Buen Vivir is a concept and practice influencing politics and communities across South America. It involves a radically different way of thinking about collective wellbeing and sustainable living.
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Unlike any index based on logarithmic economic indicators, in Buen Vivir the subject of wellbeing is not the individual, but the individual within a community in relation to a specific cultural-natural environment.
Buen Vivir is foremost a decolonial stance. According to leading proponent Eduardo Gudynas, executive secretary of the Latin American Centre for Social Ecology, it calls for a new ethics that balances quality of life, democratisation of the state and concern with biocentric ideals.
This is much more than an emergent discourse of engaged intellectuals and Indigenous cultural activists contributing to the sustainability debate. It’s a strong criticism of the discourse of sustainable development itself. Drawing on the wealth of the region’s indigenous cultures, it has emerged as a lived practice against commodification, a way of doing things differently.
Gudynas sees Buen Vivir as a new paradigm of social and ecological commons – one that is community-centric, ecologically balanced and culturally sensitive. It’s a vision and a platform for thinking and practising alternative futures based on a “bio-civilisation”.