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  • Author or Editor: Mary P. Murphy x
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Chapter 4 explores the interdependence between people’s agency ‘to do and be’ and the societal, culture and structural institutions that mediate their lives. It explores how institutions act as constraints and enablers to structure our political, economic and social interactions, influencing our opportunities, enabling and constraining our agency and often exacerbating social divisiveness. It argues new institutions need capacity to promote new norms, or revive old ones, and counter behaviours and beliefs that maintain myths of individualism, competition, consumption and selfishness. This chapter establishes the need for a balanced ecosocial settlement with institutions that can creatively balance reciprocity, freedom and our collective interdependence. It discusses how particularly local institutions need to reimagine work and care, enable or facilitate autonomy, and work collaboratively through a culture of co-production, collaboration and participation. Enabling institutions need to facilitate socially useful and environmentally sustainable work, enabling social inclusion policy and employment in the care and social economies. This latter theme is explored in the Irish case study in the third section of this chapter.

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Building on Chapters 3 and 4, Chapter 5 examines how to best meet people’s basic non-substitutable needs in ways that enable ecological and societal wellbeing. Some needs, for example, clothing, can likely be met within the scope of the market, but many needs are best provided through state, social or collective mechanisms. Reducing collective consumption offers the best potential to reduce emissions and safeguard natural resources, while also being key to more equal outcomes. The chapter draws heavily on the concept of UBS which are key to reducing reliance on the market to satisfy essential needs and are a central building block of a more decommodified ecosocial state. The first section of the chapter argues for the importance of collective needs and against market provision, it makes the case for reciprocity, and state, society and economic democracy, all of which can be promoted through UBS. The second section of the chapter further clarifies the concept of UBS, unpacks the functions of the state, and uses care services to ground the discussion of UBS. The Irish case study offers a blueprint for UBS and universal care in Ireland.

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The focus of this chapter is on income support. A fundamental overhaul of existing welfare trajectories means shifting away from institutions and policies that ‘commodify’ labour and prioritise productivity growth and employment as the primary mechanism to social citizenship. Decommodification requires that policy and practice promote socially useful work and greater varieties of participation beyond the labour market that facilitate reciprocal interdependent care relationships throughout our life cycles. The income support system needs to complement principles of an enabling and facilitating welfare system that primarily works through UBS to meet collective needs. The first section of this chapter explores a spectrum of income support options including universal basic income (UBI), minimum income guarantees (MIG) and PI. The mid-section of the chapter offers PI as an example of a state income support system that de-emphasises production, consumption and employment, and enables and values other forms of work, while recovering time for activities that have social and ecological value such as providing care, democratic participation and sustaining the environment. The Irish case study offers a blueprint for income support reform towards a PI, building on the experience of pandemic income supports, and a subsequent artist basic income pilot in Ireland.

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This chapter explores how an ecosocial welfare future can emerge. It is located in a Polanyian understanding that social protection emerges as the response of a double movement from society pressuring the state to re-regulate the disembedded economy to better serve the needs of society. This chapter is realistic about the strong structural power of those who benefit most from maintaining the status quo, and in this context unpacks concepts of power, domination, empowerment and transformation. The chapter begins to tease out the politics of transformation and how the concept of ecosocial welfare can offer a focus for a wider struggle for transformation. The chapter then discusses whether crisis might be an opportunity for change, concluding that crisis acts more as an accelerant of change and how important it is to be ‘ready now’. The second part of the chapter explores civil society as a space for agency and mobilisation. It asks how various movements, including those seeking gender, climate and economic justice, might coalesce to pressure for a new form of ecosocial welfare? Understanding strategic logics of transformation assists us in identifying barriers to effective transformation and inclusive participation in collective action. The Irish case study focuses on power and recent transformative moments in Ireland.

