Interview For a convivialist Europe

Alain Caillé: ‘We lack a political philosophy which addresses the challenges posed by climate change and the environment’

Threatened on several fronts, Europe needs common institutions that can assert a political power worthy of its economic weight, argues sociologist Alain Caillé, one of the authors of the Second Convivialist Manifesto.

Published on 14 September 2020 at 22:27

Alain Caillé is one of the originators of the Second Convivialist Manifesto, published by Actes Sud in France just before lockdown. The manifesto emerges from the collective labour of around 300 intellectuals from 33 countries – the list includes Claude Alphandéry, Edgar Morin, Hartmut Rosa, Elena Pulcini, Ahmet Insel, Chantal Mouffe, and Noam Chomsky – as a response to the urgent situation produced by decades of “global neoliberalism”.

Catherine André for Voxeurop: Could you tell us the major principles upheld by convivialism, as a response to neoliberal ideology?

Alain Caillé: The first important point to underline is that the roughly 300 intellectuals and activists all have very different, and often opposed, political-ideological backgrounds. They reached agreement on five principles and one categorical imperative. The first manifesto already declared the principles of common humanity (at the heart of communism), common sociality (at the heart of socialism), legitimate individuation (at the heart of anarchism) and creative opposition (at the heart of political liberalism). The second manifesto adds the principle of common naturalness (it goes without saying in the first manifesto, but is clearly worth stating), and subordinates these five principles to the imperative to combat any aspiration towards omnipotence, or what the Greeks called hubris – of which the clearest and most disturbing illustration is the startling growth of inequality around the globe. This hubris now takes the form of what the Greeks, again, called pleonexia, the insatiable desire for wealth. 


What explains the neoliberal triumph, which has opened the way for a new form of capitalism, “pure capitalism”? Why has it so easily prevailed over the ideas born at the end of the second world war, including the European project itself? 

There are many tangled reasons for this triumph: economic, financial, media, military, security, etc. But what convivialism stresses most of all is the power of ideas (when the material exists for their realisation). We cannot underestimate the role played by the Mont Pelerin Society (created in 1947 by future Economics Nobel Prize winners aiming to leave Keynesianism and social-democratic regulation behind). Hegemony, in the Gramscian sense, is reached with rustic simplicity, and simplistic theses (greed is good, encourage the greed of all and all will be better in the best of worlds). 

One of our chief difficulties in opposing neoliberalism, the ideology of rentier and speculative capitalism, is that we lack a universalisable and broadly acc…

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