In this scenario, power and politics are based on the values of authority and strength, in a context where societal change experiences a lot of inertia and major, well-established actors dominate the economy.
Its plausibility is confirmed by current developments in several EU states (e.g. Hungary, Poland). Authoritarian and strength-oriented politics reflect the dominant societal and economic values. Policymakers are seeking efficiency from a top-down approach. European democracy is tempted by the ‘illiberal democracy’ model in which once elections have occurred, citizens are mostly kept away from all political decisions; command and control are at the core of the model. ‘Disintermediation’ processes occurs, hence the regime does not favour the emergence of societal organisation, of empowerment of social groups and will tend to reduce the importance of established collective systems. Policies are targeted towards economic wealth, and count on the ‘trickle-down economics’ principle to provide benefits to the lower levels of society. It is also envisioned that hard public policies operate through changes in relative prices induced by taxes and subsidies/incentives, restricted choices for citizens’ behavioral change. Overall, it is not an agile sysyem, as it reacts too slowly to disruptions.
The neoliberal agenda is abandoned in favour of protectionism and nationalism. The dominant narrative has shifted back towards economic statism and authoritarian governance, backed by both left and right of the political spectrum. Governments play a critical role in ensuring economic development and stability. Wealth and accumulation paradigms are not fundamentally questioned, often looking to technological advances to enhance efficiency. State bureaucracies steer economic planning, accelerating the diffusion of new technologies. Multinational corporations and powerful sectors (finance, resource extraction, etc.) lobby a considerable influence on political processes in order to achieve favourable regulations for their business activities. Big companies pay minimal taxes on their substantial profits. Quite often, governments outsource many services to the private sector. However, corporations in key strategic sectors, such as environmental protection, remain in hands of governments. National states are unable to coordinate their efforts on European economy, instead competing to attract investments and jobs. Regions are very different and the economic picture is heterogeneous. There is a decrease in international trade. Winners in this scenario are the ruling elite, but also big companies, which show interest in managing citizens’ data and dominate single markets where SMEs become their affiliates. There is little interest in investing in infrastructure because people mostly care about personal benefits rather than the social good.
Society is led by a conservative and rather past-values-oriented development. An ageing population strives towards traditional values and tries to preserve what they have achieved in the past. The individual is sceptical towards novelty and fundamental changes. Authorities set the frame. What felt good in the past shouldn’t be challenged, and respect what past generations have reached. Therefore, rather security instead of individual freedom dominate the public debates. Sustainability and automation are part of the perception of security. Following the norms is conveyed byt the education system as the primary goal for the younger generation, which might be inherently a little more progressive and open for changes, but also gains respect towards reaching determined societal goals. That means as well gaining respect and prestige towards showing what the individual has reached in life economically (career), personally (satisfaction, knowing where one belongs to), and socially (family – children/marriage). Individual differences level out, and a norm-oriented, rigid society evolves. Excessive lifestyles are desirable, people subordinate to the conditions, class and options everyone has (universalism). As soon as young people reach their educational goals, they move to rural areas. People are mostly happy with what they have achieved after reaching the normative goal – sufficiency.
All actors seek more and more recourse to the courts in order to settle any kind of dispute, in lieu of mediation or, simply, dialogue and compromise. Individual accountability is replaced by legal action. This results in the courts partially replacing the function of the legislator as they are called to rule on many aspects of people’s lives as well as the economy. In parallel, the authoritative-style governments which are in charge opt to follow an approach which tends to regulate (and perhaps sometimes overregulate) in a sector-specific manner, giving more power to lobbies and, therefore, serving more specific interests rather than those of society as a whole, creating a disconnection between the citizens, their governments and private enterprises. Laws are adopted by subject-specific sub-committees and parliamentary discussion erodes. This situation further decreases solidarity between citizens on a smaller scale and international, global cooperation on a larger scale. On the other hand, an authoritative political system might also lead to arbitrary legislation or application of laws instead of an “Empire of Law”.
This landscape favours the flourishing of techno-scientific progress, albeit only in those sectors or for those companies that are wealthy and powerful enough to be represented. Progress might not be really beneficial to society as a whole. Set policies give priority to values and beliefs regarding efficiency through improved technologies rather than societal progress. Thanks to technological progress, the supply of goods, an extensive social network and cultural activities can be realized online. The core of well-established lifestyle aspects can be fulfilled through technological innovation without harming the environment or other people so that lifestyles do not have to be adjusted according to changing contexts. That means that the paths of individualization are transferred towards new technologies. Artificial Intelligence systems are applied to control and optimise personal and business decisions, leading to a process of slow but continuous improvement environmental quality and safety compatible with economic growth. Due to limits of natural resources including land which are finite while human demands on them are not, the future techno-scientific advancement prioritizes resource efficiency, proximity, and public health in regard with land use. New technologies such as genetic modification and nanotechnology are pushed by public investments, but hundreds of millions of people may still go hungry owing to a combination of climate change, water shortages and increasing food consumption.
The environment is regarded as a strategic asset for the country, and is protected to provide indispensable ecological services to population, and natural resources such as oil, fresh water, food production, and fishery. A clear distinction is made between natural protected areas and urbanised zones, that are usually very dense, and therefore cost-effective in terms of environmental management. Besides, the economy is gradually being decarbonised but still fossil fuels are being used to a large extent in the transport as well as in the industry in general. Pollution is reduced by carbon retention screens and other filters. Clean and green energies are available, and technology fix is a key aspect. Limits of emissions are established and carefully monitored in order that progressive reductions do not harm economic growth. Climate Change, as well as other environmental threats, are solved by strict regulations, norms that are applied together with the implementation of surveillance technologies able to monitor individual behaviour online. By customising general norms to the specific circumstances of each person and each group, cooperation for collective action is forced. There is collective and individual accountability of human behaviour, in particular when having significant impacts in scarce natural resources. But environmental sustainability becomes more a matter of fulfilling compliance requirements rather than the achievement of a greater, common good.
In this scenario, the primary value of mobility is that it contributes to generate economic wealth. Citizens’ views on urban externalities of mobility (e.g. air pollution or road insecurity) are considered less important than big companies’ views on the need for an efficient transport system. Mobility systems are not cheap, but rather exclusive and expensive. Active mobility emerges as modes of default for those less affluent while walking is transversal. Since land-use plans are strict and mandatory and minimise land taking, dense neighbourhoods cluster around key public transport terminals, according to the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) approach. At the same time, gated communities are built for more affluent people, and there is spatial segregation. Networks of transport and communications are increasingly specialised, even comprising aerial solutions in local contexts. Nonetheless, public transport coexists with private solutions, differentiated between local and long-distance transport, including limitations or quotas in long-distance (pay-to-move). Advanced technological solutions are pervasive in the mobility domain. Biotechnologies are exploited with a focus on the deployment of renewable energies that yield more efficient vehicles and cleaner fuels, to mobilize societies to become more sustainable.
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