Generation Degrowth

Food for Thought

Most of my Instagram friends are a generation younger. It helps me understand what will happen next in our society, just as the older generations allow me to understand what happened before me.

Aaron recommended a book called Marx in the Anthropocene—Towards the Idea of Degrowth Communism. It was written by the Japanese philosopher, Kohei Saito, and became a surprise bestseller in Japan. I’ve always felt I am a Marxist at heart, and this book brought me even closer to him, even though I still cannot see the viability of communism. What drew me in was the idea of “degrowth,” instead of pushing ourselves to keep our economies growing, Saito advocates a steady-state economy for advanced nations to give Nature a break and to allow developing nations to catch up.

Ironically, Japan’s economy has been in a “steady state” for the last three decades without trying. Perhaps the book became a bestseller because it provided a positive perspective on their economy. Many Japanese people have returned, and not many are coming here. They’ve all told me it’s much more “comfortable” there. Many choose to live alone, and even the ones who marry have only one child. In many respects, they have stopped growing.

But I see this happening here too. The younger Americans are less ambitious. During the pandemic, many have quit their jobs, the phenomenon called “Great Resignation.” There is also a trend called “Quiet Quitting,” where they only do the minimum to keep their jobs.

We might be tempted to label them “lazy,” but we must evaluate what they are doing while not working. This is the humanist aspect of Marxism I’ve always related to, what he called “the true realm of freedom,” where we develop ourselves as individuals.

I have a Type A personality who wants to succeed in the American way, but the conflicting part curbs my drive as soon as I feel I have “enough.” I then spend time learning or doing things that don’t generate a dime.

In some ways, the younger generations are wiser; they are critically questioning the point of the endless economic growth that the older generations blindly conflated with personal growth.