Open Seminar Talk: David Soto-Oñate (UVIGO)

On November 28, 2023 as part of our Open Seminar Series, visiting fellow dr. David Soto-Oñate from the University of Vigo presented a work in progress called “A polycentric approach for a post-growth social order”. This project attempts to elaborate a theoretical framework on the intersection between the post-growth universe and polycentric governance. He invited the attendees to a collective deliberation on what this intersection could be and how to approach it theoretically.

The presentation introduced the concept of polycentricity, its advantages and trade-offs, what polycentric post-growth could be, different pathways of transition, and the implications of this model on society.

In his research, dr. David Soto-Oñate has two objectives. Firstly, he aims to put the knowledge that the Ostrom Workshop and the Bloomington School of Political Economy have developed on polycentric governance to the service of the post-growth cause, both for research and institutional design. His second objective is to define a general conceptual framework and an agenda for the research program on the polycentric approach to post-growth politics. Find the abstract below.

Dr. David Soto Oñate is a postdoctoral researcher in the Post-growth Innovation Lab. This is an international, interdisciplinary group with a common research interest: enabling a sustainable, inclusive, and fair ecological transition away from the exploitative economic model that exists today. If you would like to get in touch with dr. David Soto-Oñate, for example to share literature or ideas, you can find him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or his website.

The famous book Limits to growth (Meadows et al., 1972) issued a clear warning: the human race may have very little time to react to a crisis resulting from exponential growth in a finite world. This fact triggered debates in multiple directions. One of them revolves around the right political arrangement that could impose caps on the scale of the human socio-metabolic system in time to prevent major catastrophes. While some authors leaned toward positions that we could term eco-authoritarianism, core authors in the post-growth/degrowth tradition (e.g., Serge Latouche and Tim Jackson) have explicitly mentioned the desirability of polycentric governance systems in our envisioning of a healthy social order that acknowledges limits to growth. This introduction of polycentric principles attempts to achieve the needed coordination while preserving decent levels of democracy and autonomous self-governance at lower political scales. However, the central aspects of a polycentric post-growth order are only superficially addressed in the literature and the implications of building, preserving, and operationalizing this political architecture remain yet to be developed. This project attempts to adapt the knowledge developed by Elinor and Vincent Ostrom and the Bloomington School of Political Economy on polycentric governance to the post-growth cause. This conceptualization effort attempts to set the foundations for a research program that could, among other things: a) formulate the main traits of a polycentric post-growth order; b) discern the basic conditions and mechanisms for its emergence, survival, and functionality; c) explore its benefits over monocentric systems, but also their costs and threats; and d) illuminate the potential transitional routes.