Being human and forming societies are on the one hand, so natural that we don't often think of what they mean. On the other hand, philosophers have engaged in these themes for millennia, and they're not just something that we can take for granted. In this module, we will see that the ways in which we talk about reality deeply influences our opinions about how sustainable development is possible. With this purpose, we will look particularly into various comprehensions of society, politics, and economy. And we will realize that no single agency can stand alone in this ambitious enterprise. Late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, once famously asked: "Who is society? There is no such thing!" The Sustainable Development Goals are about transforming the entire world community. So, imaginearies about what it is to be human and how we humans interact are of decisive importance in two ways. They determine how we understand the social world, and they imply how change is going to come about. In the Thatcher quote, human collectives, whether large or small are considered to have no independent being apart from the cumulative effect of their individual participants. Exactly the status of society has been the chief issue of all social sciences since they developed in the 19th century. Is society just the sum of its citizens or is it more than this sum? Does society have an agency of its own? The formal takes the bottom up point of view of the individual citizen, whereas letter takes the top down view of society. In the 20th century structuralism derived from linguistics and anthropology, and later structural functionalism, focused on the inner organization of society, and the interrelation of its parts. By doing so, it described to society and existence of its own. Society was simply turned into an acting subject. And since the 1950s, system theory reinforced this notion further by making social, political and economic processes imitable by computer models. Structural and systemic approaches to society however may tend to downplay the impact of individual and collective action from below. And hence to tone down the need for civil society participation in policy-making. In order to address this clash between bottom up and top down understanding of society, German sociologist Jürgen Habermas regards it as consisting of two interdependent realities: The managerial and economic system governed by anonymous market mechanisms and political power hierarchies on the one hand and the lifeworld of lived culturally based imagine areas and practices on the other. So, bringing about global sustainable development most likely depends on equal involvement of engaged citizens, and transformative actions by the ruling systems. And in representative democracies, social movements and bottom of activism is a driving force of all politically induced change. [MUSIC] In our modern world, all legitimate exercise of power and executive action is assigned to the ensemble of political and administrative institutions of government. The greatest divergence in political positions concerns the relative size and impact of the state in comparison with the so called civil society, and state size matters. If global sustainability is supposed to result from politics, and international settlements rather than from the unregulated behavior of the market on the one hand or grassroots activism on the other. The relative size of state agency in any nation is in direct ratio with the level of taxation. So, in liberal democracies it is conditioned on public trust in authorities. In the case of Scandinavia, most people appear to have a fundamental trust in strong institutions. And do accordingly delegate considerable social responsibility, and economic vigor to the welfare state. In all cases, welfare rights are universal, that is for all irrespective of personal labor force participation and tax payment. This kind of find meshed social safety net naturally depends on a considerable level of national affluence. [MUSIC] What made the Danish Welfare State possible? Then we have to go back to the Second World War. Just after the end of the World War, Denmark was in an optional opportunity because a lot of European countries needed food, and needed stability and needed an example for democracy, working democracy. And therefore, Denmark became an ideal society with economic growth and with food production and security for everyone and it was possible to take care of the elderly. And Denmark was a trustworthy society because we had a stable labor market and we had a democratic social system. So, therefore you could rely on agreements you made with Denmark. And at the same time Denmark became an example of an ideal society where the individual could live in prosperity from birth to grave. Society would always help, and this kind of society was also profitable because people could give more to society because they felt that they had a security behind them. So, therefore they didn't need to fear about the future, they could just work together and enjoy. That was the main narrative and it was not completely false. [MUSIC] Well, the Danish Welfare State is characterized by, it's financed by taxpayers. So, people give a lot to each other and get a lot back from the state. [MUSIC] The Anglo Saxon kind of welfare state is, well, a Dane would say it's not a real welfare state because it very much rely on voluntary support and voluntary help. So, the state would just support the individual with a minimum of help so that you shouldn't be on the street, lay on the street dying. [MUSIC] So, there are many different approaches to satisfying these demanding ideals and they largely built on different perceptions of the relation between individual and group, family and states. For instance, the neoclassical economics of capitalism tend to interpret humans as rational actors governed by optimization of self interest alone. Ideals of benevolence and charity on the other hand, are basic to universal human rights. But we all experience that humans come in many forms. Anthropologist Mary Douglas many years ago, identified four ideal types of citizens. The types were placed partly in relation to the degree of group-feeling ranging from private to public. And partly in relation to their preferred position and social grids ranging from control of others to control by