CAF 2017 - The Limits to Inequality: seeking a sustainable society.

Madrid, 3 – 5 November 2017      @CommonActionCAF #CAF2017









The 1970s ushered in the acceleration and expansion of productive processes that led to the so-called phenomenon of globalization. This prompted important questions concerning “the limits to growth,” primarily in the field of economics, well-known explored by organizations like the Club of Rome. At the time, the world was essentially divided in two blocs, preserving borders and territories for further expansion of modes of production. Geopolitically, there was still a substantial movement to address the tension between freedom and equality, within a labour society that had reached a comfortable equilibrium in most wealthy countries.

The ensuing decades heralded the era of the information. Growth unavoidably encroached on territorial and ecological boundaries, and moreover expanded into financial and virtual realms, disposing of metanarratives. Currently on a path that inevitably will reach the planet’s limit in terms of material resources and the volatility of the virtual ones, our societies now face inequality as the most imminent threat against both establishment and marginalized groups. This reality is not simply confined to economic considerations, but affects fundamental aspects of everyday life.

Given this trajectory, forty top intellectuals, politicians, academics, artists, activists and journalists will participate in the Common Action Forum 2017, seeking innovative proposals that policy makers, civil society, institutions and relevant actors can implement. Beyond the current dispute between cynicism and rancor, the Forum intends to lever progressive dynamics for sustainable relations.

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Opening Session

FRIDAY 19:00-20:30
*Exceptionally celebrated at Casa de America


1st Session

SATURDAY 10:00-12:00
Facing the mirror: what remains of the battle between equality and freedom.


2nd Session

SATURDAY 14:00-16:00
Beyond entrepreneurship: real alternatives to the labour society.


3rd Session

SUNDAY 10:00-12:00
From facts to fake, from fake to facts: when news becomes a symptom.


4th Session

SUNDAY 14:00-16:00
Another idea for a universal history from a cosmopolitan point of view.

The forum adopts the format of roundtable debates with 40 participants in one concentric table for deep discussions and collective exchange. Each session has a first half of expert speeches, followed by a second half of open debates.

Action-oriented meetings will be additionally organized and coordinated by our Program Team in order to generate focused debates, networking and project propositions withing smaller groups of guests, following the subjects of the forum.

Finger Buffet Saturday & Sunday from 12:00 to 14:00

Saturday & Sunday from 16:00 to 17:00

Saturday at 20:00

Speakers & Moderators


Opening Session − The Limits to Inequality: seeking a sustainable society.
1st Session − Facing the mirror: what remains of the battle between equality and freedom.

This panel addresses key political dimensions within the context of a deceptive choice that remained an ongoing theme in our modern societies. Citizens have been faced with an ideological dichotomy between ‘equality’ and ‘freedom,’ with totalitarian and neoliberal regimes manipulating both terms to legitimize the rhetoric of left and right wing apparatuses. The powerful and unprecedented nature of globalization seemed to reinforce and exacerbate these fault lines and betray the purest liberal and progressive doctrines, while at the same time paradoxically ignoring that now, more than ever, we are all in the same boat.
However, thanks to reflection, progress and a new consciousness that a forced and rigid choice should no longer be the sole option, we can begin to work beyond this obsolete division and take time to analyse and consider a range of viable perspectives that truly embrace principles that can promote an equitable and sustainable society.

2nd Session − Beyond entrepreneurship: real alternatives to the labour society.

Labour has had a major historical influence on individual and collective identities. Etymologically, the Latin word tripalium is associated with punishment, suffering and slavery. Throughout history, the notion has evolved, purporting to incorporate values of dignity in conjunction with modes of production and modes of existence. Today, work as a social amalgamation suffers erosion, due to the new dynamics of production and consumption. This in turn, transforms, for example, classes once defined as “the proletariat” into a precarious multitude. Simultaneously, two individual and structural effects can be identified. First, a certain type of labour skill no longer serves as protagonist in how the contemporary subject constitutes its identity. Secondly, the capitalization of labour ceases to be exercised solely via an external, collective apparatus, but is instead entangled within the individual in a self-exploitative process. In other words, ideologically, labour has once again deprived itself of the maximum notion of honour that characterized it, and entrepreneurship emerges as the new paradigm to pursue.  
As such, a new challenge now surfaces. The entirety of accumulated development over the last decades and the new place that the work will occupy in the life of the citizens will require new economic policies to improve the quality of social forces, to regulate the appropriation of common goods and to provide balance to a system that may be on the verge of collapse.

3rd Session − From facts to fake, from fake to facts: when news become a symptom.

The power of information, including the tendency toward propaganda that news can sometimes assume, is neither novel nor surprising. Facts, in this case, are quotidian or existential realities that can be objectively explained within both a descriptive and interpretive logic of social repercussions. Nor is it unprecedented that, via a reflexive dynamic, news can transform into the repercussive effects of facts. The entirety of the underlying logic permeating our information society corresponds to a discursive construction, generally hegemonic, that sustains certain visions of the world and reaffirms a purported state of things.
However, the paradox of this dynamic stems from a multidirectional framework of communication that is indeed capable of jeopardizing its fundamental logic. That is, such communication’s drive for the increased consumption of information can lead to disinformation that shapes and affirms opinions remote from facts. Faced with this situation, there is a consensus among both left and right-wing parties and NGOs that a debate about post-truth or fake news can serve as an effective strategy to encourage engagement and participation. These situation lead to questions like: what can be done today to prevent information from becoming a populist weapon, and to instead to employ it as a means of emancipation? what is the role of new activist media and grass root-media? how digital technology is helping to overcome boundaries of hegemonic media allowing to unveil inequalities, social process and crisis? how can we work to encourage a new pluralistic and ethical journalism?

4th Session − Another idea for a universal history from a cosmopolitan point of view.

This session aims to be politically and cosmologically provocative. In 1784, as an exercise in philosophical imagery, Immanuel Kant wrote “Idea for a Universal History from the Cosmopolitan Point of View,” where in nine fundamental thesis Kant illustrated human society’s place in history and nature.
Two centuries later, the root of many problems faced by today’s globalized societies lies in the hegemony of a Western point of view, distant from any cosmopolitan essence. In fact, in the practical sense, contemporary cosmopolitanism corresponds to a cosmetic device championing logics of diversity, abundance and accumulation. Equalities in gender, for example, have developed, to a large extent, into a creed of patriarchal principles that serve as rights for all genders, instead of seriously confronting these principles and the actual formulation of new logics of power. Exploitation has taken shape in much more palatable ways, but the founding principle of imperialism remains active from the anthropocentric split between nature and humankind.
As this notion highlights, a point of view is the view from one defined point, and cosmopolitanism can never occupy this single point. Even modern societies and their classes would struggle to find a single point to view something, in spite of the contemporary glorification of the “self” that delivers a false common denominator of individualism as a means to regulate values ​​and norms. A new civilizing process involving a symmetry of society, nature and technology is increasingly needed as a basis for building a new social pact on a global scale.


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