dimecres, 7 de setembre de 2011

The Challenges for Catalan Society

About the author of this article for Help Catalonia

Josep Huguet i Biosca

Minister of Innovation, Universities and Enterprise (2006-2010)
Minister of Trade, Tourism and Consumer Affairs (2004-2006)
President of the Josep Irla Foundation
The major challenges before Western societies must motivate us in Catalonia to find the opportunities that are opening up for us, even as everything is being questioned. We have before us a triple challenge: the need for an alternative to the current economic and energy models; the need to rein in capitalism, or to limit its most unbridled, speculative form; and ultimately, the need to meet the demand for the development of a deepening relationship between society and state, and a step forward from representative to participatory democracy.

First of all, an ample social majority in Catalonia must be made aware of the challenge. Only if we are conscious of the enormous upheaval our society will be subjected to in the 21st Century, will we be able to react. Then, and only then, will thinkers and opinion leaders be able to steer the subsequent drive garnered by this perception towards positive attitudes, of innovation and research, both for our productive and financial models, as well as for our socio-political model. A long way, then, from those policies that have played with people's fears, transforming them into authoritarian, populist or conservative positions, deceptively aiming to convince them that this upheaval could be overcome by shielding certain classes, races, countries, closing themselves off though protectionist, exclusionary policies.

If we assume, then, as has always been the case in the Iberian peninsula and in a substantial part of the western Mediterranean, that Catalan society, together with that of northern Italy, have historically been the most innovative, then we need to make this spring forth, making the best of what we have within us, because it's going to be a tough job. Just as the job we had when we led the end of Spain's Ancien Régime and the transition to an industrial, liberal society.

What do we have in our favour? First an intangible: the desire to excel, a mindset for change, and a capacity for effort. More tangible: a scientific system comparable with the best in Europe. Given the results of the European Research Council's calls for proposals, Catalonia is, along with Israel, the only high-density cluster south of the parallel passing through Geneva. A system of autonomous research centres with a capacity for contracting has largely made this possible. Catalonia has a network of technology centres grouped under the TECNIO label that acts as a transmitter between the world of science and technology, and that of business. This network leads over half of European R&D+innovation projects initiated in Spain and half of those backed by the state. Finally, we have a network of 12,000 innovative, internationalised companies that consolidate our capacity to transform the traditional industrial economy into a knowledge economy and society. Moreover, what is also required is a more profound relationship between the members of the triple helix: the administration, the scientific community and entrepreneurs. In the last eight years, the basis to overcome this handicap has been laid down by the National Agreement for Research and Innovation between the Government, political parties, trades unions, employers and universities. This agreement marks a strategic roadmap through to 2025, and is serving as a model for which all those involved undertake the necessary changes together, in coordination. Within this roadmap, there are 17 world challenges for which Catalonia is ready to lead and supply solutions, from water supply and treatment, through diffuse renewable energy, to health, food and nutrition or creativity and the industry of emotions. Thus, despite the poor economic times, Catalonia is reasonably well placed among the motors of change in the production model.

It is clear that we have two further challenges. The control of speculative capitalism, and social and political change. Catalan society is able to contribute to both for the world. Our historical ability to innovate in both fields is well proven. From the original Taula de Canvi , a primitive banking system, the Pau i Treva (Truce of God) compact, the Pact for the Constitutions , our cooperatives, mutual assurers and savings and pensions banks , Catalonia has been a laboratory of social innovation. We just need our humanities academe to abandon their contemplative universe and become more involved with their social responsibility to lead the search for alternatives in every field of social relations together with the social entrepreneurs we have. But there is something we also need, sine qua non: our own sovereign state. As long as Catalonia remains a subordinate society, economically exploited by a backward Spanish state, the innovative capacity of our society will be aborted. In fact, we cannot build anything new upon ill forged foundations that undermine an authoritarian, Jacobin, conservative Spanish state. We cannot contribute anything positive for humanity as long as we find ourselves under the umbrella of an archaic, failed nation-state. It is in this sense that our own newly constituted independent state, which would not repeat the failings of the current constituted states, can go beyond these in a new venture for national emancipation. The Catalan state may thus become a true challenger in social and policy innovation.

Josep Huguet i Biosca
President of the Josep Irla Foundation

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1 comentaris:

  • Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon Pruneda says:
    9 de desembre de 2011 a les 17:59

    A backward Spanish State!?!

    Chiga tu Madre, hija de Puta!!!! catalonia is the backward state. Who has a donkey for a mascot, and who the hell has figurines taking a dump for good luck? catalonia! Ja!

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