International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Gaurang Yajnik  
The global economic and financial crisis coupled with environmental degradation, poverty, inequality,  
injustice, increase in unemployment are posing serious apprehension against the idea of development  
based on high rate of economic growth as this notion of development has many social, ecological and  
economic negative effects and as a result it remains ineffective in providing solutions to the problems  
endangering the very existence of humans on this planet. This creates pressure on global economic,  
political and social structure. Even the approaches like ‘sustainable development’ and ‘Green economy’  
are incapable of solving these problems and therefore alternative world views are emerging from  
different parts of the world disregarding this present development model and pressing the need to  
achieve wellbeing of human in true sense like, degrowth, Buen Vivir, Gandhian economic thought etc.  
This paper discusses the concept of Buen vivir in the light of present day global economic and  
environmental crisis.  
Key Word : Buen Vivir, Degrowth, Gandhian Economic thought.  
Buen vivir is a loose Spanish translation of “Living well” or Sumak kawsay. This concept has its origin  
with the indigenous peoples of Andean region of Latin America. Eduardo Gundynas describes Buen  
Vivir or Vivir Bien, are the Spanish words used in Latin America to describe alternatives to development  
focused on the good life in a broad sense. (Gundynas, 441)  
According to Myna Cunnigham:  
In recent years a development concept is beginning to be advanced that attempts to  
incorporate the outlook of indigenous people’s: In the Qhichwa language it is known as Sumak  
kawsay, suma qamaña in Aymara, sumak ñandereco in Guarani, Laman Laka in Miskitu, and  
Buen Vivir / Vivir Bien in Spanish, pointing out that living well does not just refer to per capita  
income or economic growth has summed up the concept. In Ecuador and Bolivia the concept  
was included in their respective constitutions. It presumes common cultural mores, and harmony  
between human beings and Mother Earth. Buen Vivir, or Living Well, stands on values that stand  
for culture for life, for living together, and for complementarity not just among people but also  
harmony between us and nature, for the protection of the commonweal and of life in benefit of  
communities and nations as a whole.” (Cunningham, 1)  
In this sense the concept of Buen Vivir indicates cultural transformation which objects the individualistic  
and hegemonic characteristics of capitalist development model and tried to provide an alternative  
which is deeply rooted in the rich pluralistic cultural diversities and traditions and cosmovision of  
indigenous peoples of Latin America to create an appropriate base for development model aiming at  
greater sustainability and people centric social wellbeing. Explaining the concept Gunynas further  
says that:  
It is a plural concept with two main entry points. On the one hand, it includes critical reactions to  
classical Western development theory. On the other hand, it refers to alternatives to development  
emerging from indigenous traditions, and in this sense the concept explores possibilities beyond the  
modern Eurocentric tradition.  
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The richness of the term is difficult to translate into English. It includes the classical ideas of quality of  
life, but with the specific idea that well-being is only possible within a community. Furthermore, in most  
approaches the community concept is understood in an expanded sense, to include Nature. Buen  
Vivir therefore embraces the broad notion of well-being and cohabitation with others and Nature. In  
this regard, the concept is also plural, as there are many different interpretations depending on cultural,  
historical and ecological setting. (Gundynas, 441)  
The cosmovision of Buen Vivir implies harmonious and non exploitative relationship with nature. As  
Julia Wartenberg explains:  
The model promotes balance and harmony through social community and congruous relationship  
with nature. Governed by a set of principles which maintain that all beings, human and non-human,  
must live harmoniously together as each is part of the other, Buen Vivir is in direct contrast to the  
individualistic and economic profit maximizing model U.S. society follows. Natural resource exploitation  
is reproached and equity, democracy, participation, protection and bio-diversity are all considered  
central to individuals’ and societal well-being. (Wartenberg, ii)  
Moreover, the concept of Buen Vivir emphasises plurality, in the sense that Buen Vivir can be lived and  
materialised differently in each different societies with their specific context and situations. But the  
common thread between all of them would be the goal of living balanced life with nature and all other  
living creatures of the planet by forging new understanding of human-nature relation.  
Politically also the Buen Vivir got recognition when it was incorporated in the constitutions of two Latin  
American countries i.e. Bolivia and Ecuador. The introduction of Sumak Kawsay and Suma Qamana  
Buen Vivir) as a eco-political measure in the constitutions of these two countries was the result of the  
need to search for a new civilising alternative to neoliberalism which on the one hand can protect the  
continuity of life on the planet from global warming which is destroying the very basic elements of life  
and on the other which can displace the market centric individualistic and capitalist tendencies.  
