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To reclaim democracy

Concepts for a democratic and ecological society
Forfatter: Yavor Tarinski
Forlag: Zer0 Books (USA)
DEMOCRACY / MODERN TIMES has chosen two angles on the same book. What about community-led initiatives as a contribution to the European Green Deal?


The network collaboration "Communities for Futures" (communitiesforfuture.org) will integrate transformative regional and local development policies into the European Commission's "European Green Deal" (EGD). A focus on community-led initiatives with EGD in the future will deliver a widespread locally-led response to the ecological crisis with policies in specific areas such as food systems, energy, renovation, etc.

The author and activist Yavor Tarinski has provided a proposal for a theoretical framework for such a concrete initiative with the book Concepts for a Democratic and Ecological Society. In the book, Tarinski sets out various proposals for how the development can be reversed and indicates some basic systemic approaches to a comprehensive cultural change.

Direct democracy

Today, democracy and capitalism are often used as synonyms. And the cities no longer constitute a framework for public conversation – on the contrary, they have become temples of capitalist growth, turning their inhabitants into alienated and passive consumers.

With references to Cornelius Castoriadis and Murray Bookchin, Tarinski sets the concepts in place. Both were concerned with people's true self-
determination and of the development of institutions that can maintain the personal authority. In the end, it is always such a potential that will be present and will be able to constitute the potential for people to come together and jointly decide how to manage vital resources on which their livelihoods depend.

It will require a complete abandonment of the capitalist economism of homo economicus to instead embrace the social ecology of active citizens, passionate about public affairs and aware of their symbiotic relationship with nature.

And, according to Tarinski, it is not enough to criticize the environmental consequences of production («environmental reflexivity») with its risk awareness and skepticism about innovations. As the labor movement put socialism on the agenda
the critics of the anthropocene's obvious destructive tendencies within, for example, microbiology and the earth system sciences.

In a truly direct democratic framework, the majority of the population will make the decisions that concern them directly in their neighborhood assemblies.

Think globally – act locally

Annually, at the COP conferences and the Paris Agreement's CO2 reduction targets, the public is reminded of the failure shown by world leaders globally, not least in relation to the "South". After Paul Crutzen's introduction and articulation of the Anthropocene age, the complexity of a transition has multiplied and can perhaps best – but imperfectly – be described by the necessity of a cultural revolution, seen as the relationship between society, power and nature. For Tarinski, it is evident that a global development within the limits of the planet cannot be achieved by top-down decisions, not even in an extra-social set of scientific knowledge or by a pseudo-enlightened elite.

Just the late Bruno Latour contributed (together with Nikolaj Schultz, see article on page 14) before his death with a note on how we can create a proud and self-aware ecological class. With Yavor Tarinski's book and «Communities for Futures» efforts to bring community-led initiatives into a European political reality, a new door may have been opened for the necessary adjustment.

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Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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