Prof Isabelle Ferreras, University of Louvain
CUSP essay series on the Morality of Sustainable Prosperity | No 10

July 2019

You can find the essay here:

A conundrum faces us as we consider the future of politics. Some hold up environmental sustainability as a barrier to shared prosperity, deriding it as elitist and too costly. Others feel that measures to protect the environment must take precedent over everything else, even at the expense of the poorest. To make matters worse, extremists sweeping elections in many countries are threatening the future of democracy itself. These issues are so pressing, Isabelle Ferreras writes, that it is easy to fall into a debate over which is the more pressing. Urgency has always made external constraint, either from regulatory bodies and strong state governments or through force, coercion, and concentrations of authority more palatable, and even appealing: Democracy might be a good idea when things are going well for the people, but when the future feels uncertain and dangerous, the siren song of the powerful leader becomes all but irresistible.

This essay argues that it is possible to respond to citizens’ concerns over these issues, and the care for the planet, in an entirely different way: by expanding democracy into large transnational firms in order to build a kind of internal constraint to their behaviour and decisions. By addressing workers’ ‘intuition of democratic justice’—that is their sense that their right to a say in their lives and futures in and outside the workplace—we can build a more democratic, and more prosperous and sustainable world all at once.