E-communitarian Democracy: What is it?

August 10, 2020

This piece was originally published in Spanish in Rebelión, July 7, 2020 

Translated and excerpted from the original Spanish by Jane K. Brundage

We revisit here, with few changes, what we have presented in the final chapter of our book “Contribuição à Teoria da Democracia. Uma perspectiva ecomunitarista” | “Contribution to the Theory of Democracy, an ecommunitarian perspective” (until now, published only in Portuguese).

Let us recall that we define democracy, since Lincoln, as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. In turn, the three fundamental ethical standards, which we have deduced from the deep grammar of the question that Ethics establishes, namely “What should I do?” oblige us, respectively, to:

  • Struggle to realize our individual freedom of decision;
  • Realize that freedom in the search for consensus with others; and to
  • Preserve-regenerate the health of human and non-human nature.

Technically, these three standards, like any other ethical standard [or norm], have the structure of Causal Quasi-Reasoning (CRC). The CRC structure is formed successively by a mandatory connector — “because” — and a falsifiable statement that gives logical support to the mandatory (see López Velasco 2009); it follows that ethical standards are not dogmatic and are subject to historical change, depending on the state of our knowledge and our logical argument.

Based on the three fundamental ethical standards, in what follows we will consider aspects that refer (sometimes focused, sometimes in combination) to the organization and procedures of democracy. We consider democracy especially in its direct, participatory and/or representative forms, and for the satisfaction of individual needs (within the ecological frugality prescribed by the third fundamental norm of ethics, and respect for interculturality). This is for the development of people universally reconciled in solidarity with others and with non-human nature.…

Intercultural Communal Living

Today it is clear, especially in the case of Latin America, that democracy from an e-communitarian perspective cannot be based solely on Western culture, but must dialogically incorporate the positive contributions from other cultures (particularly Indigenous, Black and Eastern ones). The Indigenous and Black cultures have resisted more than 500 years of Conquest to provide us with their lucid socio-environmental Cosmo-centric perspective. The East (remember, the city of São Paulo, in Brazil, has the largest Japanese population in the world outside of Japan) enlightens us with its wise reflection-posture about the place of the human being in the Cosmos and the way of inhabiting it in our condition as shooting stars. This does not mean that the union of these diverse traditions is without knots that are difficult to handle, and that the community philosophy will have to face frankly (as is the case, for example, with the machismo that also reigns in many Indigenous, Black and Eastern cultures).…

Socio-Environmental Experience, Ecological Democracy and Socially Generalized Ecommunitarian Environmental Education

In the heat of the 20th century ’60s and ’70s struggle (legal or guerrilla), some of us in Latin America believed that ecology was an issue undertaken by well-nourished people who had nothing else to do. But today we know that they are inseparable —  overcoming poverty, creating conditions such that each human being is socially employed according to his ability and paid according to his need (so he develops as a universal individual), and preserving-regenerating a healthy (human and non-human) nature. The human being is part of nature and (as indigenous cultures have always known), there is no human being without non-human nature. That is why the ecommunitarian perspective is unavoidably socio-environmental, as the three fundamental ethical standards on which it rests require; the third standard, in particular, forces us to ensure the health of human and non-human nature.

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It should be noted, however, that even today many leaders who claim to aim for “socialism of the 21st century” (not to mention those classified as “progressive”) exhibit serious environmental illiteracy. Their illiteracy consists in their continuing to bet on the concept of capitalist “development”, which externalizes environmental costs (without perceiving that this compromises the productive capacity and future survival of Humanity, or at least parts of it). Thus, these leaders (repeating the capitalist set-up, that it is better to destroy and pollute than to admit unemployment) place their electoral cards on:

  • Mining and / or hydrocarbon extraction (without taking due preservative-regenerative care);
  • Agribusiness based on transgenics and agro-toxins; and on
  • Adopting economic paths (sometimes with the supposed prioritization of employment) that do not look to reduce, reuse and/or recycle resources and waste, and/or that use dirty and non-renewable energy.

At the same time, e-communitarian democracy, as we have seen, sets up the absence of unemployment by using everyone in rotating and short-term functions (which allows application of the principle “when everyone works, everyone works less”) in production cycles where extractivism is reduced to the essential minimum (always with appropriate preservative-regenerative measures of the environment in question).

The “7 Rs” are implemented (i.e., Reflecting on what planet we want for ourselves and our successors; Reclaiming ecological frugality by Rejecting consumerism; Reducing, Reusing and Recycling inputs [materials] and residues [waste], and Revolutionizing capitalism toward e-community). Eliminated is the use of transgenics and agrochemicals in food. Only clean and renewable energies are used (for example, solar and wind power), whose annoying effects will always have to be minimized. The decrease in work time will allow each individual to freely use more and more vital time for self-development; for example, to practice the arts and/or train in sports, to love, to share with those close and less close (on various trips), or for the pleasant leisure time in which one simply enjoys being alive.

