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The Good Living policy in Ecuador

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
2nd October 2013


From an interview with René Ramírez, Ecuador’s National Secretary of Planning and Development, by the New Left Project:

“The concept of ‘Good Living’ is one of the central pillars of President Correa’s ‘Citizens’ Revolution’. What is meant by the concept?

The first thing to say is that the concept of ‘Good Living’ or Sumak Kawsay (in the Quechua language) arises out of the political struggles of the people. This is important to emphasise because generally proposals come from intellectuals, academics, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean for example, but this concept comes from people’s traditions and is now enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador. Clearly it represents a fusion between a Western outlook, from an Aristotelian perspective, which merges with an indigenous perspective, the Sumak Kawsay (‘Good Living’). Ecuador is not Bolivia. Ecuador does not have such a large indigenous population, it contains a larger mestizo population, but it coexists within a plurinational state, which contains about 14 indigenous communities. We believe that the world does not need development alternatives but alternatives to development. It is necessary to create a completely different world.

Perhaps one of the greatest failings of the ‘existing’ Socialist countries was that they never put into question the issue of progress, they never questioned the concept of growth. We believe that it is necessary to do this. It goes beyond concepts such as welfare and wellbeing. When you translate this to Spanish, wellbeing is only part of life .

The concept of ‘well living’ is broader than that. We are looking for methods that allow us to better measure ‘“good living’” beyond traditional indicators such as GDP per capita, income or consumption. We have developed an indicator in Ecuador called ‘life expectancy of a healthy and well lived life’ which has to do with an attribute that Economics has forgotten about. Economics deals with public, private and common goods but is has forgotten about what Aristotle calls “relational attributes”, which relates to the questions of how we create a society and how human beings relate to nature. We can take this into account by measuring, not through monetary means, but by measuring time. In order to have a good life the first thing is to be. We are also developing another indicator that has to do with what we might call a more “green” perspective, which is Nature’s life expectancy. One of the best indicators used by ecological economics to measure environmental degradation is deforestation. But it is not the same to deforest an environmental space that is mega diverse than to cut a planted forest. That is why we are calculating the lifetime of a given environmental space, or in other words nature life expectancy implicit in economic development. We are advancing in a virtuous relation associated with the concept of ‘good living’ that has to do with peace and with the survival of indigenous cultures, about participation in public affairs and collective action, and ultimately the relationship between humans and nature. So, it is a change of philosophy that implies a re-think of our public policies.”

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