Roberto Mangabeira-Unger was unequivocal when I asked him what should be the strategy of the social innovation community with the European Union: “I’m passionately against this European Union. It has centralized political and economic power and left national governments to grapple with a shrinking budget for the public services necessary to empower citizens. This has inevitably turned the most vital forces of Europe – especially young people – against the Union”.
“The European Union must invert its course decentralizing power and centralizing the responsibility to intervene wherever society is most in need”.
This is not anyone critizing the EU but one of the most inspiring and thoughtful intellectual rock-stars of our time, Professor of Law at Harvard University, former Minister and adviser of Lula, and inspiration of Obama in the first presidential campaign. I fully subscribe to this vision for another EU.
Roberto Mangabeira-Unger gave a breathtaking keynote speech at Social Frontiers, the international conference of researchers in social innovation held in London this week.
He didn’t thunder on the EU only but challenged the entire social innovation community to become a global movement to transform society: “Social innovation is quartered in civil society but should aspire to move beyond its birthplace becoming transformative force for state power.
This is what Prof Mangabeira-Unger defines the maximalist interpretation of social innovation, but realized that the social innovation community funded by the EU has already reverted to a minimalist interpretation after the first enthusiasm in 2010 – 11.
The European Union is in trouble with its reputation in free fall amongst national governments and the general public. Looking for allies it has scarified on the altar of realpolitik the transformative agenda of social innovation, and used funding to foot the bills of the usual social lobbyists which have appropriately rebranded. Everybody is a social innovator and entrepreneurs in Brussels these days.
How could you blame them. As they are addicted to public funding the European Union is the only available source in a time of austerity. Here is the marriage of convenience which is likely to produce a disable social innovation. But despite the say this matrimony is not due to last. It won’t cure the sickness of European institutions and the complacency of most of the traditional social partners.
The long term health of Europe lies on the harsh cure prescribed by Prof Mangabeira-Unger. The medicine might be hard to swallow, but the result will reward the brave patient.