5 Theses – Opening Good Life for All Congress, February 2017

Thesis 1: Societies need a vision that provides orientation maximizes the realization of individual potential

In times of profound change, where key achievements such as state of law, human and citizen rights are under attack and insecurity is increasing, a true vision must do more than simply avoid worst case scenarios.  Rather, a vision must dare to be emancipatory and even utopian.   After all, history tells us that all progress – the end to slavery; human rights; women’s rights; workers rights and the social welfare state – seemed at some point to be utopian goals. 

Thesis 2: The Good life for all is a concrete utopia; a civilisation where progress for some does not come at the expense of others

The good life for all describes a world in which living together in freedom is organised in peace and solidarity. It is a positive vision that gives meaning and induces fantasy. It asks the question: how can we change the way we organise social production and consumption to avoid zero-sum results in which a good life for some is organized on the backs of others?  How can we ensure freedom, solidarity, sustainability and democratic participation for all? The vision of a good life for all acts as a compass that points us to the advancement in that direction and embeds those steps into a wider horizon of organising production and consumption that can be universalized. As such the good life for all is not merely a feel-good concept, but the outcome of a hard-fought struggle, brimming with conflict and contradictions.

Thesis 3: Freedom for all needs democratically-defined limits

The current stage of hyper-globalisation is based on markets without borders/rules, that strongly limit the possibilities and the policy space for socio-ecological change. Current developments increasingly show that the utopia of a globalisation without borders/limits leading to peace and development is an illusion. Today the more powerful set the agenda and thus get what they want, with our without rules. But freedom without limits, rules and order is not possible. The nature of these limits and rules, however, needs to be defined/negotiated democratically. This is particularly the case for money and goods. Advantages and disadavantages of trade without borders/limits are to be assessed democratically.

Thesis 4: Selective economic regionalisation can promote sovereignty and cosmopolitanism

What is needed is to „ground“ globalisation. Strategies towards an emancipatory regionalisation are needed, in order to gain back policy spaces „from below“. Democratically negotiated limits/rules in particular are needed in regard to financial markets and a „civilisation“ of global trade, that bans social and environmental dumping. Free trade and protectionism are by no means emancipatory approaches. What is needed are rules and frameworks that allow a meaningful articulation of the local and the global level and that balance the contradictions between the local and the global, local diversity and global cooperation in the interest of a good life for all. To achieve the good life for all we need both sovereignty and cosmopolitanism.

Thesis 5: The good life for all must create space for mobilization from the grassroots

Many people believe that today’s big challenges – climate, poverty, human rights and the world economic order – can only be addressed by global strategies. Without denying the need for global governance, the most recent political developments (the election of Trump, Putin etc.) show that currently the space for global action is getting reduced. Global problems, however, have many layers and can be dealt with not only at the global level. Climate and social policies have are often made and/or implemented at the local level. At all levels people can become active in order to promote freedom, solidarity, sustainability and democratisation. Through such movements we can develop a sense of our agency and learn that we can have an impact in the shaping of the world. Hence, it is not only meaningful but also necessary to expand the scope of action and policy spaces where they exist: locally, regionally, nationally and at the European level.