Coote contextualised her presentation by reference to the three interdependent dimensions that direct the work of NEF. The present ‘toxic’ state of these dimensions, the combination that determines our lives is unique in human history: accelerating climate change, ´widening social and economic inequalities and economic downturn.
The example discussed by Coote was the ways of understanding time and her point was that time isn’t a given entity, no to speak of a tradeable commodity. Time is a social construct, ‘what we make of it’. This argument can be expanded to cover all the key political issues in present-day Western countries.
My argument is that the crucial characteristic of Coote’s time holds good for basic assumption underpinning today’s politics: economic growth, competitiveness, work, social benefits etc. – all of them are being taken for granted. Most unfortunate is that citizens do no think about democracy, that is, the concept on which I have published quite a lot during the last few years.
My repeatedly stated argument has been that having genuinely free elections and a government responsible to the parliament isn’t any more enough to justify the characterisation ‘democratic’ in case of a country’s politics. Nor can democracy be reduced to the activities of the political parties which is their tacit legitimation for their existence.
I agree with Coote in that to change the ‘unchangeable’ is possible – but this presupposes that the drive to change emerges which is not very likely today. There is plenty of work to be done before the present situation is transformed, a situation that was depicted as the dystopia of ‘cheerful robots’ by C. Wright Mills already in 1959. It is not customary today to question any of the premises on which the prevailing politics rests.
It was pity that Coote had to leave for the airport before the seminar ended – I had not a possibility to thank her for the brilliant presentation anor to talk about common interests. Instead, a useful argument emerged from a discussion with Ulf Sundqvist, a fellow junior teacher at the university from the mid-sixties (he became later chairman of the social-democratic party and a cabinet minister). Day-to-day issues come to the fore in way that turns anything beyond them economically counter-productive