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Crisis, liminality and the decolonization of the social imaginary

By Angelos Varvarousis


The decolonization of the social imaginary has been proposed as an important dimension of the transition towards a degrowth society. However, although omnipresent in the degrowth literature, the terms “social imaginary” and “social imaginary significations” have not been adequately explained. This creates a level of mystification that limits the analytical value of the degrowth framework. In addition, there is very little theoretical work on how actual social imaginaries can be decolonized and transformed. This paper first tries to clarify those concepts. Subsequently, it develops a theoretical framework for explaining such transitions of the imaginary. In developing this framework, the paper focuses on moments of crisis, since crises have been historically associated with change and transition. It argues that crises are important because they destabilize social imaginaries and open up a stage of suspension—a liminal stage—in which the rise of new social practices can facilitate the emergence of new social imaginary significations and institutions that can contribute to the alteration of the social imaginary at large. The paper draws on case studies related to the Greek crisis, the biggest ever faced by a country of the Global North after the Second World War.


Social imaginary (significations), crisis, liminality, transition, degrowth, solidarity, commons, Castoriadis



Angelos Varvarousis, Email:

Article published in Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space