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Max Koch. Foto: Johan Persson.

Max Koch


Max Koch. Foto: Johan Persson.

The State in the Transformation to Sustainability in a Postgrowth Context


  • Max Koch

Summary, in English

One of the conclusions from comparative empirical studies of the structural challenges towards making global production and consumption patterns compatible with environmental limits is that rich countries would need to ‘degrow’ (O’Neill 2015; Fritz and Koch 2016). To shed light on the potential role of the state in such a planned downscaling process the paper compares state roles in a capitalist economy (oriented at monetary growth or exchange value) and a postgrowth economy (oriented at physical parameters such as matter and energy throughput or use values). First, contributions to materialist state and regulation theories are applied to analyse the state’s roles in a capitalist growth economy: above all as rule of law, welfare state, environmental state and in relation to state spatiality. To these roles correspond economic policies to intermediate corporate interests, social policies to de- and recommodify labour power and environmental policies to produce 'green growth'. Second, the paper argues that state roles would need to change to bring forth environmental sustainability and social equality in a postgrowth context. State economic, social and environmental policies would be oriented at the provision of ‘sustainable welfare’ (Koch and Mont 2016), specifically the provision of sufficient need satisfiers for all people now and in future (Gough 2015). It is generally argued that robust (welfare) states would be necessary to steer a mixed economy that functions within environmental limits and serve as primus inter pares in a governance network comprising above all global and local levels. Finally, the paper discusses state ‘eco-social’ policies such as wealth sharing, minimum and maximum incomes as well as carbon rationing that can facilitate the transformation from a growth to a postgrowth economy. Such policies potentially serve as ‘real utopian’ alternatives to capitalism (Wright 2010) and the traditional environmental state.


  • School of Social Work

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper: abstract


  • Sociology

Conference name

Beyond the Environmental State? Exploring the Political Prospects of a Sustainability Transformation

Conference date

2017-04-25 - 2017-04-30

Conference place

Nottingham, United Kingdom