As Magdalena León rightly observes:  
Buen Vivir is described as the collective achievement of a full life or a life in fulfillment, based on  
harmonic and balanced relations among human beings and all living beings, in reciprocity and  
complementarity. It involves the acknowledgment that human beings are a part of nature, that we  
depend on it and that we are inter-dependent among ourselves. This perspective signals a break with  
the centrality of the individual, as well as the superiority of human beings and the notions of progress,  
development and “well-being” in the capitalist sense. (Lanza, 24)  
As the concept of Buen Vivir is ever evolving or “the concept under construction” can be looked at  
from different perspective Tara Ruttenberg looks at Buen Vivir as a development alternative in the  
context of Wellbeing Economics and observed:  
Wellbeing economics stems from a strong regard for qualitative human values of what constitutes  
a meaningful and happy life outside the confines of economic growth, material income and  
consumption, focusing instead on how the realization of true wellbeing can be the principal goal  
of a peoplecentered economics. This is a radical divergence from the profit-growth- and wealth-  
oriented models of capitalist economics we know so well. (Ruttenberg, 73-74)  
While evaluating the national Buen Vivir Development Plan of Ecuador and Bolivia in the context of  
human development objectives like reduction of poverty and inequality, increasing human capabilities,  
improvement in the quality of life, education etc. She observes:  
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The social wellbeing outcomes of the policies implemented under the Buen Vivir Development  
Plan deserve recognition: With poverty dropping from 37.6 percent in 2006 to 25.4 percent in June  
of 2012 and child labor decreasing from 16.9 percent to 5.8 percent over the same period, in  
conjunction with education spending increasing from $90 million to $763 million, it should come as  
no surprise that 53 percent of Ecuadorans believe that the State works in favor of redistributive  
justice, the highest ranking in Latin America.(Pandilla Luis) Similarly, satisfaction with quality of life  
among the poorest quintile in Ecuador grew from 15 percent in 2006 to 40 percent in 2012,  
(Pandilla Luis) highlighting that improvements in poverty reduction have been both quantitative and  
qualitative in nature. (Pandilla Luis) (Ruttenberg, 82)  
In Bolivia, the concept of Buen Vivir (or Suma Qamaña in Aymara) has been adopted into the  
language of the Constitution, with the state promoting the ethical-moral principles of a pluralistic  
society...The government went a step further by creating the 2006-2011 National Development Plan  
for a Dignified, Sovereign, Productive and Democratic Bolivia for Living Well (Vivir Bien). (Ruttenberg,  
ECLAC’s data show a significant drop in both measures over the seven-year period from 2002-  
009, with poverty decreasing from 62.4 percent to 42.4 percent and indigence dropping from  
7.1 percent to 22.4 percent over the same timeframe.(Ruttenberg, 83-84)  
In both Ecuador and Bolivia, the Buen Vivir experience offers a hopeful example of local values  
and wellbeing needs being articulated by indigenous populations and incorporated into government  
policies, effectively establishing a two-way policy relationship between bottom-up and top-down  
approaches to the development. (Ruttenberg, 84)  
Critical evaluation of Buen Vivir:  
The critics of Buen Vivir argues that the concept of Buen Vivir is retro in the sense that it leads us to go  
backwards or into the past and does not have any precise framework or strategy for implementation.  
Gundynas disagrees with this criticism and feels that:  
Critics see BuenVivir as a mystical returnto anindigenous past, lackingany practical strategy. This is  
not the case, in some contexts, BuenVivir presents precise proposals and strategies. These include  
reforms in legal forms, introduction of environmental accounting, tax reforms, dematerialization of  
economies and alternative regional integration within South America. These proposals show that many  
different and even complex instruments can be handled under the BuenVivir framework. (Gundynas,  
Further it is also observed that Buen Vivir challenges the basis of modernity. Here also Gundynas  
disagrees and observes that “Buen Vivir offers a common ground where critical perspectives on  
development, originated from different ontologies, meet and interact, is a new space for dealing with  
other alternate ontologies.” (Gundynas, 447) It is also observed that the concept of Buen Vivir is a  
constantly evolving and therefore the question of its universal applicability arises. As Tara Ruttenberg  
observes that “Thus, while the buen vivir paradigm presents an inspiring framework for revolutionizing  
development policy and practice, it is important to recognize current structural and institutional  
limitations that threaten the potential for a true transition toward post-extractivist, post-neoliberal  
development alternatives.” (Ruttenberg, 85)  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Thus, to sum up, The above discussion leads us to think seriously and compelling us to redesign our  
course of action for our and future generations’ betterment. Our too much dependence on monetary  
system and attachment towards exponential economic growth needs to be readdressed. It is the  
modern economics which is directly or indirectly at the root cause of all this. We are at the situation  
where finite resources are depleting and sound, viable and sustainable alternative to it is yet to be  
discovered. What we can do is we have to redesign our present pattern of consumption in accordance  
with our limits.The concept of Buen Vivir is still evolving and it’s universal applicability is still needs to  
be assessed. In spite of that it is very necessary for mankind to develop a model which is holistic in  
nature and can solve all the miseries that the world face. It may happen in future where mankind may  
develop a model from the combinations of different concepts and thoughts like, Buen Vivir, Degrowth,  
Gandhian Economic Thought, Happyness Index etc.  
Works cited:  
Cunningham, M (2012). People-centred development and globalization.  
nningham.pdf P.1  
Gundynas, E (2011). Buen Vivir: Today’s Tommorow. Development, 54(4), (441-447).  
Leon, Magdalena (2012) Quoted in Lanza, M. (2012). Buen Vivir: An introduction from a women’s  
rights perspective in Bolivia (No. 2). Toronto: The Association for Women’s Rights in Development  
Luis Padilla, “Evoluciones positivas del país en materia social y económica en el libro ‘Cien logros de  
la Revolución Ciudadana,’” Agencia de Noticias Andes, October 15, 2012, <  
econom%C3%ADa/7674.html> (accessed December 20, 2012). Quoted in Ruttenberg Tara (2013).  
Wellbeing Economics and Buen Vivir : Development Alternatives for Inclusive Human Security, PRAXIS  
The Fletcher Journal of Human Security Vol. XXVIII – Pp.68-93  
Warterberg, Julia (2012). Buen Vivir: Redifining Wealth and Happiness, Available for down load at  
Associate Professor & Head, Department of Economics, Shree Sahajanand Vanijya Mahavidyalaya,  
Ahmedabad, Email :