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05 / 05 / 2004
Patrick Viveret: ''a change in cultural policy is necessary in order to acknowledge the social wealth of our society''

French philosopher Patrick Viveret calls for a change in Western society’s cultural policy to include new indicators for assessing social wealth, like sustainable development, during his plenary conference today at Forum Dialogue, Interaction 2004.

Within the framework of “Participation in Cultural Life”, the fifth seminar of Forum Dialogue Interaction 2004, Patrick Viveret has given a conference on the mechanisms for assessing social wealth. One of the aims of this seminar is to reconsider social wealth based on the ability of individuals and groups to create social bonds, mechanisms for cooperation and exchange, and various means of enriching relationships between people.

According to Patrick Viveret, consultant of France’s national audit office, our society has traditionally evaluated social wealth according to economic terms that are exclusively monetary, which contributes not only to a narrow vision of social wealth but also omits positive policies for promoting it.

Viveret began his argument with the case of added value as applied to accidents and catastrophes, which paradoxically, have a positive impact on the GDP (gross domestic product) and used the Prestige catastrophe in particular as an example. Viveret pointed out that natural goods, such as air and water, are not considered economic goods until they are harmed as the result of an accident. He also criticized the fact that national accounting systems are based on productive criteria (industry and agriculturle) and do not take into account social and cultural factors. According to Viveret, this situation is currently unsustainable.

Viveret holds that the Copernican revolution of our times will consist of accepting that quality must take precedence over quantity. He criticizes what he calls “rude wealth”, which does not take into account the true values of humans, which cannot be measured economically or quantitatively. Viveret proposes new mechanisms and indicators-- “thermometers” as he calls them—to assess social wealth in our society by following the methodology of Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economy. These new indicators take into account factors such as social health (santé social) and sustainable development. Viveret feels that “good use of cultural, human and social capital theories” is crucial and also recognizes the difficulties faced by the public administrations in implementing this new methodology. Patrick Viveret holds that it is indispensable that the current cultural policy be changed to include these new values of social wealth and that the root of the problem is political, not technical.
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