It is now clear that the transition is both a social and political change, and a technical and economic one. By looking at lifestyles (food, transport, housing, consumption, etc.), a concept which is attracting growing scientific interest, we can fully grasp what is at stake and make progress in identifying the conditions for change. The concept of lifestyles also highlights the importance of collective structures (physical and institutional), social norms, economic rules and commercial offers in individual trajectories. These are over-determining dimensions over which the individual alone has very little control. Lifestyles, as the meeting points between the specific characteristics of individuals and social groups and collective rules, are therefore a crucial place for thinking about the conditions of transition.
Lifestyles are changing, and they are "in transition" under a variety of influences. Among the spheres that influence them, public authorities, acting for the general interest and producers of regulations, have a particularly strong legitimacy to act on them within the framework of the democratic contract “signed” with citizens. Historically, in response to the challenges facing society, it has done so in a number of areas by changing the way we eat, our mobility needs, the urbanisation of our territory, our health habits and so on.
Today we face a new challenge: that of sufficiency and the achievement of a sustainable society. The planet's limits and the urgency of the environmental crises mean that we need to mobilise every possible means of transforming our relationship with life and natural resources and adapting to these crises. This includes sober lifestyles in developed countries and the technical infrastructures that underpin our daily and economic lives. The challenge is immense, and involves acting now to move towards greater sufficiency in a society built on the promise of material and energy abundance.
IDDRI is helping to meet this challenge through a work agenda organised around a number of questions and activities:
- What are the conditions, in terms of public policy and philosophy of action, that will enable lifestyles to evolve in key sectors such as food and agriculture? The Mobility in Transition Institute is also working on the transition of mobility modes.
- How can we make progress in bringing the concept of sufficiency onto the political agenda? How can we ensure that its meaning and implications are part of the democratic debate?
Finally, the scale of the changes required in the medium and long term to move from material abundance to sufficiency, and the level of political and social tension involved in implementing the transition, mean that we need to look more deeply at the way our societies operate. IDDRI is conducting this reflection through the concept of the social contract, in order to emphasise all the social, political and economic arrangements that govern the links between citizens and society.
- What can we learn from past developments in our social contract? What are its current limitations? How can we democratically debate new rules to achieve a better balance between ecological transition and social progress?