La lutte contre la pauvreté: sur la voie de l’anti-modernité?

La pauvreté est une réalité. Des centaines de millions de personnes dans le monde souffrent d’un manque de revenu, de la faim, de maladies parfaitement curables, de manque de logement décent, de systèmes d’éducation défaillants… Au début du XXIème siècle, nos richesses abondantes et nos capacités technologiques sophistiquées sont en mesure d’éradiquer la pauvreté d’un coup. Pourtant, nous ne le faisons pas. Pourquoi ? Continue…

The alternative facts of the basic income movement

A couple of days ago, I received the most recent newsletter of BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network). As always, this is very interesting literature, though one must read it with one major fact in mind: the network does not necessarily communicate about basic income … it talks about ‘basic income’ (for all, rich and poor) but almost all the items concern guaranteed minimum incomes (for those who need it). Continue…

Social Justice for the Sustainability of Life: on the need for a global social pact

(VI Congreso de la Red Española de Políticas sociales, Sevilla 16-17 February 2017)

In the current period of uncertainty and anxiety for the future, it gives confidence to look back at the not so far away past, in order to see what was possible then and what has been real only fifty years ago: national social pacts within developing welfare states in the North and global agreements on the need for social progress in the South. It is also good to remember that it is not the recent crisis of 2008 that has put an end to these pacts and agreements. Indeed, the real turn came with the crisis of the 1970s and the ‘structural adjustment’ programmes in the South from the 1980s onward. More recently and everywhere, social protection acquired a new meaning, aimed at ‘human capital’, protecting the most vulnerable while promoting markets and growth. What is new today, is that we are also faced with fundamental changes in modes of production and consequently changes on the labour markets. While several innovative proposals for social protection are being made, the need for a new and global social pact in order to promote the sustainability of life, for humans and for nature, is particularly urgent.


Semantic confusion, ignorance, post-truth or just fear to debate?

On the problems of debating with advocates of basic income

Discussing the question of basic income (BI) and social protection (SP) is a very delicate exercise. In the many debates I was involved in these past years, it was very rare to see  any convergence of ideas. Even if it should be clear for everyone who knows the social problems, that there are many points in both positions – in favour of BI or in favour of SP – that are perfectly compatible. It also happened many times that debates I myself tried to organise, could not take place because the people invited – advocates of BI – resigned at the last moment.

In this article, I will only speak about my own experience and I will try to look for explanations for the non-debates. There surely is a lot of semantic confusion, there clearly is a lot of ignorance about social protection and its mechanisms, there may also be some ‘post-truth’ elements, by which I mean that people state something they should know can never be true, and yes, I think that some people do not want to put their own beliefs into question. They are afraid of a confrontation with other beliefs. Continue…

Public Services, Social Innovation and Commons : AlterSummit on Social Rights

Introduction to the workshop on Commons and Public Services at the AlterSummit on Social Rights (26-27 November 2016, Brussels)


Our world to-day is faced with two major challenges: ecological destruction and the social question. Both problems are closely linked to democracy, that is the way citizens can govern and shape their world and can give direction to the policies that are needed to preserve our planet and sustain the livelihoods of people.

But as we know, democracy is threatened and we run the risk that both our natural environment and the necessary social protection people need are irremediably destroyed. Urgent action is needed.

Let me say some words on the social question. We know that the post-war social pacts are on the brink of being abandoned, faced as they are with fundamental changes in our economies and our societies, but also with ideological offensive policies that slowly but surely destroy our collective solidarity mechanisms. Public services are being privatised, marketised or commodified, whatever word we may use: in almost all cases it means that people lose their universal right to these services and have to buy on the market what they badly need. Continue…

The European Commons Assembly: a brief report

Hundreds of people gathered last week in Brussels (15-17 november) for a very first ‘assembly of the commons’. No doubt about it: this was a success and the meeting on the 16th in the European Parliament was very interesting.

I attended only two meetings: the first one on the evening of the 15th was a discussion with representatives of DiEM25, the European movement initiated by Yannis Varoufakis. The second one was the formal gathering in  the European Parliament for a discussion with the existing ‘intergroup’ of the commons (with members of different political groups).

Though very different in nature I was mostly surprised by the very high quality of all discussions. Continue…

(Un?) socializing the European Union: a history of some ups and many downs

‘Social Europe’ has followed a very bumpy road since the inception of the European Community. This is not only a consequence of the lack of competences at the European level, or the lack of ‘political will’ at the level of Heads of State and Governments, but also and mainly of the ideological tendencies that have permeated all policies for the past six decades.

Since the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, most social movements in Europe have been demanding a ‘social and democratic’ Europe. However, never has it been clarified what this could or should mean. Even today, there are no clear demands on what precisely the European Union should do or not do. This article is meant to shed some light on the past, the present and the possible future of ‘social Europe’.[1] Continue…

Questions for the commons movement (including myself)

I guess I am not alone in finding the commons literature highly confusing. And I guess it is normal that in a new field of research and practice many debates concern definitions and an attempt to streamline the great diversity of practices. The concepts of common, commons, common goods and the common good are still awaiting a clear demarcation, but this is only one of the many problems I see, and it is not the most difficult one.