George Monbiot on how the science of altruism could drive a new story of politics
Really interesting and stimulating George Monbiot piece - taken from his new book, Out of The Wreckage - on the need to put a new story of "Restoration" at the heart of our modern politics (one that's more convincing that the Restoration stories of both Social Democracy and Neo-Liberalism). And how a range of different sciences can be the strong foundation of that story. Ones that stress the cooperative and altruistic capacities of humans, which we have to "restore" from their current repression.
Through invoking our capacity for togetherness and belonging, we can rediscover the central facts of our humanity: our altruism and mutual aid. By reviving community, built around the places in which we live, and by anchoring ourselves, our politics and parts of our economy in the life of this community, we can restore the best aspects of our nature.
Where there is atomisation, we will create a thriving civic life. Where there is alienation, we will forge a new sense of belonging: to neighbours, neighbourhood and society. Community projects will proliferate into a vibrant participatory culture. New social enterprises will strengthen our sense of attachment and ownership.
Where we find ourselves crushed between market and state, we will develop a new economics that treats both people and planet with respect. We will build it around a great, neglected economic sphere: the commons. Local resources will be owned and managed by communities, ensuring that wealth is widely shared. Using common riches to fund universal benefits will supplement state provision, granting everyone security and resilience.
Where we are ignored and exploited, we will revive democracy and retrieve politics from those who have captured it. New methods and rules for electionswill ensure that every vote counts and financial power can never vanquish political power. Representative democracy will be reinforced by participatory democracy that allows us to refine our political choices. Decision-making will be returned to the smallest political units that can discharge it.
The strong, embedded cultures we develop will be robust enough to accommodate social diversity of all kinds: a diversity of people, of origins, of life experiences, of ideas and ways of living. We will no longer need to fear people who differ from ourselves; we will have the strength and confidence to reject attempts to channel hatred towards them.
Through restoring community, renewing civic life and claiming our place in the world, we build a society in which our extraordinary nature – our altruism, empathy and deep connection – is released. A kinder world stimulates and normalises our kinder values. I propose a name for this story: the Politics of Belonging.
Our only comment would be that defining the human nature we must restore to politics as "altruistic" might be too narrow, maybe even starry-eyed. The psychosocial models that we are exploring - see human givens, or "radical animal" approaches - allow for human responses like creativity/imagination/play, or status, or privacy, as well.
We ARE the cooperative animal - but we also have appetites, desires, dreams, aspirations, which consumerist and neo-liberal society know how to access. One of the ambitions of The Alternative UK is to create spaces and "laboratories" where we can shape a politics sufficiently complex to answer those diverse human needs, in empowering and non-exploitative ways.
Looking forward to joining up with George to explore and develop this exciting combination of human nature thinking, localism and storytelling.