There are those who would like to ameliorate men and there are those who hold that that cannot be done without first ameliorating the conditions of their life. But it soon appears that one cannot be divorced from the other, and you don't know where to begin.
André Gide, Journals, Volume 4: 1939-1949.
It is thus not a matter of finding solutions to certain problems but of aiming at an overall alternative to the existing state of affairs, a new civilization, a different mode of life, which would not be the abstract negation of modernity but its “sublation” or absorption [Aufhebung], its insistent negation, the conservation of its best gains, and its transcendence toward a higher form of culture - a form that would restore to society certain human qualities destroyed by bourgeois industrial civilization. That does not mean a return to the past but a detour via the past, toward a new future...
Michael Löwy and Robert Sayre,
To achieve the humanity, it must be a sense beyond humanity.
In his last book, La Voie. Pour l’avenir de l’humanité, published by Éditions Fayard in January 2011, Edgar Morin draws up a severe observation of the contemporary evils. He attempts to give some ideas for the future of the humanity. According to him, everything is to reform and all the reforms are interdependent and interrelated. Before explaining this idea which is in line with his “politics of civilization”, that is to say fighting against the evils of our civilization while preserving its positive aspects, let us introduce Edgar Morin in a few lines.
Joined the French Resistance in 1942 and lieutenant of the Forces françaises combattantes from 1942 to 1944, sociologist and philosopher, thinker interdisciplinary and undisciplined, emeritus Director of Research at CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) and Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Institute of Communication Sciences at CNRS, Edgar Morin is a Doctor honoris causa of twenty-four universities around the world. He also received honorary doctorates, appropriately in the subjects ranging from political science to psychology and to sociology from several universities. Morin’s imprint is to be found in the fields ranging from media studies to visual anthropology, Cinéma-vérité, philosophy, action research, sociology, system theory, ecology and education and recently, with increasing frequency, in the hard sciences. Edgar Morin is well known for developing the “complex thought” conception (“pensée complexe”) in his masterpiece, La Méthode.
Raymond Aron wrote in his Essai sur les libertés: the industrial society would be the least bad society. But our industrial societies are in crisis: globalization crisis, neoliberalism crisis, global humanity crisis.
Our multi-polar world is dominated by large blocks with both cooperative and conflicting interests, where multiple crises increase both the needs for cooperation and the potential for conflicts. Globalization suffers its own crises. A crisis in the global economy without sufficient regulation controls. An environmental crisis. A crisis of traditional societies within the effect of development and globalization. A crisis of Western civilization: the negative effects of individualism destroy the former solidarities, the psychic and moral ill-beings takes place in the material well-being, inequalities get worse. A demographic crisis caused by the overpopulation in poor countries, population declines in rich countries, the development of migration of the poor with their blocking in Europe. A crisis in rural areas which become deserts because of industrial monocultivation, usage of pesticides, without any wildlife, and concentration camps for the industrial livestock which produce the food worsened with farming hormones and antibiotics. A crisis of political thinking: there are no more great thinkers in power and our leaders are locked in an immediate and binary way of thinking, moreover there are conflicts between politicians, even within their own groups because of personal ambitions. A crisis in religions torn between modernism and fundamentalism. A secularism crisis corroded by the religious outbreaks. An universal humanism crisis.
Everything is to rethink, to reorganize. Edgar Morin assumed that it is necessary to build a new global society that faces three great challenges: the challenge of extreme poverty faced to extreme wealth, which is unacceptable and should give rise to indignation; the challenge of protecting the planet: the increasing degradation of the biosphere will create new economic, social and political crisis; the challenge of terrorism.
Culture must go beyond specialization. Our leaders are experts but have not received training to promote knowledge and awareness of a global, fundamental problem: the fate of our planet.
Our leaders are convinced that growth is infinite and can solve all our contemporary evils. What is useful in globalization should be pursued, that is to say all that strengthens the links, the interdependence between human beings and peoples and, at the same time, encourage the local, the regional. We should redevelop the subsistence economy, crafts, local shops, participatory democracy, which are a complements to parliamentary and institutional democracy, a democracy that can control the basic and, why not, decide, at least at local, or regional levels, some issues such as building a highway, planting a factory… The example of Marinaleda, in Andalucía, a self-managed city by its inhabitant, is convincing.
It is necessary to combine growth and decline. What needs to grow is the green economy, renewable energy (Stockholm is a model of green city: it uses a 80% heating, 70% based on renewable energy; the eco town BedZED in Great Britain produces more energy than it consumes), the plural economy, including the social economy (in France, the group of salesmen EcoVita takes part of that process, and France Active, financier for solidarity employment, as well), the professions of solidarity (health workers, aid to seniors), the surprisingly under-developed services such as hospitals, public transport, facilities for humanization of megacities (taking example of the eco-district of Vauban, in Freiburg). This should decrease the energy waste and pollution, race to consumerism, poisoning consumptions: the industrialized food, car traffic, the production of disposable and not repairable items.
We should be both developing and introspective. The development, promoted as universal truth for the world, is actually pseudo-universalist, because it gives the Western model as a universal model. It is a product of Western sociocentrism and it is also a driving force of maniac westernization. This supposes that Western societies are the final goal of human history. However, the "development-solution" does not consider that Western societies are in crisis because of their own development.
Edgar Morin reminds that the concept of development includes multiple developments of prosperity and well-being (back to our inner needs, our ability to understand others, and the primacy of friendship and love), the general improvement of living conditions, reducing of inequality, social peace, democracy, and not only the development of material assets, profitability, income.
