors who are suggesting that certain technologies may be conducive to a Degrowth society (e.g. Domènech et al., 2013), if they are made widely available such as FAB labs, DIY, Digital Fabricators and open source software. We invite authors to use rigorous scientific analysis to support their arguments such as case studies, discourse and content analysis informed by social and political theory or other established approaches advanced in science and technology studies. Contributions can take into account the perspectives of established scholars in the Degrowth community (see 1.1.1), provide a critical perspective on the idea of democratization of technology or highlight and investigate the dangers and pitfalls. They can also present empirical research on successful and unsuccessful democratization of technology, which informs Degrowth debates. These can include analyses of participatory governance and assessment of technologies of relevance for Degrowth. Empirical examples can be from advanced capitalist economies, emerging economies and the Global South.

1.3. Evaluating technologies from a Degrowth perspective

For the third section of the special volume we are interested in articles that start from the premise that some practical engagement with technology will be inevitable in a Degrowth society. Thus contributions to this section develop or explore approaches for evaluating technologies from a Degrowth perspective. Once again they can build on established concepts such as Illich’s convivial technology, or Schumacher’s appropriate technology, but they can also develop their own frameworks or borrow from other literatures. Examples may be participatory approaches as those proposed in Post Normal Science. Authors can provide case studies, share insights from projects or experiences or build their frameworks on consistent theoretical approaches. They can also contribute critical analysis of the mono-dimensionality of decision-making in the context of new technologies, focused on economic costs and benefits, while many other dimensions remain unnoticed. We are particularly interested in contr
ibutions, which apply well-developed evaluation frameworks to specific technologies, able to capture Degrowth concerns.

1.4. Further approaches towards technology and Degrowth

In addition, we are open to other original and inspiring contributions, which explore technology as such or particular technologies from a Degrowth perspective. These contributions go beyond the themes suggested by us, but should equally advance our understanding of technology in Degrowth contexts. Contributions, which open up new horizons, provide outlooks or develop research agendas, are particularly welcome. They can either be short, but fully referenced think pieces (up to 4000 words) or thorough analyses (up to 8000 words).

2. Editorial team

Christian Kerschner, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Studies, Masaryk University. More information <>. Email:<>

Petra Wächter: Post-Doc, University of Vienna. More information <>. Email:<>

Linda Nierling: research fellow at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany. More information <>. Email: <>

Melf-Hinrich Ehlers: Researcher at the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland. More information <>. Email:<>

3. Formats and procedures

Full papers are invited for potential publication in this Special Volume of the JCLP. Submissions should be between 4000 and 6000 words for in-depth case studies, 6000 and 8500 words for full scientific papers based upon theoretical and empirical foundations, and 9000 and 13,000 words for comprehensive, integrative reviews. Think pieces have a length of up to 4000 words. All submissions should be developed based upon the editorial guidelines provided in the instructions for authors for the Journal of Cleaner Production, which can be accessed from the website: <>.

Upon receipt of the completed documents, independent reviewers will be invited to provide peer reviews for each document. Upon receipt and acceptance of the author’s revised documents, all will be published in this SV of the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Authors should take great care to show their awareness of the large amount of related articles published within the Journal of Cleaner Production (among them two special issues on Degrowth).

Articles must be written in English. Authors with limitations in command of written English are recommended to send their papers to a ‘Native English Science Editor,’ before the first submission because poorly written documents can compromise the decisions during the review process. The authors should resubmit the final version of their document to ensure top quality of English for all documents of this SV.

4. Timeline

Submission of extended abstracts (400–500 words) to the editors: by August 31, 2015.

Notification of acceptance for paper submission: September 30, 2015.

Submission of full papers for peer review to Elsevier via the EES System: by January 15th, 2016.

Submission of revised manuscript: late spring 2016 (individual deadlines).

Review process ending with notification of needs for minor changes: early summer 2016 (individual deadlines).

Final manuscripts due as corrected proofs: late summer 2016 (individual deadlines).

Publication date: late autumn 2016.

Note: Authors are encouraged to send their contributions as early as possible, as we would like to present the special issue at the Degrowth conference in Budapest in September 2016.

In case you have a paper you would like to submit, but are unable to meet the deadlines, please write to us. In exceptional cases we may grant extensions and your article can always be submitted for publication in a general volume of the Journal of Cleaner Production.

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