Note — Oct 06, 2019

Minimal Maintenance

The essay version of a talk by Shannon Mattern, Professor of Anthropology at The New School for Social Research. Really excellent read which ties together maintenance, degrowth, libraries, museums, environmental justice, and architecture. I encourage you to read the whole thing, one of the points which resonated with me is the very first quote below, which frames degrowth not as blanket anti-growth but as a critique of growth as an end in itself. To my mind, this parallels Vaclav Smil in this interview from last week where he talks about not viewing degrowth as something done identically globally but as varying according to each country’s needs. Then, like Smil who says there is “slack” in the system, Mattern cites “many feminist economists” who believe that “degrowth need not entail universal downsizing. Instead, a reduction of those things that are ‘destructive to humans and the ecological foundations of human life’.”

The contemporary “degrowth” movement … isn’t against growth, per se; it calls, instead, for a critique of growth as an end in itself, for the “decolonization of public debate from the idiom of economism and for the abolishment of economic growth as a social objective.” […]

The Maintainers have emerged in response to these technological and political-economic concerns, many of which overlap with those of the Degrowthers: the waste of planned obsolescence, the environmental effects of unsustainable supply chains, the devaluation of care work, the underfunding of maintenance, and so forth. […]

[A]rtist Teresa Dillon cited environmental humanist Eileen Crist’s call for “pulling back and scaling down,” “welcoming limitations of our numbers, economies and habitats for the sake of a higher, more inclusive freedom and quality of life.” […]

[T]he potential activation of a new post-growth urban “commons”—resources and practices that resist commodification and privatisation, and that prioritise collective creation and public use. […]

Yet the threats imposed by tech’s unlimited growth are both individual and collective: they compromise our personal privacy and mental health, as well as our networked utilities, our geopolitical dynamics, and our global ecologies. […]

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