Ecology, Work, Employment

Ecological Reconversion, Work, and Social Policy

Our society is faced with a radically new possibility: it could become uninhabitable, unless we do what is necessary to avoid this fate. There is, however, increasing consciousness that Western society’s growth rate is unsustainable, that our society must change its course, and its members their behavior. More generally, there is growing recognition that our mode of production and consumption must—within the relatively short time span of twenty years—undergo a profound reevaluation.

How are such changes to be achieved? Three aspects of this process must be analyzed:

  • The role to be played by new indicators of wealth and progress (is change related to the adoption of new goals, criteria, and indicators?);
  • The redefinition of our goals, including the ways in which this redefinition will play out temporally, geographically, and operationally and its translation into a new outlook (consisting not of continuing existing trends or imagining scenarios but of defining specific changes based on objective data).
  • The relationship between expertise and democratic deliberation in the transformation process (what are the imagined or documented advantages of change guided by public deliberation as opposed to change decreed by experts and implemented in an authoritarian manner?).

The most urgent question is the relationship between growth and ecological reconversion. Does the latter require the end of the former? Does the transition to radically different growth rate entail a stationary condition? If so, what policies might absorbing the resulting shock in the realms of employment, work, and social policy?

Some states, localities, and groups have already adopted strategies for change. What were the institutional means they used? What kinds of public debate occurred? Did they or didn’t they redefine the meaning of prosperity? What role was played by cause-based organizations (environmental NGOs, etc.), political parties, unions, civil society? Did they trigger a democratic renewal? What new goals and what measures did they adopt? Were there any pioneers? Were there some who resisted the existing development model?

A major impediment to reflection and awareness-raising arises from the compartmentalization of responsibilities and disciplines. The seminar aspires to transcend these obstacles by encouraging scholars from different countries in various disciplines (climatologists, biologists, agronomists, philosophers, legal scholars, economists, sociologists, etc.), as well as various kinds practitioners of (civil servants, union leaders, NGO members, activists, members of civil society associations, etc.) to disagree, debate, and, where possible, reach similar analyses.

Dominique Méda’s chair was created through a partnership between the Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme and the University of Paris-Dauphine.