Degrowth as hope for a different future – Interview with Lena Olaison

In this series of interviews we ask contributors to and friends of the professional development workshop on “Moving Beyond Growth in Management Research, Practice & Education” at the 2017 Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Atlanta about their relation do Degrowth & Postgrowth. Our interviewee this time is Lena Olaison, Assistant Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark and post doc at the Life at Home and Sustainable Production research initiative at Linnaeus University, Sweden. She is currently engaged in a research project on sustainable entrepreneurship supported by the Velux Foundation and by the Bridge Program at Linnaeus University, Sweden. Lena co-edited one of the latest special issues of the ephemera journal on “Organizing for the the Post-Growth Economy“.

Lena, what does „Degrowth“ mean to you?

Ideas and practices around degrowth are still controversial, especially at Business Schools, but more and more are questioning the fact that what we have been thinking, doing and promoting for the last 50 years are destroyed our planet. Degrowth, for me, means hope for the future, since it allows us to appreciate that there are other ways of organising our lives than by committing to perpetual growth.

How does your work relate to the issues and topics discussed in this year’s workshop at the AoM Annual Meeting?

My main current research project, funded by the Velux Foundation in Demark, explores the theory and practice of sustainable entrepreneurship. We use philosophy as a resource for transforming and criticising organization and entrepreneurship. The objective of the research project is to explore alternative conceptualizations, articulations and experiences of sustainable entrepreneurship, beyond the growth paradigm. Within this project we study areas such as local food production and consumption, architecture, the energy sector and electronics industry. In July this year, we organized a stream at EGOS in Copenhagen, on ‘Values, Entrepreneurship and Organizing’. Several of the presentations directly worked on degrowth and postgrowth within organization studies and entrepreneurship studies.

I’m also a proud member of the editorial collective of ephemera: theory and politics on organization, a non-for-profit, open access journal that publishes ‘in the margins of organization studies’. Recently we published a special issue on ‘organizing for the post-growth economy’. The special issue attempts to open up for critical and creative thinking around organizational issues related to growth, economy, sustainability, and ecology. The contributions found in our special issue revolve around themes that are central to the problem of organizing for a post-growth economy, including such phenomena as the circular economy, carbon markets, food production, not-for-profit enterprises, and degrowth. Using a variety of theoretical resources as well as empirical material, these contributions rethink the relationship between growth and organization.

What are you especially looking forward to in the workshop?

It is the first time I’m participating in the Degrowth workshop, and it is actually the first time that I am here at AoM. Up to this point I have mainly encountered people in the degrowth network by reading their publications and exchanging through emails, so I am really looking forward meeting everyone and exchanging ideas! 

And finally, any wishes for the future of Degrowth at the AoM and beyond?

Although we are at the margins of organization studies, ideas beyond growth are gaining momentum. I believe we will see a paradigmatic shift, also in our field of study, and I hope we continue to push for this change, combining insights from activist practices and organisational forms with conceptual reflection and theorization.

The professional development workshop on “Moving Beyond Growth in Management Research, Practice & Education” takes place on Saturday, Aug 5 2017 11:15AM – 12:45PM at Atlanta Marriott Marquis in Marquis M304.


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