Karl Polanyi argued that a market economy can only function in a market society. Paraphrasing him we may say that a sustainable economy can only function in a sustainable society. An essential feature of such a society is that its social norms and institutions reward future-oriented, responsible decisions and actions while hindering myopic and materialistic choices.
The mainstream model of economic actor, Homo Oeconomicus portrays a lonely, selfish personality, focusing on her own needs and wants. However, ample empirical evidences suggest that people are essentially communal beings: people tend to follow norms and consider the effects of their actions onto others. The human nature reflects both selfish and communal impulses. The norms and institutions that structure social interactions have an important role in actualizing the former or the latter part of the human nature.
Norms and institutions should, first, foster cooperation over selfish behaviour. However, cooperation can aim at anti-social objectives as well. Therefore we need cooperation that is pro-social and future oriented. The paper using theoretical insights as well as empirical evidences argues that institutionalizing social accountability and participatory decision making in the economy may have this potential. Public justification of actions has a moralizing effect, while support from the community helps to step over selfish orientations. The paper offers a number of examples of practical solutions that aim at institutionalizing social accountability and participatory decision making as well as strengthening community in the organization of economic activities from trust companies to consumer communiti
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „How to overcome the loneliness of the long-distance runner?“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.