Conviviality for a new normality

by Héctor López Terán

The SARS Cov-2 virus pandemic emerges from the multidimensional crisis resulting from our daily destructive behavior with nature, not as a cause of the setbacks in our current society. Control measures to curb the spread of the virus were proposed to solve a life-threatening problem and a “new normal” without questioning the underlying problem.

In the day to day of the crisis, the confinement forces us to rethink the need for a new sociality from the perspective of new normality. I believe that Ivan Illich’s reflections on the impact of industrial society on human beings and nature can help to imagine the possibilities of a different social horizon. They help to visualize the   need to organize life from coexistence and to break with the enslaved domination process of being human prescribed by the capitalist market.

The principles of industrial society that have cracked humanity do not respond to the current critical moment. Our starting point requires a collective exercise of transformation towards a different social perspective with new human relationships. Our actions -and the use of our tools – must prioritize life and the collective good.

This seems like a utopian endeavour. Nevertheless, there are existent social practices in different parts of the world and various emerging proposals that show the possibility of living according to vital and spiritual needs. They emphasize a different sociability, with collective management and in coexistence with nature. These are sometimes variegated and subtle, but functional for the satisfaction of collective needs and the preservation of its environment. Essentially, these are practices for transformation.

The moment of crisis requires dusting off the will to organize ourselves differently and alternatively. The human capacity to respond at critical moments exists at the heart of the history of societies in alternative practices of survival and subsistence. Human action establishes the possibility of building the base plank to stage the diversity of human works of living, breaking the underlying problem of domination and human submission to the uniqueness of the modern civilizing way of life.

In the search for alternatives, thinking with Illich allows us to imagine the possibility of diverse social creations from a convivial nature. Solved life -as we have been facing it- requires a break with the domination of the tool over the human, and the human over nature, through the creative autonomy of different ways of life. The pandemic reality and the post-pandemic horizon allow us to rescue the creative artist of satisfactory actions oriented to life, reluctant to the need of the capitalist market, and complacent to a balanced society sustained by use-values.

Héctor López Terán is a Mexican economist and Master in Latin American Studies and Sociology. He researches alternative modernities, post-capitalist societies, ecological economics, and extractivism.