Radical Well-being Alternatives to Development

Ashish Kothari
Wednesday 28th June, 10.00-11.30, ICTA-UAB

Growing evidence of the ecological unsustainability and iniquitous nature of the current economic development model is prompting a search for alternatives. While various approaches to ‘green’ the economy are being suggested, these are often managerial or technofix-dependent, without fundamentally challenging the political, economic, and social structures that have created the problem in the first place, and without providing an alternative to ‘growth’ as the dominant economic ideology of today.

Are there alternative frameworks that can point the way to a truly sustainable and equitable future? Do elements of such frameworks already exist in concept and in practice, and if so, what principles can be derived from them? What needs to be done to make the transition towards such a future?

The presentation will deal with these questions, using a range of examples of alternative grassroots initiatives at meeting basic needs, and achieving alternative modes of governance, production, distribution, and consumption, that have sprung up in many parts of the world. It will elaborate one paradigm emerging from such alternatives, Radical Ecological Democracy or Eco-swaraj in its Indian context, and mention several others such as Buen Vivir, Ubuntu, struggles for indigenous autonomy and radical democracy such as amongst the Zapatista in Mexico and the Kurds in central Asia, and Degrowth.

The Radical Ecological Democracy framework focuses on meeting human needs and aspirations of well-being through direct or radical democracy, localized economies embedded in ecological and cultural landscapes and free of centralized monetary monopolies, notions of human well-being that relate to actual needs of people and to qualitative values like satisfaction and social security, democratic knowledge and technology generation, and sustaining cultural diversity and exchange. It proposes a mix of localization and globalisation, the former providing communities essential control over means of production, consumption, trade and livelihoods, the latter affording possibilities of intercultural exchange and mutual learning.

While proposing such a framework, the presentation will also raise some key questions for further exploration, including the role of the state and private corporations, the relationship between the individual and the collective, and the political agency for achieving the transformation.

Ashish Kothari
Kalpavriksh, Pune, India


Readings: Kothari, Ashish. In PRESS. Radical Well-being Alternatives to Development. In: Handbook of Law, Environment and Poverty.