Prologue (English version)

In the rich, developed countries, young people have begun to join forces to demand that their governments and transnational corporations finally engage seriously in curbing global warming and halting the irreversible degradation of the natural environment.   These protesters recognize that their own future is in imminent danger.  More and more scientists warn us that we have at best a few years to reverse these ominous trends.  Decidedly, brave words and virtuous proclamations never followed by action no longer suffice and further delay has become unbearable.   

In some Asian and Arab world countries, youth is rebelling against tyrants and dictatorships. Current examples include the Sudan, Algeria, and Hong Kong, although the progressives have so far been unable to prevent new dictators from replacing the old ones.  

Elsewhere, in the poorest countries where endless mayhem and implacable, unwinnable civil wars often coincide, young people feel they have no solution and no hope but to migrate.      

These three geographically defined groups of young people live separated and know little about each other, but their hopes and their struggles are inseparable.  They will either win or lose together. 

In 1971, John Lennon wrote Imagine, which over the years has become one of the most popular songs in the world.   Today, people pay as much attention to the optimistic words as to the beautiful melody. « Imagine all the people, living life in peace… no need for greed or hunger… the brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people sharing all the world ».   Now, fifty years later, it is more urgent than ever not only to imagine and dream of a peaceful world but to help make it happen as quickly as possible.  Even mere imagining seems harder now, but we must try.  

Another future?

What might such a world look like?   Surely not a paradise, a utopian land of plenty but a truly humane world, and such a world is possible.   It would be one where, as United States president Franklin Roosevelt said in 1941, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom from fear would prevail[1]. In the wake of Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech, the Philadelphia Convention was organized three years later to set the general objectives of the International Labour Organisation [ILO] and the prelude to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man.  These were agreed and declared on 10 May 1944.  Article 2 of the Philadelphia Convention states: « All human beings, regardless of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue their material progress and spiritual development in freedom and dignity, in economic security and with equal opportunities”.

Although now gender-less, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights no longer seems to inspire younger generations. If they have heard of it at all, they understandably consider it hollow rhetoric constantly refuted by real world facts.  Our effort here is to salvage its true meaning and bring it up to date for our present circumstances. Is imagination really so degraded that we cannot conceive of a world in which power would not be seized by psychopaths, aided by criminal networks and abetted by the army and the police?   A world where once conquered, power would not be maintained by more or less visible control over the media, arbitrary arrests, corruption of the judiciary, torture and murder?  

It should not be impossible to imagine a world where some poverty would undoubtedly still exist but no one would be totally destitute because a fair social network system would allow everyone to live decently from their own work. In such a world, extreme wealth which feeds fantasies of alternative humanity, even a kind of superhumanity for the few, would not be tolerated any more than would poverty. In such a world, one can imagine that whereas people would have different ideas, ideologies and beliefs and argue among themselves about what makes life meaningful, they wouldn’t massacre each other, or wage civil and religious wars or commit violent acts for the sake of naked power and control.  Is it now somehow forbidden to imagine a world where natural resources and the natural environment would no longer be systematically sacrificed and plundered for the benefit of large or small private, but also public corporations; a world where humanity could effectively curb global warming and halt, even reverse, the multiple instances of today’s accelerating ecological degradation?

Surely these desires, these ideals are virtually universal and self-evident, based as they are on the most elementary common sense; the most widespread wishes of humanity and express what the vast majority would say they want. And yet, even their partial much less total realization seems entirely out of reach, almost inconceivable. Why is this so?  Is this the destiny from which humanity cannot escape?

The recent downward spiraling of the world

Let us indulge briefly in looking at the world in retrospect.  During the three decades following the Second World War, the principles set out in the Philadelphia Convention and then in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not sound like empty words. Everyone, even in non-democratic countries, took — and had to take — them seriously. These principles were the cornerstones officially guiding public policy and they inspired concrete results.  Western democracies were obliged to seek out policies that would prevent them from relapsing into the totalitarian horrors of Nazism and fascism that had triggered the Second World War and claimed tens of millions of victims.  These policies also withstood the seduction of communism, another variant of the totalitarianism which dominated Russia, Eastern Europe and China and were quickly spreading to many countries of the so-called “Third World”.  Even the communist countries felt obliged to give lip-service to the concepts of human rights while avoiding implementing them. 

