Chapter II – Convivialism

Convivialism is the name given to everything that in doctrines and wisdom, existing or past, secular or religious, contributes to the search for principles that allow human beings to compete without massacring each other in order to cooperate better, and to advance us as human beings in a full awareness of the finiteness of natural resources and in a shared concern for the care of the world. Philosophy of the art of living together, it is not a new doctrine that would replace others by claiming to cancel them or radically overcome them. It is the movement of their mutual questioning based on a sense of extreme urgency in the face of multiple threats to the future of humanity. It intends to retain the most precious principles enshrined in the doctrines and wisdom which were handed down to us.

What is the most precious thing? And how can it be defined and understood? To these questions there is not and cannot – and must not – exist a single, unequivocal answer. It is up to each of us to find their particular answer. There is, however, a definitive criterion instructing us as to what we can retain from each doctrine in a perspective of universalization (or pluriversalization), taking into account both the threat of possible disaster and the hope for a better future.  Is to be retained for sure from each doctrine: what makes it possible to understand how to control excess and conflict so that they do not turn violent; what encourages cooperation; and what opens the way to dialogue and the confrontation of ideas within the framework of an ethics of discussion.

These considerations are sufficient to draw the general outlines of a universalizable doctrine, one that can adequately wrestle with the emergencies of the day, even though its concrete application will necessarily be local and cyclical. And even if it is obvious that there will be as many different, possibly conflicting variants of convivialism as there are of Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, liberalism, socialism, communism, etc. (and, conversely, Buddhist, Islamic, liberal, socialist variants of convivialism, etc.). If only because convivialism in no way claims to cancel these religions or doctrines. At best, can it help to « surpass » them (aufheben), in other words to consider them in a synthetic perspective, by highlighting their points of convergence to better imagine a humanly sustainable future.

General convivialist principles

The only legitimate policy, but also the only acceptable ethics, are those based on the following five principles: Common naturality, common humanity, common sociality, legitimate individuation, creative opposition. These five principles are subordinate to the absolute imperative of hubris control.

Principle of common naturality: humans do not live outside a Nature, of which they should become « masters and possessors ». Like all living beings, they are part of it and are interdependent with it. They have a responsibility to take care of it. If they do not respect it, it is their ethical and physical survival that is at risk.

Principle of common humanity: beyond differences of skin, nationality, language, culture, religion or wealth, sex or gender, there exists only one humanity, which must be respected in the person of each of its members.

Principle of common sociality: human beings are social beings for whom the greatest wealth is the richness of the concrete relationships they maintain among themselves within associations, societies or communities of varying size and nature.

Principle of legitimate individuation: in accordance with these first three principles, legitimate is the policy that allows each individual to develop their individuality to the fullest by developing his or her capacities, power to be and act, without harming that of others, with a view to equal freedom. Unlike individualism, where the individual cares only for oneself, thus leading to the struggle of all against all which leads to the individual for oneself and the struggle of all against all, the principle of legitimate individuation only recognizes the value of individuals who affirm their singularity in respect for their interdependence with others and with nature.

Principle of creative opposition: because everyone is called upon to express their singular individuality, it is normal for humans to be in opposition with each other.But it is only legitimate for them to do so only as long as it does not endanger the framework of common humanity, common sociality and common naturality that makes rivalry fertile and not destructive. Politics inspired by convivialism is therefore politics that allows human beings to differentiate themselves by engaging in peaceful and deliberative rivalry for the common good. The same is true of ethics. 

In addition to these five principles, there is an imperative which cut across all of them:

Imperative of hubris control. The first condition for rivalry to serve the common good is that it be devoid of desire for omnipotence, excess, hubris (and a fortiori pleonexia, the desire to possess ever more). On this condition, it becomes rivalry to cooperate better. This principle of hubris control is in fact a meta-principle, the principle of principles. It permeates all the others and is intended to serve as a regulator and safeguard for them. For each principle, pushed to its extreme and not tempered by others, risks being reversed into its opposite: the love of Nature or that of abstract humanity in hatred of concrete men; the common sociality in corporatism, clientelism, nationalism or racism; individuation in individualism indifferent to others; the creative opposition in the struggle of egos, in the narcissism of the small difference, in destructive conflicts.