Declaration: For a culture which is viable for the future.
I. Initial situation
A continual increase in material wealth is our Western culture's primary promise for happiness and salvation. Over a long period of time, this promise was kept in a convincing manner. The material wealth of the population rose considerably. But it is now stagnating for many people, and it is not unusual for it to even decline. There are several reasons for this development:
On the one hand, the physical prerequisites for an increase in material wealth are deteriorating. Bottlenecks are occurring in supply as well as in disposal and result in for example energy and many raw materials but to a large extent also water or agricultural acreage becoming scarce and expensive. And waste is also becoming expensive. This development is accelerating with the escalating number of people who are striving worldwide to emulate the peoples of the West. Besides that, in many countries with Western culture there is the numerical shrinking and steep ageing of the population as well as the mounting costs for damage which ensue from the focus put on the enlarging of material wealth. The loss of social cohesion, certain diseases of modern civilisation or an increase in the detrimental after-effects of prosperity come to mind.
On the other hand, the psychological prerequisites for dynamic economic growth are disappearing. Numerically shrinking and steeply ageing populations are afraid of bigger changes. They prefer safety with modest prosperity to an existence which couples opportunities with risks. At the same time, the non-economic foundations of economic dynamics are eroding.
Under these economic, ecological, demographic and psychological conditions our Western culture, whose main goal is mounting prosperity, is not viable for the future. Neither is it generally applicable. The prospective nine billion people who will populate the earth in a few decades will most definitely not be able to live as we do today.
This forces the peoples of the West to behavioural changes. They have to adapt their way of life to the conditions of a both finite and transparent world. That is not easy for them, for they are strongly moulded by gainful employment, the pursuit of possessions and material prosperity. Even more significant, however, is that they have caused the functionality of their societies, namely: full employment, social security, social peace and even the stability of the free-democratic order to become dependent on economic growth and increasing material wealth.
The prerequisite for the necessary behavioural changes is a lasting transformation of the awareness of broad sections of the population. People have to once again recognise that a culture whose foremost aim is to increase material wealth is a poor culture. The elements of every culture such as art, politics, religion, economy, science or certain ways of seeing and behaving no longer maintain a dynamic balance and are therefore only inadequately effective. This balance must be restored. In particular, social interaction, mutual help, responsibility and affection must gain in importance parallel to declining economic strength. All in all, our Western culture has to arise again in all its richness and its great depth, variety and beauty. That however means: it has to be fundamentally renewed. Only then will it once more be viable for the future.
Within the framework of Denkwerk Zukunft we - politically independent men and women from all the German-speaking countries with different occupations and from different social sectors - want to contribute to this by harmonising and intensifying the manifold activities of ours which are aimed at renewing our culture, thereby achieving more effectiveness. We want to point out the risks but above all the opportunities of a reduction in the growth of material wealth and make people aware of the abundance of non-material forms of richness. We want to show that our society can prosper and remain fully functional even without the prevailing dominance of material things and that greater non-material prosperity can even make life more worth living. An apparent loss can turn out to be a gain.
Our goal is to widen the understanding of prosperity which is presently restricted to material things. Prosperity is also education and musical training, a heightened understanding of nature and art, the broad unfolding of human imagination and creativity, science and religion. Only such an understanding of prosperity will enable the next generations to lead a rich, worthwhile life.