Harnessing democracy and engagement for sustainable prosperity

As environmental crises become ever more severe, voices are reappearing that call for authoritarian solutions: Democracy, so the argument goes, has proven to be too slow to respond to urgent threats, and so a stronger, authoritarian hand is needed to push through the necessary socio-political changes.

In a recent working paper, published by the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity,  Marit Hammond and FDSD chair Graham Smith respond to this charge by revisiting the role of democracy within a transition to sustainable prosperity. It is not democracy as such that is the problem,  the paper argues, but rather democracy in its current form is itself constrained by structural and discursive forces including the almost hegemonic status of capitalist politico-economic discourses and tendencies towards short-termism in political decision-making.

Instead of advocating further constraints on democracy, the essay explores new institutional and societal spaces that can revitalise democracy, ameliorating existing constraints and infusing sustainability politics with new ways of thinking. In particular, the authors highlight the potential promise of participatory and deliberative innovations, prefigurative politics, reform of established structures and institutions, and deliberative systems and cultural change.

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Cover image: Mural by Jason Woodside, Photo derivative of Elvert Barnes / Flickr (licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0 )

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