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Punk’s not dead: Talking degrowth in Budapest

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In a constantly growing world, some people want to take a different direction. These “punks” - scientists, activists, entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens - argue that a new path, away from modern consumer culture, is what society needs. This week, they’re rocking the Hungarian capital for the fifth Degrowth Conference & Week.

It seems paradoxical that a degrowth conference would take place in Budapest, considering Hungary’s unorthodox economical politics, so why here? Vincent Liegey and Cécile Jeanmougin, members of the organiser team, provide the answer.

“Ideas like the concept of degrowth are considered marginal, which means that the Hungarian authorities give us a lot of freedom for organising events.” says Cécile, who’s part of the Conviviality team for the conference and for the festival-like week of programmes around it.

The Conviviality team isn’t just for show; degrowth is all about having a good time together. “We are new-age activists, we don’t function by dogmas,” explains Vincent, general coordinator of the event, on the board since the first Degrowth Conference in Paris in 2008.

 All we want is to show people: look, we have an idea of how to live, we are happy like that, so you can come and try it out with us if you want.

“The last conference was in Leipzig in 2014, but it was obvious that the next venue could only be Budapest. We wanted to approach degrowth in a post-socialist environment, and Budapest is a liberal city, with plenty of room left for us for experimentation.” Vincent would know: the French expat has been living in the Hungarian capital for 15 years.

The event consists of a conference held at the Corvinus University of Budapest and a bunch of programmes in every sense you can imagine, going on like a festival, taking over several places in the Hungarian capital, hopefully for good. “Our aim is to create connections between the field of academia and the citizens; many people have nothing to do with the theory of degrowth but are motivated to act. Our emphasis is on action - that’s what we want after all!” say Vincent and Cécile, widely smiling as they sit on pallets in a courtyard in Budapest, eating Hungarian-made organic French bread, sipping organic Hungarian wine - as proper new-age punks do.


The Degrowth Conference runs from 30 August - 3 September. For more information about the 2016 Degrowth Conference, check out their website or the official Facebook group.