In 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, capitalism no longer had an obvious and tangible enemy. Capitalism seemed to be the twin sibling of democracy — a capitalism that, at the time, was essentially industrial based on labour. Perhaps blinded (for many reasons), until the beginning of the 21st century, political scientists and philosophers would focus on what appeared to them to be the reality of « democratic transition ». The dominant discourse albeit with varying degrees of conviction, maintained that fairly quickly the remaining dictatorships would collapse and that all the countries of the world would adopt the institutional formula that had worked so well for the West: A mixture of parliamentary democracy, free market, and the welfare state.

With the demise of its previous enemies, democracies and their capitalist economies believed they needed to be much less on guard, and could conveniently afford to take human rights and democratic principles more leisurely. Capitalism turned from industrial to strongly rentier and speculative, and in its most debilitating form, into techno and surveillance capitalism. Its profits derive less from tangible production and instead — from speculative finance and non-transparent trade in personal data.On the one hand,  the new capitalist redistribution of the wealth created, is increasingly unfair and unjust,  diminishing prosperity to the extent that the poor get poorer and the middle classes (in rich countries, not yet in the newly emerging economies) have been rapidly contracting. On the other hand, it has been operating ruthlessly, generating a literally senseless enrichment of the richest. No one can ignore the fact that some forty ultra-rich individuals possess as much as the poorest half of humanity which consists of nearly four billion people. Forty people are as important as four billion! But because such figures are humanly overwhelming, they defy understanding, cause despondency and passivity so that no one knows, even attempts to imagine, what to do to change course.

As liberal and pluralist democracy and the spirit of human rights are losing ground, it is the so-called illiberal or peoples’ democracies, effectively dictatorships — the « democratures » — that are flourishing everywhere. In its impulsive reaction to the fall of communism, the rich West had taken its self-chosen role to bring peace and prosperity to the world too lightly. Rather, it has caused a storm. Being unable or unwilling to keep its promise to the world, it is now vigorously confronted (significantly more than during the bi-polar era) by the resentment that has been breeding since its past colonial and imperial, and neo-imperial, domination. The Islamic radicalism of Al Qaida or ISIS represents only the most visible face and the most terrifying expression of this hatred.

The triumph of neoliberalism

What went wrong? What explains the betrayal of the expectations raised at the end of the Second World War? There are many complex and intertwined causes, but only one looms far above all else: The subordination of the entire planet and all spheres of human existence to the demands of a rentier and speculative capitalism. This capitalism produces wealth for the very few while diverting wealth away from the many. The triumph of this new type of capitalism, not the least its global attraction and adoption, has many causes. Again, one stands out from among the others -hardly seen and poorly understood – and is essential: The power of ideas. When supported by concrete means, ideas can succeed in capturing the imagination of a large number of people, gain their support, and subsequently become controlling. To be sure, this is the raison d’être of this Convivialist Manifesto: Oppose and supplant neoliberal ideology which has paved the way for this new type of capitalism, a capitalism in its pure state, free of all and any moral or political constraints

All isms are subject to multiple discussions and possible definitions. True of capitalism (or anti-capitalism), it is just as true of neoliberalism (in its different variations). Current neoliberalism is sufficiently characterized by the combination of the following six proposals or axioms:

  • There is no such thing as society, as Margaret Thatcher said, no cultures or collective bodies. There are only individual men and women.
  • Greed is good, the thirst for profit is a good thing. Greed is a value.
  • The richer the rich get, the better it will be for all because everyone will benefit in the process thanks to the trickle-down effect.
  • Free and undistorted competition in unfettered markets( including the financial markets) is taken as the only desirable mode of coordinating human activities for the greater good of all.
  • There is no limit. Always, the more the better
  • There is no alternative, as again, Margaret Thatcher used to say.

