New article by Dennis Eversberg: From democracy at others’ expense to externalization at democracy’s expense: Property-based personhood and citizenship struggles in organized and flexible capitalism


This contribution investigates the anthropological foundations of European democracies’ continuous entanglement with economic and military expansionism and a hierarchical separation between public and private spheres, both of which have enabled the appropriation of nature and others’ labour as property on which citizens’ abstract personhood could be founded. Drawing on an argument made by David Graeber, it is suggested that modern European history can be interpreted as a process of the ‘generalization of avoidance’, in which such abstract, property-based forms of personhood, which were initially what defined the superior party in relations of hierarchy, came to be a model for the figures of market participant and citizen within the spheres of formal equal exchange of economy and politics. From this perspective, and building on an account of different stages of capitalist history as ‘subjectivation regimes’, the article then analyses the transition from the ‘exclusive democracy’ of post-war organized capitalism in Western Europe, in which citizens’ entitlement, through the collective guarantees of ‘social property’ (Castel), increasingly allowed individualized competitive practices of status attainment and gave rise to individualist movements for extended citizenship, to current-day flexible capitalism. This regime, seizing on those calls and instrumentalizing the desires for competitive status consumption, has effected a broad restructuring of the social as a unified field of competition in which new hierarchies and inequalities materialize in global chains of appropriation, causing a ‘dividual’ fragmentation of property-based personhood and generating calls for responsible citizenship as an inherent counter-movement. In conclusion, it is suggested that anthropologists have much to contribute to investigating the possibility of democratic, post-capitalist ‘anthropologies of degrowth’.

Eversberg, D., 2021. “From democracy at others’ expense to externalization at democracy’s expense: Property-based personhood and citizenship struggles in organized and flexible capitalism” Anthropological Theory. Special Issue: Democracy in Liberal Post-Growth Societies. doi:10.1177/1463499620977995

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New article by Lilian Pungas: “Caring dachas – Food self-provisioning in Eastern Europe through the lens of care”

Lilian Pungas, 2021. “Caring dachas – Food self-provisioning in Eastern Europe through the lens of care”, in: Nelson, A., Edwards, F. (Ed.): Food for Degrowth. Perspectives and Practices. Routledge, London & New York, 59-74.

Abstract: The notions of care and stewardship are at the root of all practices concerning food production – from ploughing the soil and sowing, to harvesting, cooking, preserving and composting. Yet, in contrast to cooking, cultivating land is often not perceived as ‘classical’ care work. Instead, care is mostly framed as an interhuman activity concerned with human sustenance and reproduction and therefore, associated mostly with household work, raising children and taking care of the elderly (Waerness 1984; Jochimsen 2003). Given that care remains a rather marginalised category, my goal in this chapter is to reinforce and enrich the discourse on care in degrowth scholarship by demonstrating how food self-provisioning (FSP) in both urban and periurban areas is grounded in ideas of care and stewardship, not only as an interhuman act, but also in connection to the soil and surrounding environment. In this sense, caring means ‘reaching out to something other than the self’ (Tronto 1993, 102) implying a deep empathy with other (living) beings, as well as being followed by some form of action.

Drawing on four of Tronto’s (1993) expressions of care, I demonstrate that, despite seeming ‘irrational’ in economic terms, FSP is essentially a very rational act of care based on a deep understanding of interdependence and mutual vulnerability between humans and nonhuman nature (Gottschlich 2012). Care manifests as reciprocal ‘caring about’, ‘care-giving’ and ‘care-receiving’ with the surrounding environment, the gardener’s community and oneself. In this case study, I explore how notions of care are expressed in FSP, and how they can all be recognised as predominant intrinsic motives behind this practice. In contrast, I display how promises and narratives of industrial agriculture fall into Tronto’s fourth category (‘taking care of’) as rather ‘masculine’, ‘public’ and ‘loud’ manifestations of care. Tronto’s (2013) subsequent, fth, dimension of care (‘caring with’) constitutes a less hierarchical relationship as well as a complex interdependence between both counterparts (care-giver and care-receiver) so might provide an additional (potentially more appropriate) framework for analysing care in FSP practice. However, in this chapter the focus lies on the other four dimensions of care for the sake of nuanced analysis of specic aspects and motives of care practice with regard to FSP. 

The article is part of the miscenally: Nelson, A., Edwards, F. (Ed.), 2021. Food for Degrowth. Perspectives and Practices. Routledge, London & New York.

This collection breaks new ground by investigating applications of degrowth in a range of geographic, practical and theoretical contexts along the food chain. Degrowth challenges growth and advocates for everyday practices that limit socio-metabolic energy and material flows within planetary constraints. As such, the editors intend to map possibilities for food for degrowth to become established as a field of study.

