Freedom and Security in a Complex World

by Dirk Holmans

We would like to draw your attention to this essay from the Green European Foundation. (reposted with permission of Social Europe)

People all over the world are taking their future back into their hands. Together, they are taking initiatives in the fields of renewable energy, local food production, sharing tools and so forth. This is the most hopeful movement of our time. Where the market and state fail, people are taking action. As free citizens, they are reinventing the collective, with open partnerships where personal development and social engagement go hand in hand. 

This observation seems to contradict what we experience every day. The system errors of our society model fill the newspapers: climate crisis, unstable banks, refugee flows. Accepted wisdom is that uncertainty is increasing. But both trends are happening, not by coincidence, at the same time.

It’s time to wake up. For 30 years, we have believed in the fiction that the era of the Grand Narratives is over: the fall of the Berlin Wall made ideologies useless. Meanwhile we know better. After three decades of economic globalisation, we are seeing more losers than winners.

Progressive politics without a passionate story for the future has driven the losers into the arms of right-wing nationalists, who feed the illusion that folding back on ourselves can be a fruitful form of cooperation. We have to dare to rewrite history.

In the 20th century, the welfare state developed from the progressive response to an industrial free-market economy. From the 1950s, citizens in the west enjoyed increased freedom while the government established social security.

After 30 years, the economic engine broke down, which led to the neoliberal period for the next 30 or so years. In this period, a specific ‘Constitution of Liberty’ (Hayek, 1978) was implemented, in which the market again became the dominant way to organise. This has led to a more unstable world with extreme inequality and a deepening ecological crisis.

The answer we have to develop in the 21st century is the socioecological society, a project that strives for equal freedom for all people to flourish in security, within the boundaries of the planet. It’s not a simple project because it takes on the paradox of our time. Certainty has little to do with the preservation of our present world. To build a certain future, we must change everything. In order for us to be able to develop freely, we need sustainable systems.

In the future how we produce food, produce energy, work and earn an income will all be different. We need new social institutions and a cultural change about what we consider to be ‘the good life’. Fortunately, this is not a distant future dream. While most governments are sleepwalking towards disaster, more and more citizens are taking power into their own hands.

Although they are rarely featured in the news, they are the growing and positive counter-current of our society. Together with progressive local governments, they are incubating a new socioecological society. How we can make it happen is the subject of this essay, with freedom and security at centre stage. 

Available (in several languages) here

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