Quality of Life: Convivial Societies

Around the world, a central question bears on sustainability, the environment, and social and financial well-being: How much is enough? But there is an important corollary to that question—perhaps even more directly important to individuals. What does quality of life mean? And how should we measure it? Our panel of global experts weighs in, including Madhu Suri Prakash.


Madhu Suri Prakash: Convivial Societies

Quality of life starts when I can see myself reflected in the eyes of my friends, and the person I see is likable, with dignity. In living the good life, my “I” vanishes, transformed into a real “we”—a “we” made whole by community and commons.

A “good life” is only possible in a convivial society that guarantees each member the most ample and free access to the tools of the community. In convivial societies, work is fun, beautiful, and dignified. The schizophrenic separation of work and leisure vanishes. Personal freedoms are only limited when they impinge on another member’s equal freedom. This implies communal autonomy—increasing your capacity to self-govern, instead of depending on the market or the state for the products and services supposedly designed “for us,” but really intended to increase the power or profits of other individuals or small groups.


Madhu Suri Prakash, from India, is a professor of education at Penn State and co-author of Grassroots Post-Modernism: Remaking the Soil of Cultures.

[Photo courtesy of Flickr user swiss.frog]

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