The many who would doubt the power of ideas and values, and the force with which they affect our behaviour, should be reminded that none of these five six proposals was held to be true, or fair, between 1944 and the 1970-1980s. Again, a brief retrospective is warranted. In economics, the dominant doctrine, inspired in particular by John Maynard Keynes, assigned the State and its redistributive action a major role. To put an end to Keynesianism, and the generally social-democratic policies it inspired, in 1947, some thirty opponents — including Friedrich Von Hayek, Karl Popper, Milton Friedman, and many other well-known names, gathered in Switzerland and created what would become the Société du Mont Pèlerin. Very soon, supported by large companies and rich foundations, the Société du Mont Pèlerin, which is still very active today, would gradually undermine the Keynesian consensus and impose a new vision of the world and humanity, a new way of understanding human affairs.  It is this alternative mode of reasoning, this new version of understanding of how the world operates, that has come to exerts on a global scale what the philosopher Antonio Gramsci called hegemony, control over ideas and minds. It is now clear that this hegemony must be invalidated most urgently. This can be achieved only by challenging its thrust. It demands explaining the foundations of a new type of reasoning, fitting for our time and our condition. However, it cannot be a return to Keynesianism nor the isms of the past. 

Why Convivialism?

Though young people in rich countries are becoming increasingly aware each day of climate change and environmental degradation, they still have difficulty understanding that their fate is linked to that of young people elsewhere who seek to free themselves from dictatorships or are forced to emigrate. Green parties have attracted the attention of an increasing audience in the West, but their concern for the environment has not yet congealed into a political philosophy nor does it provide as such a blueprint for an enforceable policy that may forcefully challenge neoliberalism. In order to be able to effectively respond to the severe and irreversible harm that the global domination of rentier and speculative capitalism has already, and will continue to, inflict on humanity, we absolutely need to offer a political philosophy alternative to neoliberalism. We are responsible to not limit our philosophy to mere denunciation of the fallacy of the six central propositions of neoliberals; we must concretely outline another possible world, more humane, viable, with which at least the vast majority can identify by sharing the concern to save what can and must still be saved from our environment in a way that ensures the four Roosevelt freedoms.  To achieve this, we need to defeat the feeling of powerlessness and build an inspiring mutual trust between individuals, groups, and their governments. 

As a first step, this Second Manifesto of Convivialism will outline the contours of the other possible world that it offers, a post-neoliberal world. Subtitled Declaration of Interdependence, the Convivialist Manifesto was first published[2] in 2013.

It submitted — as a starting point for a new ideational hegemony –that what is manifestly most needed is an explicit and demonstrably shared consensus on central values or principles underlying the a new convivialist political philosophy (largo sensu). Today, the thousands or tens of thousands of associations and networks, and the hundreds of millions of people throughout the world who seek to cast off the grip of neoliberal capitalism, lack the “ideational glue” that would lift them out of a state of self-perceived impotence and revitalize a common spirit of agency against the odds of neo-liberalism and its core rentier and speculative, and techno and surveillance capitalisms. The first Convivialist Manifesto demonstrated that such an agreement on certain central principles outlining a post-neoliberal political philosophy is not only desirable but indeed possible. It was the product of sixty-four distinguished critical intellectuals[3], hailing from all the streams of the Left, who drafted and published it and who won the endorsement of intellectuals and others from the “centre” and the Right. 

Why a Second Manifesto of Convivialism? First, the first Convivialist Manifesto was not international enough even though it has been supported by intellectuals and activists in many countries. It has been translated into about ten languages and is the subject of discussion books in German, Brazilian, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. Nevertheless, convivialism only makes sense if it is accessible and reaches out to people in all countries so that they are also able to identify with its premises. It thus became necessary to considerably broaden the circle of authors and sources of inspiration. Second, while the first Convivialist Manifesto pointed at paths to be taken on many critical points, the text remained a little too vague, theoretically, on some issues, and insufficiently concrete on others. This second Convivialist Manifesto builds on the essence and structure of the first but clarifies fuzzy points and enriches it propositions considerably thanks to exchanges conducted over the past six years between the original authors and intellectuals and community activists from many countries sympathetic of convivialism. Faced with accelerating and unsettling climate change and the increasing erosion of humanist ideals and democratic principles, there is an urgent need to agree, on a global scale, on the values essential to the material and moral survival of humanity. And adhering to these agreed values depends on finding a global consensus on the paths to ensure the progress of the world civilizations and the art of living. All – with a convivial disposition.

