Scenario C

the myth of interconnections

where a fluid society is kept afloat by recurring to soft policy instruments

The potential for change in society is unlocked by a profound renewal of the welfare state, along a redistributive model. Governments are open to societal transformation, and are inspired by the bottom-up approach at all levels. Governments do not perceive a need to correct inequalities or societal injustice through centralised public intervention, exemplified in the welfare state, but explore alternative approaches.

An alternative model to the classical welfare state is developed, leveraging on smaller scale redistribution processes and favouring a collaborative approach. Policies are designed to favour the empowerment of groups of people (e.g. as in cooperatives). There is an emergence of ‘societal innovation’. The steering part of governance is realised through ‘awareness campaigns’ rather than through authoritarian measures. The goal of equity is pursued at a collective level, hybridised with an active progressive state infrastructure. 

A new economic paradigm shows the results of a profound economic transformation. It is widely accepted that the dominant liberal market ideologies of the 20th Century – grounded in growth, materialism, ownership, etc. – are compatible with neither the needs and demands of society nor sustainability objectives.

There is a strong emphasis on the local and regional scales, in terms of economic exchange, and shared social benefits. Equality is a deliberate goal and becomes politically feasible because Europe has shifted towards a fundamentally different economic model, geared towards sufficiency and redistribution and grounded in a decommodification of social interactions and a powerful emphasis on sharing and collaboration. This shift away from neoclassical economic orthodoxy has entailed a marked reduction in global and regional economic integration, however information flows and coordinated environmental governance help ensure the resilience of local communities and collective management. A new paradigm of “commoning” pervades the economy, and the “commons” are seen as a valuable alternative to state or market model of governance in many circumstances. The commoning answer reconfigures our roles so that we are not simply “producers” and “consumers” with narrow economic, material interests, but “commoners” engaged in a physical and meaningful exchange with multiple material, social and sense-making needs. Accordingly, the development of a new business paradigm enforces the integration of social issues into business decisions. Social ethics replace traditional business ethics by offering new perspectives and methodologies to take citizens’ aspirations into consideration. As an alternative paradigm, it provides a different framework for businesses by focusing on cooperative and associative models, and providing actionable clarity. Under a pragmatic approach to ethics, the choice for equality becomes self-evident for business performance. 

Individuals need to become the most important societal dimension, with self-actualization a significant driver. This development is driven by politics that leave much space for the personal fulfilment of needs. Society is flexible and tolerating enough to leave room for eccentrics. The individual strives towards a “we”-society, where particularities are respected and combined in a holistic picture. People care about and engage in shaping their own peer group and not harming and respecting people from other groups. This leads to a feeling of safety and satisfying basic needs. In the meantime, many different ways of moving around and structuring the days develop. Goods, highly flexible workplaces, remote studying possibilities, and cultural programs are accessible at any time from any place. A highly flexible, individualized society evolves that is very open for technical and non-technical progress and innovation. Economic success opens more options to express individuality, but it is well accepted that everybody creates their own standards and has different needs to reach them. The socioeconomic context sets the foundations of a mostly wealthy, aware and educated society who supports the whole process against eventual difficulties, such as raising financial costs. 

Society stopped being only passively indignant towards self-serving governments and politicians and took collective action by approving a ground-breaking law via citizen’s initiative, where it is indicated that a “common good” must be the goal in the management of all human activities, whether political, social or economic. The notion of “common good” gives supreme consideration to sustainability, urban liveability and quality of life. Following the adoption of this ground-breaking law, the legislative branch is reshaped, and, as a first action, the notion of “common good” is codified into law, even though in broad terms. Laws on a number of subjects are adopted via citizens’ initiative and all new laws touching upon the notion of “common good”, even indirectly, have to follow a specific approval process and possibly needing approval by popular referendum. Citizens, businesses and stakeholders can participate to legislative discussions, they can share their vision and try to “sell” their own ideas and actions in pursuit of the “common good” to the legislator. In this scenario both main actors, i.e. the legislator and society, are active, aware and vocal and have power to achieve their goals. On the other hand, the notion of “common good”, even though codified, can be interpreted differently by the different actors, let alone the way to achieve it, which ultimately leads to conflict, usually on very fundamental, crucial issues. The courts see heated discussions concerning the notion of “common good” and any topics surrounding it, creating different schools of thoughts in conflict with one another. 

Technology development is envisioned to rely more on social co-creation of value to be delivered to citizens based on the ethical and moral values to gain higher acceptance among consumers. Involving citizens in innovation and development are enshrined in the public policies and legislations. This supports understanding the use of technologies, their acceptance and barriers (infrastructural and operational), revision of policy and legislative documentation and stimulating open innovation, and involving users early in the decision-making process thanks to the co-design and participatory approach. As such, equity is guaranteed for the society’s solidarity and collective accountability. 

The way we understand nature is not human-centred anymore. Environmental criteria, such as the carrying capacity of a given habitat, become the limit of transformation; not the total land to be urbanised according to real estate interests, nor the intensity of the activities located and the effectiveness of the environmental management in place, such as waste management, but the overall capacity of a given ecosystem to perform their activities. Wild nature not only provides environmental services, but it has an intrinsic value in itself that goes far beyond the interests of current generations. Looking at the environment from a holistic perspective has a cultural meaning in itself. Climate change and other pressing environmental threats are solved by a radical cultural change, pushed by new emerging values. 

Mobility is at the core of the political model in the sense of favouring fluidity in society, favouring change, new connections, and new organisations. Mobility is a necessary condition for the spontaneous emergence of new societal organisations. Mobility is conceived in terms of sharing solutions rather than ownership, which is heavily taxed. Planners and decision-makers no longer consider direct economic efficiency as the main factor when devising new projects, collaborative processes put the accent on new indirect parameters such as impact on societal well-being and derivatives on fair distribution of resources. Reliable, efficient and accessible public transport solutions guarantee free service to most citizens. Informal community transport may emerge as well. In a relational world, the world itself is a city, a unique community, a Global Village. People tend to travel physically in the short distances and virtually in the long ones. There is radical change on values that result from social and environmental awareness and education. We move closer and we use active modes of mobility such as walking, or cycling.