Convivialist Manifesto – Declaration of Interdependence

Forty francophone intellectuals agree on a manifesto, which proposes nothing less than a new humanism. A circle of people around French sociologist Alain Caillé, amongst others philosopher Elena Pulcini (Alumni Senior Fellow at the centre), Eva Illouz, Chantal Mouffe, Hans Joas and Serge Latouche, agreed in a period of a year and a half on this manifesto, as a lowest common denominator of their claims and perspectives for the future. In cooperation with Claus Leggewie (co-director of the centre) and Frank Adloff (also Alumni Senior Fellow) this book has been published exclusively in an English version at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research.The group of social scientists, who call themselves convivialists (deduced from the Latin: convivere: living together and also spending time together) speak out in favor of a new art of cohabitation. They do so out of conviction but also based on the insight of urgent necessity. The convivialists share the concern about the many urgent present and future problems which endanger the fate of mankind. These are: climate change, poverty and inequality, post-democratic tendencies and corruption, the financial crisis as a symptom of unbridled and decoupled financial markets as well as terrorism, war and expulsion.

The criticism is mainly directed against the model and idea of man as “homo oeconomicus” and the telos of a utility-maximizing agent, which alike a self-fulfilling prophecy, economizes the Social by its totality. Sociality gets subjected to a strictly rational logic of profit maximization. In the opinion of the authors this process must be combated. Closely connected to this model is the paradigm of growth, which is inherent to our modern world and which was an element of both major contradicting ideologies of the 20th century: capitalism and communism. The implicit “modern-day productivism” tries to solve social problems by growth and technological development but in most cases it just reproduces the problems on a technologically advanced level, at the expense of mankind an the ecosystem. Convivialism, as a counter-model, represents a synthesis of productive knowledge about mankind’s cohabitation and its needs, as it is found in ideologies like liberalism, socialism, communism, anarchism, or also religions and quasi-religions. The convivial logic of the Social approaches the primacy of economy and its totality, without questioning the necessity and importance of economy per se. What is criticized is the economization of the Social, at the expense of other elements of human life, which include solicitousness, solidarity, a sense of duty, responsibility and an understanding of equality. The undermining of the social not only often forces individuals to subject to an economic logic in everyday life, but also effects an agony of the democratic systems on the macro scale, which manifests in current post-democratic tendencies. Those tendencies tend to reproduce inequality and injustice through corruption and forms of violence.

The convivialist’s alternative plan is based on the theoretical conception of the paradigm of gift, as it was formulated by French ethnologist and sociologist Marcel Mauss, and in its developed form by Alain Caillé. In this understanding the utilitarian idea of man gets contrasted by the model of the gift, which includes reciprocity and trust and at the same time breaks with the hegemonic image of the donor because it emphasizes mutually recognition and at the same time still allows rivalry to occur. The convivialists spot acts of solidarity in our everyday life, for example in families, friendships, or amongst colleagues. Due to complexity and anonymity it is much harder though to notice forms of convivial cohabitation on the macro scale, but phenomenon like share economy, fair trade, the wiki-movement or creative commons indicate that this logic also takes place on a larger scale of sociality. The claim is to strengthen existing tendencies of convivial existence. A “good life” commits to its own democratic constitution, recognizes humans in their individuality and their universal equality at the same time and accepts competing interests and conflicts as natural and potentially creative, as long as they take place in the light of mutual recognition and non-violence. Based on these principles and the premise of “pluriversalism”, a culture-specific “relativistic kind of universalism”, ‘right politics’ are possible. Its inherent logic of solidarity and cooperative coexistence, mutual recognition and self-organization enables convivialism to also be a starting point in order to fight post-democratic tendencies beyond the outdated political arenas.

Specific convivialistic claims include an unconditional basic income as well as limitation of maximum income embedded in the framework of a sustainable, convivialistic “New Deal”. The proposed “third way beyond the purported absolutes of state and market” defines sociality as an end in itself and inspires a quest of “real utopias”.

The English version of the manifesto is available as creative commons download on our publications section

French website of the convivialists

Convivialist Manifesto (English)