International contributors offer a range of examples and possibilities to develop more sustainable, localised, resilient and healthy food systems using degrowth principles of sufficiency, frugal abundance, security, autonomy and conviviality. Chapters are clustered in parts that critically examine food for degrowth in spheres of the household, collectives, networks, and narratives of broader activism and discourses. Themes include broadening and deepening concepts of care in food provisioning and social contexts; critically applying appropriate technologies; appreciating and integrating indigenous perspectives; challenging notions of ‘waste’, ‘circular economies’ and commodification; and addressing the ever-present impacts of market logic framed by growth.

This book will be of greatest interest to students and scholars of critical food studies, sustainability studies, urban political ecology, geography, environmental studies such as environmental sociology, anthropology, ethnography, ecological economics and urban design and planning.

Working Paper No. 2 published! On the Empty Promises of Growth within the Bioeconomy

Eversberg, Dennis and Jana Holz. 2020. Empty Promises of Growth: The Bioeconomy and Its Multiple Reality Checks


In this paper, we want to make two arguments. Firstly, we observe that the current trend in official policy concepts and strategies of the bioeconomy is toward a moderation of the promises of economic growth that it has been associated with since the beginning of this millennium. We argue that this process of moderation is at least partly due to the effects of a series of ‘reality checks’ that the different existing strands of research on the bioeconomy have (willingly or unwillingly) subjected the promises to, forcing governments to move away from obviously unrealistic visions and adopt more humble ones. We identify four such reality checks, coming from research on (a) bioeconomy discourses and strategies, (b) actors and
interests in the political economy of the bioeconomy, and (c) the economic and biophysical materialities that make up ‘the bioeconomy’. Secondly, we propose that a fourth, sociological reality check is currently being mounted, exposing the social implausibility and democratic illegitimacy of the bioeconomy’s promissory visions. Using survey data from Germany
to develop a provisional analysis of the tensions and conflicts within the population that disagreements about the bioeconomy are embedded in, we suggest putting the bioeconomy in its proper political place as part of the larger societal challenge, rather than promise, of achieving a post-fossil transformation of modern societies.

Our Working Papers

Lilian Pungas: Online Contribution to Oil Shale and Dacha-Gardening in Estonia on 26 November 2020

“Eco-sufficient activities under high-voltage lines and alongside of oil shale mines in Estonia”

Our research colleague Lilian Pungas speaks about oil shale extraction and dacha-gardening in Eastern Estonia.

When? Thursday, 26 November 2020, 1.15 pm.
Moderation: Christina Plank (IPW | Universität Wien)
Where? Online


Estonia is the only member state within the EU, that is for decades consistently mining out oil shale and, thereby, has one of the highest per capita carbon footprint in Europe. Oil shale – for Estonia that means security of supply and a reduction of risks resulting from a dependency on the big neighbour Russia. Paradoxically, oil shale is extracted in Eastern Estonia, where the majority of the Russian-speaking population lives. This group was already in the 1990s disproportionatly suffering from unemployment and poverty. Now, they fear the closing of some mines because of rising carbon-pricing.

In the 1990s, the Russian-speaking population faced their existential fears by cultivating their own food in the so-called ‘dachas’. Till this day, dachas play an enormously important role and illustrates an example, how one can live sustainable and eco-suffiently despite of the manifold contradicitions in the region.

In interviews with the local population additional topics were touched upon: the impacts of the Corona-pandemic on the activities in the dachas, gender issues in the gardening, human-nature relations as well as alienation and eudaimonia.

The contribution of Lilian Pungas is part of the IPW Lectures, an international lecture series by the Department of Political Science, University of Vienna.

Dennis Eversberg at the research colloquium of Prof. Lessenich (LMU München) on 24 November 2020

“Tension is mounting!? Social-ecological mentalities in Germany on the eve of »Fridays for Future« – with this title of his contribution, Dennis Eversberg takes part in the Research Colloquium on Social Analysis and Social Criticism at the Ludwig.Maximilians-Universität Munich.

For some time, the climate seems to be heating up not only biophysically but also socio-politically the athmosphere is getting tense. While some poeple demonstrate on the streets, in the forests and in coal mines in order to demand a fast move from fossilism to global justice, other people discovered the denial of the anthropogenic climate crisis and the resistance to the energy transition as a political field of mobiling for authoritarian-nationalist ideologies. Is the socio-ecological conflict in Germany polarising? Based on a secondary analysis of the survey “Environmental Consciousness in Germany 2018”, the lecture maps the “landscape” of social-ecological mentalities in this country shortly before the recent upswing of the climate movement and analyzes the dynamics of the conflict within the population at that time.

When? 24 November 2020, 6-8 pm.
Where? online via zoom

The research colloquium is organised by Prof. Dr. Stephan Lessenich (Chair of Social Developments and Structures) in cooperation with the Munich Institute for Social and Sustainability Research as well as the Institute for Sociology. Lehrstuhl Soziale Entwicklungen und Strukturen, LMU München) in Kooperation mit der Münchner Projektgruppe für Sozialforschung e.V. und dem Institut für Soziologie.

