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CASE Special Events

Conscious hedonism and basic needs. A thriving life that does not cost the Earth

Orsolya Lelkes (CASE, LSE)

Tuesday 24 May 2022 11:30 - 12:45

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About this event

Our model of progress appears to fail: there is no single country on Earth that has achieved a social minimum while also remaining below the ecological ceiling. The recent International Panel on Climate Change (ICPP) report as well as other evidence urge for a major systemic adjustment.

Listen to a recording of the event:

Lelkes argues that flourishing life (or eudaimonia, based on the ancient Greek concept by Aristotle, complemented by modern psychological research) can be a normative framework inspiring individual and collective solutions. Its key elements are (1) conscious actions (2) with an awareness of “friendship” and the community, (3) a “middle-way” with respect to pleasures, between painful asceticism and indulgence. Ancient Greek hedonism philosophers cultivated the skills for a pleasurable life, but at the same time emphasized inner freedom without being enslaved to our desires. In other words, “wants” are distinguished from “needs” (Max-Neef, Ian Gough). For this, autonomy is essential, and it differs from individualism. 

The key task of social policies is to provide basic security and to foster the key elements of flourishing, as these enable individuals to follow more pro-social and pro-ecological life strategies. If basic needs are finite, as argued by modern theorists, sustainable development is possible. There are clearly long-term social gains of such policies, enabling both our survival and our thriving. 

The presentation is based on Dr Lelkes’ recent book titled „Sustainable Hedonism. A Thriving Life that Does not Cost the Earth” (Bristol University Press, May 2021). She gratefully acknowledges the support of late Sir Prof John Hills in making it happen and intends to celebrate the completion of the book at CASE with this talk. 

Orsolya Lelkes is an independent scholar and psychological counsellor, former Deputy Director at the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research in Vienna and former Head of Economic Research at Hungarian Ministry of Finance. She completed her PhD at CASE at the LSE.

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