Challenges of the 21st Century:
Democracy, Environment, Inequalities, Intersectionality
Twenty years after the start of our century, the optimism of the Millennium has faded and the challenges we face for living together on a limited planet are even more urgent.
While the expansion and the deepening of democratization was taken for granted at the turn of the Millennium, democracy has been at stake in an increasing number of countries, while its key component such as diversity and equal respect for all citizens are threatened. The hope for a global democracy able to tackle global issues such as climate change, migrations and rising inequalities have faded. It has now become clear that to face global challenges, democracy needs to be re-invented within and beyond the representative system.
The environmental crisis and climate change are now a worrying reality. How can we live together on a limited planet? Land and food have become again major objects of struggles. Environmental and socio-territorial conflicts have multiplied against extractivist industries. Who are the actors who bring innovative solutions to keep our societies thriving within the planetary boundaries? How does the global environmental crisis lead us to re-think our world and our discipline?
Inequalities have considerably increased since the turn of the Millennium. We can now count twenty-six persons who own more wealth than the poorest half of humanity. This level of inequality is a major threat to democracy and to ecology. Inequalities particularly affect marginalized populations and women in their professional, public and private lives.
Intersectionality has become major theme in the ISA conferences and in our discipline over the last 20 years. Overcoming the lasting and interconnected economic, racial, colonial and gender discriminations and the violence that maintain them is another major challenge of our time. The rising consciousness of intersectionality is both a result and a trigger of the rise of subaltern actors and movements since 1992. Indigenous communities, minorities, feminists and small farmers have resisted injustice by combining practices, social struggles and alternative worldviews.
The 2020 ISA Forum will provide sociological analyses of these four global challenges paying particular attention to their interconnections and to possible solutions. We will discuss how both progressive and conservative actors and movements tackle these challenges and their conflictive perspectives. We will use this Forum to ask how our discipline has been meeting these four global challenges and it has been transformed by them. What are the contributions of the actors and epistemologies of the South? What are the new trends in global sociology that allow innovative analyses of these challenges? What are the main obstacles we face to tackle these problems? How can innovative sociological analyses contribute to grasp and to face our common problems in the Global Age?
ISA Vice-President Research