Buen Vivir: Basis of an Alternative Concept of Development?
32 scholarship holders from 13 countries met from February 1st to 4th at the Ludwig Windthorst House in Lingen (Ems) to deal with the much-debated topic of Buen Vivir. Behind the term is the notion of a good life that relies less on economic growth than on harmony with nature and leaving more space to human societies for spirituality and community action. The concept originates from the indigenous cultures of Ecuador and Bolivia, but is no longer merely ridiculed in “developed” countries, but has also found its way into scientific discourses and debates. In his lecture Adrián Beling (Humboldt University Berlin) has traced this process very precisely and explained how Buen Vivir even found entry into the constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia. The question as to whether this “exploitation” by politics leads to a devaluation of the concept was hotly debated.
Dr. Dieter Richarz (Catholic relief organization Misereor, Aachen) illustrated that the ideas of the Buen Vivir also found their way into the Encyclical Laudato si’ (2015) by Pope Francis in, in which the Holy Father expresses great concern about the way in which modern men and women treat the natural environment. The scholarship holder Pablo de la Vega from Guatemala, who is undergoing a master’s program at the Philosophical University in Munich, spoke of the integrative power of indigenous philosophy. In his view, a major challenge is to bring this philosophy and its ethics into dialogue with dominant currents of postmodernism that are still based on the liberal understanding of individual freedom.
The concept of Buen Vivir is not a counter model to modern complex societies. It does, however, contain elements (eg, criticism of the Western liberal notion of individual freedom in favor of strengthening the concept of community, an understanding of nature as a subject rather than an object of development that is based on continuous economic growth, etc.), which challenge the Western way of life and our idea of development. In any case, the participants of the seminar are well prepared for this year’s KAAD Annual Academy entitled “Global Justice, Common Future – Our Responsibility for Integral Development”.