“Does humanity still have a chance?” I asked here on January 31, 2023 and at the end of the article I referred to the book “Pluriversum – A Lexicon of the Good Life for All”. It will now be published in German by AG SPAK Verlag at the end of September.
With their book, the editors Ashish Kothari (Pune), Ariel Salleh (Sydney), Arturo Escobar (North Carolina), Federico Demaria (Barcelona) and Alberto Acosta (Quito) would like to invite readers “to engage in a profound process of intellectual, emotional, ethical and spiritual decolonization.” The renowned sustainability researcher Wolfgang Sachs writes in the introduction that “survival instead of progress” is now the order of the day, and: “Not least the overheating of the earth and the wear and tear of biological diversity have attacked the belief that developed nations are the pinnacle of social evolution.
Alternatives to “progress” and “development”
The editors would like to counter the prevailing developmentalism – this ideologically disguised insistence on “development” as technology and finance-driven faster, higher and further – with diverse visions and practices of a good life for everyone. They complement their Marxist analysis “with perspectives such as feminism and ecology as well as ideas from the Global South, including the ideals of Gandhi;” a pluriverse of a “world in which many worlds have space” – entirely in the spirit of Zapatista worldviews. The Zapatistas are indigenous activists from Chiapas in southern Mexico, who have been building self-organized social structures since the 1980s. With their motto “Questioning forward” they express their critique of power and their feminist attitude towards the world. In the summer of 2021 they were on a “journey for life” in Europe to bring together global movements “from the left and below”. Several articles in the Pluriversum book refer to them.
The Zapatistas’ concern: “It’s about networking and connecting our struggles” and: “We won’t look for the differences, but rather for what unites us.” (Mobilization video for the trip). In German-speaking countries it is not easy to bring together the various struggles and projects for a different world so that we can join forces to counteract the existing bad situation. Far too often, pseudo-alternatives become widespread; green and social washing as well as diversity become components of profitable business models. They rely on technical ‘solutions’ and an increasingly science- and technology-oriented, and sometimes downright anti-nature mood seems to be spreading across society. Other, alternative approaches are marginalized or even defamed. Social business support programs contain what may once have started out as being rebellious.
But there is also hope, for example stubborn climate justice activists who occupy biotopes threatened by destruction in order to protect them; sea rescue projects that denounce the systematic murder at Europe’s external borders and provide solidarity support to people on the run; a wide variety of collective living, working and cultural projects that are already trying to create germinal forms of the future today. All of this is diverse – pluriversal! –, never perfect, but real, acting locally and networked globally.
Strong voices from all over the world
The Pluriversum book features over 100 powerful voices from around the world celebrating diversity while rallying around unifying core ideas. They distance themselves from pleasant-sounding pseudo-solutions. First of all, it is about global experiences with this development and its crises. This is followed by a critical look at reformist solutions for the universalization of the earth. The largest part is taken up by initiatives of transformation – a pluriverse of economic, socio-political, cultural and ecological concepts, worldviews and practices from all over the world unfold before the readers. This diversity is a value in itself.
The book generated enthusiasm worldwide after it was published in English in India in 2019 under the title Pluriverse – A Post-Development Dictionary. Some examples:
“This lexicon of the good life for all challenges the economic illusion of the free market. (Mogobe Ramose, South Africa).
“In these critical times, this important book offers us an incredible range of alternatives and helps us rethink the value of our societies and the meaning of being human.” (Jingzhong Ye, China).
“This book is a breath of fresh air. It opens many conceptual doors to a pluriverse of worldviews and practices from around the world and overcomes the illusion of conventional development thinking as a path to an ecologically sustainable planet.” (Lourdes Benería, Spain).
“When I opened this book, my heart skipped a beat. Finally there is a way to understand the alternative futures emerging around the world. … Pluriversum embodies in the best possible way the principles and diversity it advocates. An essential book for anyone seeking the best of all worlds. (Juliet Schor, USA).
“This is a book of overwhelming breadth and of provocative and compelling scholarship.” (Sylvia Marcos, Mexico).
