Convivial Futures ↗
Views from a Post-Growth Tomorrow
»Many social movements and researchers think about an alternative to current developments. Concrete utopias are needed more than ever. The book wants to enter into a dialogue with all those who are interested in a different future and who are engaged in the elaboration and implementation of concrete utopias – practically as well as intellectually.«Frank Adloff & Alain Caillé
Excerpt from the introduction
Convivialism presents itself as a political philosophy destined to follow in the footsteps of the great ideologies of modernity—liberalism, socialism, anarchism, communism. These ideologies are no longer able to enlighten us on either the present state of the world or what it could or should look like tomorrow, if only because they have completely failed to anticipate the environmental crisis and global warming. Convivialism is therefore beginning to find some resonance. The SCM (Second Convivialist Manifesto) has already been translated into six languages. But so far, convivialism has suffered from a major flaw compared to its predecessors, which explains why its audience is not yet broader: It does not ‘say’ enough. It does not say enough because it does not hold out the prospect of a bright future or at least a happier one for the majority, one that is worth fighting for, or even worth making sacrifices to bring it about. This part of the narrative is what its predecessors knew how to tell.
Liberalism gave hope for the rule of autonomy, the end of submission to authority or despotism. Socialism promised equality, or at least a certain degree of equality, thanks to the regulatory intervention of the state. Anarchism trumped liberalism by adding the hope of economic self-sufficiency, of self-management; and communism one-upped socialism by adding fraternity to equality. Convivialism inherits all these promises and tries to combine them by sublating them (»aufheben« in German). But this sublation is still largely a conceptual principle. It now needs to be given flesh, breath, life, and visibility. This is the thinking behind the request we sent to the authors of this issue.
Announcing a convivial world for tomorrow might seem both excessively timid and desperately ambitious—excessively timid compared to what yesterday’s secular religions such as socialism, communism, or liberal modernization promised us. All of them held out the prospect of a better and brighter tomorrow. We would end all forms of domination or exploitation of man by man. Or, at the very least, everyone would see their material living conditions assured, their health protected, their education sufficiently guaranteed, and would become fully respected citizens. These great hopes have been fading away over the last few decades. Today, for a whole range of reasons (ecological, economic, political, epidemiological, social, moral) that need not be spelled out here, it is rather despair and a dreary future that looms on the horizon. We no longer look to the future full of hope; on the contrary, the horizon of the future has closed. Claiming that tomorrow’s world could be more convivial, less violent, less unjust, more secure, more symbiotic or ecological seems desperate and almost foolish.
Nevertheless, the indication of a more convivial future also comes in the wake of the SCM. The SCM’s main idea can be summarized as follows: Despite the unprecedented progress in the fields of science and technology, the darkest predictions about our own and the warming Earth’s future have a high probability of coming true (the coronavirus pandemic does not encourage us to be more optimistic). Our only chance of escaping a dreadful fate is to create a post-neoliberal or post-growth society as soon as possible. The SCM depicts some of its possible ecological, political, social, and economic features. However, it is obvious that a convivial society has no chance of coming into existence if a global shift in public opinion in all countries is not triggered, a sort of axiological great transformation.
But how can one hope, even for a second, that the power of Putin, Xi Jinping, Bolsonaro, Sissi, Modi, Trump, Wall Street, and the fossil-fuel industry will diminish? Let us remember, however, the strength of the republican ideal, which was able to overcome the absolutist monarchies, the power of socialist or communist (for better or for worse) or fascist (definitely for worse) ideals. Moreover, before these secular religions, there was the enormous energy generated by Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, or Buddhism. A comparable energy must once again be mobilized today.
The SCM has presented a brief but reasonable analysis of the situation in which we find ourselves and sketches one possible desirable future. It has been a necessary work of theoretical synthesis. Yet, it is also necessary to be able to speak to as many people as possible and awaken widespread passions for a better future. We are going to need this passion to preserve a viable world. For this, conceptual work is notoriously insufficient. The most urgent thing now is to show as many people as possible what they would gain from a shift to a post-neoliberal and post-growth convivialist future. It would be a world in which, at least in the richest countries, living better means less material wealth, with less money for the wealthy or upper middle classes, and much less exploitation of humans and non-human beings.
Whether the future will be more convivial in this sense is decided by our actions in the present, which in turn are guided by the ideas we have about the future. Our bold bet is therefore that convivialist ideas about the future can help decide which future becomes the present.