Thoughts of Bauman and sustainable economy

Author: Fernando Varela de Ugarte


Zygmunt Bauman, one of the most clairvoyant intellectuals of the contemporary society, passed away last monday. Especially renowned for his “liquid modernity”, Bauman portrayed brilliantly the so called consumerist society: liquid, without form, where artificiality, volatility and relativism prevail, where everything changes quickly and nothing remains, creating a strong uncertainty and anxiety.

In his analysis, Bauman divides the human beings in two categories: gardeners (looking for harmony, beauty and thinking that an order in the world is impossible without a continuous effort to take care of it) and the hunters (who move themselves in the area of fierce concurrence, carefree of the collateral consequences of their decisions, maximizing their own interest above any consideration).

According to Bauman, we are witnessing a historic moment of the society where hunters prevail. He considers that, some in a greater way than others, we all became hunters in some way. And furthermore, we are involved in a culture that promotes this attitude.

But Bauman has a positive message since he still believes in mankind: “while they are humans on the planet, there will be hope”. He mostly believes in the change from the bottom, from the local. And his observation of the distancing of humanity from the political class makes him believe stronger in local initiatives.

There is indeed a demand for a new economy, and several initiatives of change have appeared that need to be supported such as circular economy, Common Good economy, social economy and others. Even the European Union has recognized them as highly interesting contributions, and is sponsoring actions for their promotion.

This movement is unstoppable. The acceleration of changes in technology and their impact on economy find their counterpart in the action of the social movements they advocate to orient, in a larger extent, the effects in order to benefit people.

But if we want the changes to be deeper, the participation of the society as a whole is required. The public sector plays a very important role to facilitate changes, through the creation or promotion of more appropriate normative. There is a wide range of possibilities based on bonus and sanctions that are not being used.

The public sector plays a very important role to facilitate changes through the creation or promotion of more appropriate normative.

This is the key. It is not reasonable that companies making an effort to bring more social and environmental value to the society are not favoured. Or, to the contrary, that more aggressive or predators companies are the ones which get the best results because they don’t internalize social or environmental costs. And there are costs that, in the end, we all have to pay.

The market has to prioritize companies contributing in a greater way to common good. For this, we need to measure the value, not only economic but also socio-environmental, of companies. At the beginning, giving priority to those doing it voluntarily and then establishing clear, homogeneous and auditable criteria. And we should provide information systems together with the products in order to facilitate the consumer’s purchasing power.

But the public sector can go beyond. Investments are needed as well as a smart taxation to promote a sustainable and more inclusive economy. We can encourage social economy, socially responsible investments, introduce social and environmental criteria into public contracting and into commercial agreements, promote the socio-environmental innovation, etc.
Sustainable economy represents an area of opportunities for the political class and for public sector, able to contribute to reduce the distance with citizenship, being more sensitive to their requests.

“Each person mentioning there is no alternative is suspicious of not wanting to change things” says Bauman. Now it’s our turn to decide if we prefer the gardeners’ style or if we will keep being hunters.

Extract of the article “The era of gardeners” published by the Huffington Post


Leave a Reply