Grupo Sal multimedia program
Grupo Sal plays Latin American music, which provides a framework for a “series of live conversations with intellectuals, researchers, activists and politicians from all continents who are involved in important social and environmental debates.” The six musicians understand Pluriversum as “the knowledge, recognition and dissemination of an unrecognized or suppressed variety of emancipatory perspectives.”
Alberto Acosta moderates the events together with the journalist Sandra Weiss. The former energy and mining minister of Ecuador is one of the initiators of the referendum against further deforestation in the Yasuní National Park, which was won on August 20, 2023 with 60 percent of the votes cast. He reported on this historic event in the taz (German newspaper) on August 21, 2023 in conversation with Sandra Weiss.
Both will also present the Pluriversum book on the autumn tour in September and October 2023. There are also video projections by the artist Johannes Keitel, which visually condense the topics addressed.
A book for everyone
The Pluriverse has now been translated into many languages. The translation of the German edition from English was carried out free of charge by a group of committed people. The authors also wrote their texts free of charge.
There are many terms in the book that may not be immediately understandable to all readers. Some of the translators have explained them in their own notes and indicated this accordingly. Such terms, which appear frequently, are marked with an arrow and can be found in a glossary that is not available in the English edition and which the publisher [of the German edition] has put together.
So that as many people as possible can read the Pluriversum book, it is available online for free. But because reading on paper is much nicer than on the screen, [the printed book] should also be inexpensive, despite the large number of pages. Instead of complex applications for funding, donations were collected to help finance the production costs so that in the end a price of just 15 euros was possible.
What is necessary now
In view of the well-founded fear of the future, Wolfgang Sachs outlines three narratives, those of “fortresses, globalism and solidarity.” Fortress thinking is characterized by neo-nationalism with authoritarian leaders and xenophobia. Globalism, on the other hand, calls for world trade that is as deregulated and free as possible with green growth. In the narrative of solidarity, fear of the future demands “resistance against those in power who act as guarantors of the dog-eat-dog society and capitalist profit-making. Instead, human rights and ecological principles are very important here; market forces are not an end in themselves, but a means to these goals.”
But how can this narrative of solidarity be strengthened? Alberto Acosta writes in the foreword to the German edition: “There is undoubtedly still a long way to go, but more and more steps are being taken to restore humans to a position where they are part of nature, even as nature itself, and no longer as its owners and controllers. Efforts to reconnect with nature are emerging from many corners of the planet.”
A variety of such efforts – not exhaustive, but still an impressively diverse collection – is presented in this book. According to Acosta, it “wants to be an expression of a process of permanent resistance and emancipation, the decolonization of thinking and the re-encounter with the cultural roots of the peoples of the earth and also the conditions of our own humanity as nature (condición humana de Naturaleza). From there, it is possible to imagine and shape, in keeping with the indigenous Pachamama (Mother Earth), a civilizational transition focused on human survival on the planet and the good life for all.”
In this sense, the book is dedicated to all those “who fight for the pluriverse by resisting injustice and looking for ways to live in harmony with nature.” Despite the sometimes rather academic language, this “Lexicon of the Good Life” speaks volumes for everyone” [and] includes far more senses than “just” the intellect. The diversity of experiences and thoughts can broaden one’s view of the world and inspire one’s own rebellious actions.
May what you have read and the knowledge of the existence of this book be passed on and spread. There is not one truth, but rather a multitude of perspectives and paths that search for a good life for everyone. With this in mind, let us come together to build the Pluriverse together.
Ashish Kothari, Ariel Salleh, Arturo Escobar, Federico Demaria, Alberto Acosta (eds.): Pluriversum – A lexicon of the good life for everyone, end of September 2023, at AG SPAK Bücher, Neu-Ulm, ISBN 978-3-945959-67 -1, 326 pages, 15.00 euros, and free online: http://www.agspak.de/pluriversum
Grupo Sal: www.grupo-sal.de
Notes on transparency: I initiated the translation of the Pluriversum book and contributed to the translation myself (free of charge, like everyone else). In this article I have taken quotes from my afterword to the German edition without making this separately clear.
The article by Elisabeth Voß appeared in the Freitag Community.
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