The global crisis is nothing but the crisis of humanity that cannot access to humanity. Globalization represents both the best: the possibility of a new world, and the worse: the possibility of a self-destruction of humanity. So how to resolve this crisis of humanity?
It should be possible through the transformation (“métamorphose”). Creative abilities of humankind will be restored in the transformation. The idea of transformation is richer than the idea of revolution. It keeps the innovative radicalism, but links it to the conservation (of life, cultures, inheritance of thoughts and wisdom of humanity).
Around the world, many initiatives in the path of economic, social, political, cognitive, educational, ethical restoration do exist, but most of them are local and scattered. For example, in Brazil, the great initiatives are transforming a slum doomed to crime and misery in the life-saving organization for young people (about this subject, see Waste Land, a documentary directed by Lucy Walker). In France, Colibris Mouvement pour la Terre et l’Humanisme, initiated by Pierre Rahbi, develops the organic agriculture, the healthy ecological houses, educational courses for its builders, and spreads this knowledge in Africa. In Colombia, the association Las Gaviotas works for the reforestation.
These multiple paths, if they intersect, can form the new Path leading to this transformation.
All these paths of reform require an ambitious politics, but the enthusiasm, vitality, can also come from the civil society. To do this, we need a collective conscience, consciousness and awareness. The unexpected success of Stéphane Hessel’s last book, Time for Outrage!, sold nearly a million of copies in France and translated in three languages, seems to show a potential of individual hopes.
Let us also hope on an international solidarity. The famine, which currently affects more than 12 million people in the Horn of Africa, seems to be the seed of an awakening of that solidarity, even if the real underlying problems are set inside: the instability and chronic political insecurity.
This article is the result of a fruitful collaboration with Yaroslav Chebotarev.
 André Gide, Journals, Volume 4:1939-1949, translated by Justin O’Brien, University of Illinois Press, 2000, p. 125.
 Michael Löwy and Robert Sayre, Romanticism against the tide of modernity, Durham: Duke University Press, 2001, p. 253.
 Edgar Morin, La Méthode. Opus, Paris, Seuil, 2008.
 About this subject, read an article “Euronews talks to Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva”.
Babel, a bibliographic website about Edgar Morin’s works:
Daniel Bell, The cultural contradictions of Capitalism: 20th anniversary, New York: Basic Books, 2010.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The state of food insecurity in the world: Economic crises impacts and lessons learned, Rome, 2009:
Stéphane Hessel, Time for outrage!, London, Quartet Books, 2011.
Myron Kofman, Edgar Morin: From Big Brother to fraternity, Pluto Press European Thinkers series, 1996.
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Facing a world in crisis. What life teaches us in challenging times, Shambhala Publications, 2005:
Michael Lewis, The big short: Inside the doomsday machine, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.
Charles Lindholm, José Pedro Zuquete, The Struggle for the world: Liberation movements for the 21st Century, Standford University Press, 2010.
Alfonso Montuori, Foreword Edgar Morin’s path of complexity: http://archive.mcxapc.org/docs/apc/0901montuori.pdf
Edgar Morin, Method: Towards a study of humankind. The nature of nature, New York: Peter Lang, 1992.
Edgar Morin, E. Hulot, Homeland earth: A manifesto for the new millenium, Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 1999.
Edgar Morin, Seven complex lessons in education for the future, Paris, UNESCO, 1999:
Edgar Morin, On Complexity, Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2008.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Making globalization work, New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Freefall. America, free markets, and the sinking of the world economy, New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.
Alvin and Heidi Toffler, Revolutionary wealth, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006.
UNESCO Bangkok, Education for sustainable development: Linking learning and happiness, 2007:
Alvin and Heidi Toffler
Films, documentaries, festivals
Chronicle of a summer, a film directed by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin (1960)
Darwin’s nightmare, a documentary directed by Hubert Sauper (2002)
Krishnamurti in a dialog with David Bohm: The Future of humanity (1983)
Life without principle, a film directed by Johnnie To (2011)
Person to person, a short film by Wim Wenders (2009)
Sustainable planet, a documentary produced by YH Marketing
Understanding education for sustainable development, a documentary produced by UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development
Walking on water, a 30 minute documentary plus 12 short films produced by Excellent Development
Waste Land, a documentary directed by Lucy Walker (2010)
Film Festival: Green Unplugged
The 2011 Sustainable Planet Film Festival
“A call to outrage”, Ignacio Ramonet
“Global poverty: There’s no panacea, but here are strategies that work”, Pete Engardio, Business Week, 2002
“Jean Rouch: Cinéma-vérité, chronicle of a summer” and “The Human pyramid”, Barbara Bruni
“Making globalization work", Joseph E. Stiglitz, Project Syndicate, 2006.
“Measuring globalization: Who’s up, who’s down?”, A. T. Kearney, Foreign Policy, 2003
“Raymond Aron and the intellectuals: Arguments supportive of libertarianism”
“The crisis of the democracies”, Stéphane Hessel, Edgar Morin, Guernica, 2012
“The five wars of globalization”, Moisés Naím, EBSCO Publishing, 2003
“The third wave of globalization theory”, Luke Martell, International Studies Review, 2007
“2002: A bleak year for the environment”, Agus P. Sari, The Jakarta Post, 2002
Institutions, Non-Governemental Organizations
Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions aud Aid to Citizens (ATTAC)
ATD Fourth World
UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD)
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
International Assessment of Agriculture Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD): documents in English, French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
World Food Programme (WFP)