The Network Project: WORKSHOP

Saturday 10th June 2006
SUSTAINABILITY & SOCIETY
What kind of society will lead to sustainability?


We all know we need to reduce our consumption, and we know what concrete measures are needed but we don’t discuss how we will achieve this socially. In our competitive society, encouraged by advertising, people think largely of themselves, and are often insecure and financially stretched, which does not make the ideal atmosphere for asking them to consume less, think of others and accept the true costs of their lifestyle. It is not just the obvious things such as declining to save water for privatised utilities or needing to use cars because public transport is so bad. It is whether they actually feel obliged to consider others in their use of resources. In this workshop, Ian Brown will explore the kind of supportive social relationships we need, and our models of ownership, of citizenship and co-operation. The Network Project aims to bring together people and ideas to form a base of thinking that can challenge the dominance of the neo-liberal model.


While there is plenty of discussion about our need to move toward a more sustainable economy and the need to change our consumption habits, there has been little consideration of what kind of society will support such profound changes. Although we discuss concrete measures we need to make our communities sustainable, from avoiding building on flood plains, to restraining our use of water and raw materials, but we don’t discuss the social world in which this will take place.

In a competitive society people think largely of themselves (encouraged to do so by endless advertising) and many people are insecure, many financially stretched (whether by debt, low pay or unrealistic consumption). This is hardly the ideal atmosphere in which to ask people to consume less, think of others and accept the true costs of their lifestyle.

It is not just the obvious things such as people declining to save water for privatised utilities or needing to use cars because public transport is so bad. It is whether they actually feel obliged to consider others in their use of resources, does it even enter their head to do so?

This workshop, led by Ian Brown from the Network Project, will explore the kind of supportive social relationships we need, our models of ownership, of citizenship and co-operation. We aim to draw on the experience and ideas of the participants to develop our partnership-stewardship model of society. We hope that it will result in a short (web based) report or pamphlet which we, and you, can contribute to this important debate.

The Network Project is a small group of ordinary people, each with a bee in their bonnet, convinced that the answers to our problems are already out there, with people “doing alternatives”. Our aim is to bring together people and ideas to form a base of thinking that can challenge the dominance of the neo-liberal models of “the Washington consensus”.

See also Ian Brown's critique of Neoliberalism

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