Sumak Kawsay – el buen vivir

Sumak Kawsay translates literally as “the good life” – or, in Spanish, “el buen vivir”. It refers to the traditional worldview of the indigenous peoples who live along the Andes mountain range in South America. This worldview encompasses a socially just and ecologically sustainable model of living that encourages individuals to lead their people in a responsible manner, strengthen their communities and live in harmony with nature. It’s underpinned by the understanding that each element of the cosmos – humans included – is part of a single entity and that, together, these elements exist in an endless cycle of renewal. It does not recognise the drive to amass material wealth in excess of one’s needs, nor the concept of linear development – the assertion that “tomorrow must be better than today”.
The Sumak Kawsay worldview is seen as a potential alternative to the concept of prosperity, progress and growth that currently prevails. Today, every major economy is guided by the logic espoused by American President Harry S. Truman after the end of World War II when he asserted that “Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace. And the key to greater production is a wider and more vigorous application of modern scientific and technical knowledge”.
Two South American countries, Ecuador and Bolivia, have enshrined “the good life” in their respective constitutions as a national goal.