others. According to Douglas, individualists view nature as benign, resilient and capable of recovery from exploitation, and they consider humans as inherently self seeking. The market organized by Adam Smith's invisible hand is therefore the best suited to solving environmental challenges. Egalitarian actors on the other hand, see nature as fragile and humans as inherently caring and sensitive, unless of course corrupted by wealth or power. Hierarchically organized actors conceive of the natural world as controllable and stable, and believe that strong institutions and systems will prevent flawed humans from causing environmental disaster. Finally, fatalistic actors suppose that humans are untrustworthy and that there is no chance of affecting change for the better. Naturally, expectations about transformative agency varies greatly according to these basic positions that apart from reflecting individual and group experience have deep political implications. There are however, ample indication that democratic politics are ill fitted for making decisions as crucial as global sustainable development. First, majority rule in an affluent society is not likely to take part in any redistribution of global wealth that affects its own country negatively. Second, it has proven extremely difficult to make long term political decisions in any political culture based on election periods of four years or shorter. Third, despite the request by a wide range of international opinion makers in the wake of the unleashing of nuclear destruction in 1945 to form a world government, the UN never achieved that status. Instead, the United Nations is only as strong as allowed by its member states, especially the permanent members of the Security Council. So, the forces that inhibit national decisions to force the sustainable development are in fact multiplied by the antagonisms and competitions of international politics. In one respect, however, the UN has profoundly changed the fundamental relations between individual society through its idea of universal human rights. [MUSIC] The Global Concorde in 2015 on pursuing a sustainable development is based upon the idea that all humans across time and space, despite our many differences have the same right to a good life and that we all have responsibility for one another. Building on centuries old American and French models, the UN in 1948 adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that presume the same basic rights, and hence the same rights of present and future prosperity for all. Its key concept was that of universality, the idea that no cultural or political differences could warrant any deviation from these individual rights. It may however, tend to justify forcing Western ideas about environmental challenges on human prosperity upon non-Western cultures. [MUSIC] Human rights mean a great deal in the UN system. And the UN is, when we talk the UN, we talk international human rights. There are also a few regional systems of human rights, but in the UN system we're talking about international human rights. And in the UN, they talk about what they call the International Bill of Human Rights which consists of three founding documents. One of them is the founding document of all of them, the Declaration of Human Rights from 1948. And then it's the two covenants as they're called, that made all the rights in the declaration of human rights legally binding. It's only a declaration, the Declaration of Human Rights, as the name implies which means it's not legally binding. So, with the two international covenants, one of them is called the International Covenant of Civil and Political rights. And the other one is called the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. They took a long time, we had the Cold War, we had decolonization, all kinds of geopolitical developments which meant that in the UN they couldn't agree on this. So, we only had the two international covenants in 1966, and they were ratified in 76. So, only as of 76 do we have legally binding international law instruments at the UN level. [MUSIC] There is a practical problem which is the implementation itself that certain countries simply don't care about human rights and say they are not for us. We have done things a different way and who are you basically in the West to interfere with what we do, just **** out and leave us alone. So, there is that, that you don't implement, you simply don't care and say certain countries have ratified the international instruments, but they don't just implement them in practice. So, that's one major problem. That it's just not done locally. And the other major problem is a more intellectual one, that people keep fighting against the universality of human rights. Human rights in the UN system are based on universality, and what we should never forget about the international human rights system is that it's not just a set of legal rights, it's also a set of ethical rights. And the major principles behind it are universality, inclusiveness, nondiscrimination, equality. So, the fight against universality is one that today interestingly enough for the Global South is taking up. And is saying, you in the North, you have to comply with human rights just the way that we do. And don't think that this is just our problem because it is just as much yours. So, there's a practical problem and there's a more intellectual, academic problem. [MUSIC] It's the one that you hear that in the post colonial context and in many other contexts all the time. And I think historically it's not true, because there were many different people involved in drafting these international covenants, not just Westerners. And as I see it if you deny universality, you deny the possibility of actually bettering yourself, it's a fantastic instrument for people in the Global South. I myself work with cultural rights which is a part of human rights, and there since 2009 we have a UN special rapporteur in that area. And she especially in her, it's a she right now it could also be he in the future, in the mandate is gender for example. And the major driving force for the UN special rapporteur is to say, women have to be treated just the same as men. If not if you plead non universality it will mean discrimination. So nondiscrimination is the driving force behind universality and it's a fantastic tool to use. So use it.