One last word. Both first and second Convivialist Manifestos are the outcome of a collective discussion led primarily by intellectuals, specifically, intellectuals and academics, many of them also activists concerned about the common good and engaged in multiple collective actions. What they all share is their passion for reading and writing of which they have done plenty. Why do we emphasise this? Because intellectuals and academics have very often gotten bad press, especially and increasingly nowadays. At times, their reputation suffered for good reasons — for losing themselves in sterile speculation, oblivious to the concrete, or for snobbish elitism. This certainly is not the case of those who are gathered in the writing of these Manifestos. They don’t think they’re smarter than anyone else (no less, either..). Simply, by profession they have memory and are therefore well placed to sound the alarm when necessary, and to imagine a future that is not too likely to fall back into the ruts of the past. And, also, they are used to writing and working on ideas, those ideas that play such a decisive role in history when and if the greatest number of people grab them.

Let us add that, because they are all actively linked to citizens’ and civic movements, to the many initiatives that invent alternatives that bring meaning and well-being on a daily basis, they are not satisfied with the ritual denunciations of markets or capitalism that lead to nothing – however well-founded they may be – as long as they do not tell us what other type of society we can reasonably hope to build. What other type of society we must therefore start building as soon as possible.

Because, let us repeat this: Nothing is more urgent than developing an alternative thought, a Weltanschauung, a worldview that offers a compelling alternative to that which neoliberalism has been able to impose on the entire planet. It is indeed a political philosophy (in the broad sense of the term) that is needed, and it cannot mean simply reverting to socialism, communism, anarchism or classical liberalism. We must therefore sketch out a transformative step forward in the field of ideas. This step cannot consist in simply adding up analyses of this or that philosopher, economist or sociologist, however accurate and persuasive they may be. To offer an overriding alternative to neoliberalism, any analysis must also be captivating, widely believed and shared, if possible, on a global scale. This is the challenge of this Second Manifesto of Convivialism: To be and be seen as the outcome of a collective intellectual work. In this labour, which has been bringing together intellectuals, activists, writers and artists of international renown. In this work none has sought to emphasise their own ground and insist on their own minuscule difference (so typical of the intellectual field). On the contrary, all have agreed to prioritise those ideas that they share. Without overstretching the point, we could say that this Second Manifesto of Convivialism is the Manifesto of an “International in Formation”. An inclusive International determined to expand and open to all.

Because this is what this Second Convivialist Manifesto aims to achieve: To state as clearly as possible common-sensical and fair ideas, which from one end of the ideological spectrum to the other, can mobilize the world public opinion and effect radical change in the condition of humanity and the world.

It is up to our readers to take them and make them their own if, as we hope, they speak to them.[4]

Follow up with Chapter II – Convivialism

[2] Le Bord de l’eau, 2013. This second manifesto can be seen as a enhanced declaration of interdependence.

[3] Claude Alphandéry, Geneviève Ancel, Ana Maria Araujo (Uruguay), Claudine Attias-Donfut, Geneviève Azam, Akram Belkaïd (Algérie), Yann-Moulier-Boutang, Fabienne Brugère, Alain Caillé, Barbara Cassin, Philippe Chanial, Hervé Chaygneaud-Dupuy, Eve Chiappello, Denis Clerc, Ana M. Correa (Argentine), Thomas Coutrot, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, François Flahault, Francesco Fistetti (Italie), Anne-Marie Fixot, Jean-Baptiste de Foucauld, Christophe Fourel, François Fourquet, Philippe Frémeaux, Jean Gadrey, Vincent de Gaulejac, François Gauthier (Suisse), Sylvie Gendreau (Canada), Susan George (États-Unis), Christiane Girard (Brésil), François Gollain (Royaume-Uni), Roland Gori, Jean-Claude Guillebaud, Paulo Henrique Martins (Brésil), Dick Howard (États-Unis), Marc Humbert, Éva Illouz (Israël), Ahmet Insel (Turquie), Geneviève Jacques, Florence Jany-Catrice, Hervé Kempf, Elena Lasida, Serge Latouche, Jean-Louis Laville, Camille Laurens, Jacques Lecomte, Didier Livio, Gus Massiah, Dominique Méda, Margie Mendell (Canada), Pierre-Olivier Monteil, Jacqueline Morand, Edgar Morin, Chantal Mouffe (Royaume-Uni), Osamu Nishitani (Japon), Alfredo Pena-Vega, Bernard Perret, Elena Pulcini (Italie), Ilana Silber (Israël), Roger Sue, Elvia Taracena (Mexique), Frédéric Vandenberghe (Brésil), Patrick Viveret, Zhe Ji (Chine).

[4] If only to begin with, by consulting the convivialist sites: and or  and making known your support, objections or proposals.