E-communitarian democracy is supported by and needs widespread e-communitarian environmental education. It includes both formal education (we refer to what currently includes educational centers, from maternal-infant to university), and in non-formal education (which is what takes place in various homey forms, in the most diverse modes of communication, and in the simple interactions between humans during their various activities). Such education, based always on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology indicating the best age and way to approach each question, will promote the knowledge, reflection and daily application of the three fundamental ethical standards and the guidelines and forms of social action that the community has erected from them. The goal is ceaselessly to reinforce and improve e-communitarianism and its guiding principle: “from each according to his ability and to each according to his need, respecting ecological balance and interculturality”.

Such education is problematizing (in the sense of Paulo Freire, 1970); i.e., in a critical way, it constantly reveals existing social oppression and environmental devastation, aiming at overcoming them in a community that lacks inter-human oppression and in which the health of human and non-human nature might be permanently preserved and regenerated. Considering age limitations, such education will be extended in all formal education, and will radiate in all spheres of informal education (incorporating the family, the neighborhood, and in centers for sports, culture, art, leisure, etc.).

In a word, such education will promote love and respect for each human and each non-human being or entity existing on the planet (and wherever Humanity might arrive beyond Earth). In light of the third fundamental rule of ethics, deep reflection is undertaken, such that the harmful effects of each action or omission on our part toward non-human nature might be minimized. Such actions or omissions occur when we must feed ourselves at the expense of other beings or non-human entities, or when we modify forever a certain ecosystem by constructing a home or educational or recreational center. In relation to humans, the attitude of love and respect includes behavior that allows for the courteous practice of direct democracy and forms of participatory and representative democracy; that is, always hearing more than is said and arguing not to win, but that the best argument might win (from which will be derived the best action for everyone).

In formal education, we consider these useful guidelines:

  • Linking each topic to relevant socio-environmental issues;
  • Promoting the rediscovery of knowledge through dialogue and investigation;
  • Favoring collective cooperation and never selfish individualism;
  • Incorporating the contribution of knowledgeable third parties into exchanges between educator and learners; and always
  • Closing the epistemological cycle with the implementation of specific measures (with the participation of educator and learners) in solving the socio-environmental problems addressed.

For community-based informal education with an e-communitarian orientation, we propose the following guidelines (see López Velasco 2017b). The educators-supporters-activists begin a dialogue with the local community in which they resolve to take a census of the community’s main socio-environmental problems. Starting from this census, through dialogue, educators help the community understand how these problems link to the structure of capitalism, and they explain the foundations of e-communitarianism. They then discuss with the community where and with whom they can gather knowledge and obtain help for resolving (even partially) some of their problems.

Here, preference is given to cooperative and public agencies over false business aid. With this grounding, the community and educators define the concrete actions needed to resolve the problems prioritized from an e-communitarian perspective. Actions are implemented; the problem is solved. Its solution strengthens the community’s self-confidence for seeking solutions for other problems. The educators help the community understand that any selfishly-isolated solution is insufficient for achieving enduring collective satisfaction, and they encourage the community to continue the struggle for more successes of its own, but to integrate that fight not only with help provided to other communities but with national and planetary action in favor of e-communitarianism.


Teaser photo credit: Moroccan students watching birds. By Kokopelado – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9482093

Sirio López Velasco

Sirio López Velasco, Uruguayan-Brazilian-Spanish, was born in Uruguay in 1951. In 1985, while living as a political exile in Belgium, he obtained his doctorate in Philosophy at the Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium), where he also received a “Licensed” diploma in Linguistics and was co-founder and coordinator (1983-1985) of the Latin American Philosophy Seminar (the first PhD seminar created by students at that University founded in 1425). In 2002 and 2009, he conducted postdoctoral research in Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC, Madrid, Spain). In 1988, he was elected Vice-President of the International Association of Young Philosophers (IAYP) at the XVIII World Congress of Philosophy (Brighton, England); he held that post until the next World Congress (1993). From 1989 to 1992, he was retained by the University of Mainz (Germany) as a researcher for development of the Diatopic and Diastratic Linguistic Atlas of Uruguay (coordinated by Harald Thun and Adolfo Elizaincín). López Velasco was a professor at the PUCRS and UNISINOS Universities (in Porto Alegre, Brazil). From 1989 until his retirement in 2019, he was Professor of Philosophy at the Federal University of Río Grande (FURG, in Rio Grande, Brazil); where from 1994 to 2016  he helped develop first the Master, then the Doctoral Degree programs in Environmental Education (the first and only program to date recognized by Brazil’s Ministry of Education). He was a member of the International Scientific Committee for the 1st and 3rd World Congress on Environmental Education (held, respectively, in Portugal in 2002, and in Italy in 2005). He was also a member of the official Brazilian delegation in education to the “Rio+20” (UN Conference on Sustainable Development), held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. He is a member of two Working Groups of the Associação Nacional de Pesquisa e Post-Graduação em Filosofia (ANPOF) | National Association of Research and Graduate Studies in Philosophy, Brazil. He was Secretary in Rio Grande of the Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC) | Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science. He directed several postgraduate theses, in Philosophy and Environmental Education, and gave lectures at international conferences held in Latin America and Europe.

Tags: building resilient societies, knowledges, participative democracy