associational life

The new territories of associative life in the 21st century

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A civilization with an interactive and culturally mixed global dimension is in parturition, reshaping our associative and institutional landscapes. What can we expect for the cohesion of our social body, in danger of crumbling? Can it be established on solid foundations? The ants of associative solidarity answer in the affirmative and open new horizons for social life in our country.
 
« UIt's a kind of slow riot, with no social relays capable of giving it a collective form". Such is the sociologist's vision (1) on the state of our social body. The spectacle is quite different for citizens involved in associative life, insofar as they are appreciated as "social entrepreneurs", "spiritual explorers" or "workers of intelligence. »
 
In doing so, they work to transform the conflictual cohabitation between individuals and society into a dynamic of peaceful co-education, which proves to be contagious. It is so true that the progress of the Society is not due to grandiose achievements but to a coherent set of modest advances that renew morals and opinions. 

The galaxy of the "not-for-profit"...

It is created annually in our country, which counts nearly one and a half million of them, for a staff of 12 million volunteers, some 33,000 "non-profit" associations claiming to be governed by the law of 1901. Article 1 of this law authorizes them to carry out all legal activities, on condition that "the persons who agree to pool their knowledge and activities on a permanent basis pursue a purpose other than that of sharing profits. "At present, the social, environmental and think-tank sectors in particular are recruiting the largest number of members.
 
Statistically speaking, our associative landscape has been engaged for several decades in a cultural revolution, which has led its actors to do without hierarchical governance, and to govern themselves in "free union", by means of collectives of animation.

Focus on the values of the relationship

This new behaviour in associative life is intended to promote the values of interpersonal relationships on a daily basis. Hence the festive style of its manifestations, whose priority, according to testimonies gathered on the spot, is "to place the joy of living at the heart of a collective project, to the exclusion of all militancy of the sacrificial type. Everyone is invited to go there, not with a personal ambition or point of view to defend, but with resources to share, which will allow them "to recharge their batteries, to deepen their expectations and to make them concrete in a step forward". »
 
And it is on this wavelength that social entrepreneurs of this style jointly animate meeting places in the form of lodgings and discussion forums and not essentially platforms for ideological struggles. As a result, their alliances with other networks are not defensive pacts, but are based on a way of agreeing on issues in order to be in harmony with actions. 
 
For their part, many association activists are no longer satisfied with the status of intermittent workers, but prefer to invest in an almost permanent form of mobilization in favour of the causes of their choice. As some have told me, "I think about it all the time. This adventure expects me to be a living presence. It gives me food for thought and makes me alert to the common destiny that we embody. How far? To whom? Is this an encounter like any other? « 
Taking up the cry "another world is possible", dear to the Surrealist Movement of the 1930s, this young generation explicitly evokes concerns of this kind:
- Replace hierarchical authority with collective intelligence,
- Investing in joie de vivre and cultural values,
- To combine personal and social development in order to "grow in humanity," an expression born at the annual inter-associative congress in Lyon entitled "Dialogues in Humanity. »
             
While the future prospects of this new mindset are undeniable, they are not necessarily unanimous in all quarters.
Let's listen to Geneviève Esmenjaud, Vittoz therapist: "Yes, for some time now, things have been bubbling up everywhere in community life, but the horizon for its renovation is still uncertain. I am not pessimistic, but my prognosis is reserved. We are fragile. What we need is a clear vision of our expectations and the stakes of such a renovation. And also a formulation of behaviours that would help us move forward. « 
In spite of these difficulties, our contemporaries are increasingly asking this nascent associative milieu to help them overcome their daily constraints, from the very beginning of their commitment: "Give us something else than what we already know" they complain, "because it is no longer enough to give meaning to our lives. » 

Surprise party at the Spanish hostel

The neophyte in this case will have to expect a "Spanish hostel" style welcome that will invite him to feed with his creative resources the conduct of the project in genesis. "Welcome here to all those who want to change the world." In return, they are promised this commitment by the inviting power: "our services are close to individual support and methodological advice and do not fall within the scope of political action. »
They will then be offered à la carte reflection workshops, debates and animations on a playful or theatrical mode, for example. Thus, after a few months of incubation, the founding intention of the Group in genesis will be able to give birth to a dynamic of the event and thus set the tone for an original approach.
 
In this field, the creative experiment carried out by the Itinerant Congress entitled: "And if beauty could save the World" is undoubtedly one of the most successful of this panorama. Since 1993, it has brought together hundreds of participants from 23 countries and the most varied horizons in several world capitals, for times of celebration, work and renewal. According to Claire Fabre, its co-founder: "This congress is neither a movement nor an association. It is a current, a breath, a challenge that gradually guides the path of those who are both its source and its receptacle. »

Towards a new phase in history?

The scope and stakes of these emerging dynamics are generating growing interest in the scientific community, particularly among researchers published in the collections of MAUSS (Mouvement anti-utilitariste en Sciences sociales) directed by Alain Caillé.
 
As diagnosed by Historian Emmanuel Todd, "This conscious surpassing of the individual interest testifies to a qualitative leap in human consciousness ... which can be the beginning of a new phase in History. » (2)
 
This, it seems to me, is the ambition of the second-generation associative contract, because it breaks new ground compared to its predecessor, by leading the partners who join it to take personal responsibility for its implementation. This scenario, by giving them greater power over the management of their destiny, will also allow them to live a collective adventure that is often exciting. 
 
It is too early for us to define the ethics to be respected in the new territories of the associative movement.
In the meantime, let us simply adhere to this conviction of the wise Amartya Sen: "Everyone must now take responsibility for the physical and moral survival of the World. »
 
1)      According to François Dubet, Le Travail des Sociétés, Seuil 2 000
2)      After Democracy, Threshold, $2,000
 

 
 
 
 

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