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The focus of this chapter is on our ecosocial political imaginary and a chicken and egg conundrum: the relationship between mobilisation and alternatives. Alternatives should not be highly developed policy blueprints or detailed maps, but they do have to signal the direction and starting point of change. The chapter first argues for policy imagination and for the need to articulate alternatives in the tradition of ‘realist pragmatism’ or ‘real utopias’. It assesses the role of ideas in orienting change during crisis. The second section of the chapter examines the importance of framing alternatives in constructive, offensive rather than defensive, language capable of mobilising a wide range of actors, uniting rather than dividing society and offering hope in being ‘for’ rather than ‘against’. This underscores the importance of who participates in articulating alternatives and ‘vocabularies of our imagination’. The Irish section reviews examples of framing transformative ideas in recent constitutional referendums in Ireland.

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Addressing the central theme of structure and agency, this chapter explores the dilemma that decision-making entails structural power often controlled by elites, while transformative change often happens through the agency of people power and collective action. Key to enabling transformation is the relationship between mobilisation and democratic institutions; we need more democracy (more equalising structures) and more mobilised citizens (more agentic power). The dominant form of power in political parties needs to relate to and facilitate the transformative power of mobilisation. The first section of the chapter briefly contextualises the structural power of capital, corporations and elites and addresses the importance of engagement of people in ideational debate in rich forms of participatory and deliberative democracy: a form of institutional democracy described as ‘high-energy democracy’. The second section discusses strategies for collective mobilisation, arguing for coalition-building and mobilisation around environmental, gender and social reproduction and traditional distributional concerns about income equality and public services. Arguing that necessity is the mother of coalition, the combined evils of environmental destruction and inequality merit a new political mobilisation in the form of a triple movement. The chapter concludes by discussing Ireland from the perspective of movement-building, examining various constellations of actors, and clusters of mobilisations.

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We all now have to find our place in engagement with climate change and be part of the demand for systemic change. The conclusion interrogates the propositions in the book to test whether they are coherent and convincing arguments. It echoes the challenge, identifying a clear problem and proposing an ecosocial welfare future as part of a broader transformative agenda to a post-growth world. It situates a political strategy for making it happen through a deepening and widening of democratic institutions and processes and inclusive participation and coalition-building. The conclusion underscores the urgency of now and how crisis only offers opportunity to those who are ready with ideas to enact. Ready now

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This short introductory chapter first outlines the problems, solutions and strategies that inform the underlying argument for ecosocial policy. It then justifies the case for social, political and policy imagination alongside action which offers hope. It explores the author’s motivation for writing the book and the choice of Ireland as an anchoring case study. Finally, the chapter outlines the structure of the book and the content of each chapter.

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The book integrates ecological and social arguments in identifying the problems and solutions to issues of contemporary sustainability. Intentionally light in its presentation of theory, key concepts discussed include commodification, globalisation, sustainability, institutions, services, income, participation, imaginaries, transformation, and power. The book focuses on the problem; the cojoined realities of increasing inequality and environmental destruction, and part of the solution; a recast welfare system as an ecosocial welfare system capable of enabling society to meet the challenges of achieving sustainability and equality. Ecosocial welfare reflects the transformational potential of social policy. It is mapped, in this book, as specific reform proposals combining enabling institutions, universal basic services and income support (Participation Income). The intention is to enable different outcomes for work, income, time and care, and facilitate socially useful work and flourishing lives.

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The book integrates ecological and social arguments in identifying the problems and solutions to issues of contemporary sustainability. Intentionally light in its presentation of theory, key concepts discussed include commodification, globalisation, sustainability, institutions, services, income, participation, imaginaries, transformation, and power. The book focuses on the problem; the cojoined realities of increasing inequality and environmental destruction, and part of the solution; a recast welfare system as an ecosocial welfare system capable of enabling society to meet the challenges of achieving sustainability and equality. Ecosocial welfare reflects the transformational potential of social policy. It is mapped, in this book, as specific reform proposals combining enabling institutions, universal basic services and income support (Participation Income). The intention is to enable different outcomes for work, income, time and care, and facilitate socially useful work and flourishing lives.

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