An End to Enforced Economic Growth and Competitive Pressure:
A fundamental requirement for a society geared to sustainability is to overcome the economic growth hysteria and the ubiquitous materialistic competitive syndrome. Contrary to what is often fatalistically asserted, the materialistic model of growth and competitiveness is by no means part of the genetic make-up of the human species but merely rests on a reversible, and hence modifiable, sociopsychological process of formation and education and on the phenomenon of scarcity (actual or induced need or demand).
The principle of continuous and thus unlimited economic growth as the fundamental driving force of a so-called modern society leads to overexploitation of the planet’s natural resources (air, water, vegetation, soil), to uncontrolled urbanisation, to desertification, to the impoverishment of rural areas and urban peripheries, to income disparities, to the emergence of new or the aggravation of existing poverty, to criminality (including threats to personal security) and to social conflicts. This growth principle is indispensably founded on competition among its economic actors, be they small or large, and has led, in tandem with the simultaneous retrenchment of state regulation and negligible democratic oversight, to a corresponding coarsening of the mentality of human beings in general.
The equation of economic success with social recognition and acceptance and the accelerating trend towards the alignment of economic power with political and/or social influence lead not only to a trivialisation of the human intellect but especially to a hollowing-out of values and a de-democratisation of society (especially as regards individual participation and influence). Such a sociopsychological environment is primarily responsible for the collective and individual pressure to succeed and the social stress from which hardly anybody can escape in such a system.
It is indispensable to create a worldwide social and production structure which accords equal priority to the needs of all members of global society and administers them with the aim of conserving natural resources and creating a social and humane environment. Overcoming the at present universally valid (materialistic) competitive principle as the leitmotiv of economic and social life is crucial for a global reorientation of society and its system of values.
An important aspect of this endeavour is the rejection of the quest for individual material wealth and social prestige as the supreme goal of life, and the turn towards a society based on solidarity and toleration in which the social prestige of the individual is defined primarily by his contribution to social development – also involving competition, but motivated by social and society concerns, not by individual monetary gain or the accumulation of power.