Online now: Video-Contributions of Prof. Mario Giampietro and Prof. Daniela Thrän to Bioeconomy, Growth and Sustainibility

Two highlights of our workshop “It’s the Bioeconomy, stupid! The future of growth and the promise of the bioeconomy” held on the 7th and 8th of October 2020 were the contributions of Mario Giampietro (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and Daniela Thrän (Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research GmbH, 2012 to 2019 member of the German Bioeconomy Council). More information on the workshop (programme and other contributions)

The videos of their contributions are available clicking the links in the titles:

Mario Giampietro, ICREA Research Professor, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona: “The policy legend of the circular bioeconomy: A biophysical view of the sustainability predicament”, online lecture, October 7th, 2020. Moderation: Anne Tittor

Daniela Thrän, UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig, 2012-2019 member of the German Bioeconomy Council: “Bioeconomy’s Contribution to Economic Growth”, online keynote speech, October 8th, 2020. Moderation: Dennis Eversberg.

The two speakers took opposing positions:

As the title suggests, Mario Giampietro was skeptical of the idea of ​​a circular economy as an essential element of a sustainable bioeconomy. From a bio-physical perspective, he analyzed the inputs and outputs in a bioeconomy that – as an energy and material processing system – is embedded in natural processes. To his opinion, a complete circular economy is not possible. A bioeconomy also requires a lot of energy (which today is mostly obtained from fossil resources) and there are always waste products that cannot be reprocessed. Furthermore, to operate the global economy with biomass, the available land on earth is far from sufficient. Conflicts over land are inevitable and have been carried out with violence for a long time in South America, for example. His lecture made it clear once again that technology, including biotechnology, cannot solve environmental problems if questions of social injustice and the unequal distribution of power are not asked at the same time.

Daniela Thrän, on the other hand, took a cautiously optimistic perspective. In her contribution, she outlined the achievements already accomplished (e.g. genome editing) and the potential for increasing productivity (more food from the same country) that improved biotechnology enables. In addition, she emphasized that in the German public and the bioeconomy debate, the topic of sustainability plays a much bigger role today than it did a few years ago. For example, the effects of steadily increasing production are also being critically discussed in the Bioeconomy Council. Her contribution stimulated a discussion about the benefits of technological gains in efficiency, if they were repeatedly “eaten up” by rebound effects and ultimately led to higher raw material and energy consumption. As Daniela Thrän explained, the problem of rebound effects in biotechnologically oriented research is considered to be the biggest question yet to be solved. However, it has not yet been part of concrete political measures. Also because many political measures relating to the bioeconomy are controversially discussed, Daniela Thrän advocates the support and processing of these negotiation processes through social science research.

Jana Holz: Presentation on forest bioeconomy as an extractivist practice at the Doc­toral Stu­dents’ Annual Conference in Helsinki

Jana Holz presents preliminary results of her PhD studies at the „Doctoral Students’ Annual Conference: (De)Naturalising Extractivism: Investigating its Social Orders and Resistances” that took place online from 20th to 21st October. The conference is part of the EXALT Symposiums. In her presentation with the title „The (Non-)Conflict around Forest Bioeconomy in Finland. Locally Rooted ‘Green Extractivism’ under Revision” she discusses forest bioeconomy as an extractivist practice highlighting the conflicts and contradictions as well as possible (negative) future development.

Martin Fritz contributed to the series of lectures “climate crisis vs. sage of economy”

The Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung and Fridays for Future Erfurt are organising the series of lectures “Climate Crisis vs. Sage of Economy”.

In this connection Martin Fritz was invited to held a presentation to “Social and Ecological Economy. Concepts and Varieties of Degrowth” on 17th of September 2020 in Erfurt, and to discuss the topic with Matus Volkmann (Fridays for Future Erfurt) as well as Andres Friedrichmeier (Lesekreis Erfurt).

You can see the video on youtube here

Dennis Eversbergs’ Article “The Renegotiation of our relations to nature”

  • The transformation to a bio-based way of production and life strongly depends on mentalities – perceptions, attitudes and expectations – of diverse social groups within society.
  • The nature relations of modern Western societies are shaped by the permanent and nearly unlimited availibility of fossil energy resources and raw materials (coal, oil, gas).
  • In future bio-based economies also mentalities will be in flux. This will bring conflicts. Socio-ecological research in mentalities can contribute to a better understanding of these conflicts.

These are the main statements of Dennis Eversberg’s article about „the renegotiation of our relations to nature“. The article gives an insight on the main ideas and questions of the research project flumen and is published at the website of the Science Year 2020/21-Bioeconomy. You can read his contribution on in German language here

The Science Year 2020/21-Bioeconomy is an initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The idea is to present the public latest research questions and projects on bioeconomy and to give the public the opportunity to experience potential solutions that have already emerged from research.