It’s a bright afternoon with subtle chills . It’s an afternoon in December but, in this powdery landscape, it could be April. Footprints lead a few steps down to a Central London building. A breeze is up; the air is bracing. Portia Antonia Alexis swings open the door and gathers me inside. Portia has risen to prominence as one of the leading economic influencers within the millennial generation.
“I feel as if I know you already,” she says happily, setting a latch against the cold. Slim, poised, and—unexpectedly for someone often seen in sharp suits—funny.She wears a blue jumper, jeans, and black leather boots she picked up years ago in a vintage store. The comfortable apartment around her is trimmed with personal details. A softly faded vintage rug extends down the stone corridor. A side table, lit by a simple lamp, bears silver-framed black-and-white photos of her with her family and friends.
Many people first encountered Portia Antonia Alexisupon her receipt of the economic paper of the year. By then, though, she had already built a notable career as a London consumer goods business analyst at firms such as McKinsey and Company and Merrill Lynch.
“I remember how nerve racking it was when I first arrived for my first investment banking internship,’’ she says, “I almost didn’t have the guts to follow something I was excited about doing, because I didn’t know anyone else who’d done it or other people made me question it.”
Recently she’s tried to help young women who suffered from domestic violence with a pathway into academia within her role as a victim support worker for the London Metropolitan Police. Years later, she is one of the key economic influencers with hundreds of thousands of fans online.
“Where would you like to sit?” she asks, gesturing with a mug of green tea. When Portia was still a child, the family jetsetted across the globe from Africa to London, to New York and later settled in a North London house with a large library. Extended family often visited, and the kids were left alone to make their own fun. Portia was the youngest girl and excelled in school but was not one to skulk in libraries.
“I wanted to do well academically,” she recalls. “But it was equally important to do things I loved. I loved dance, writing and sports.”
At school she was a celebrated ballet dancer and equestrian. Coming from a diplomatic background Portia always enjoyed contributing to her community.
‘My father taught us it was our responsibility to give back to those coming behind us. I followed my heart and my interests laid with income inequality, social mobility and mental health. I loved math and I used my knowledge to allow me to analyse global problems,’ she says. ‘I loved people and I wanted to tell their stories,’ she tells us.
Today she sits comfortably as she discusses in-depth her concept of a new social contract. In a candid interview with us, Portia discusses exploring human-based capitalism for a new social contract.
Within the structure of a capitalist society where money prevails, there is a growing need to rethink human and capital within this society.
According to Portia, money is not about good or bad; it is not even, fundamentally, an economic problem. ‘Money is first and foremost a political issue. It is up to all citizens to debate, collectively, the type of society in which we want to live, and the role that is devoted to money in building this society and maintaining social cohesion, as well, the importance and the need to rethink the man in a new social contract is relegated to the rank of priority,’ Portia states.
The social contract, theorized by Hobbes, sought to justify the legitimacy of the State. The individual, in the so-called “natural” State, has no other limit than his own existential appetite. Naturally, he would seek to go after his power of being, his desires and his impulses. Defining man as amoral, Hobbes describes a state of permanent psychological and physical insecurity from which would flow a “natural right” to use his potential under the fire of his own will.
There would, therefore, be a need to institute peace, by a state, endowed with the monopoly of violence, which it would use to fight against terror and anarchy. This involves individuals, whom they subordinate to in their interest and, ultimately, in the general interest.
According to Rousseau, the pioneer of the social contract, there are inequalities that are not, fundamentally, a problem for him, but they must not be so high that they would force some to sell or cause, to the poorest, a loss of freedom. The State must, therefore, supervise them.
Portia states one must understand that, ‘if the original aim was to protect individuals from anarchistic interpersonal justice, it is now subject to new demands. With individual freedoms aspiring to be set in stone and social gains having joined the rank of law for several generations, new aspirations are emerging in a dynamic of improving living conditions.
Thus, and with exceptions, it is no longer a question of defending freedom of expression, the right to property, the right to education, the right to decent working conditions, but the time has come to pursue an ideal of equality, of a more total state devotion (with, for example, the claim of a right to a universal allowance) or even more representativeness.
Based on achievements formerly subject to fierce fighting, the individual, therefore, manifests a new requirement that is now a question of integration into the new social contract.’ She is enthusiastic and informed as she states her opinions.
Portia continues: ‘throughout history, the common point to capitalism and socialism is that their doctrine is based on a materialist referential. The salvation of man seems to rise in the two cases of material concerns, capitalism erecting them as an end and socialism instead as a means of achieving an objective of equality between men.’
‘It must be recognized that these two ideologies were initially developed during the industrial revolution, opening the era known as “modern,” where society was focused on the development of mass production. Science and the development of technologies were seen as vectors of progress in society, allowing the increase of wealth and the liberation of man, his alienation by his power of domination over nature.
The happiness of man had to go through the material satisfaction of his needs, of his comfort. The context has evolved, the industrial capitalism initially of the owner entrepreneur has given way to new forms of capitalism.In particular, the advent of financial capitalism, of the separation between on the one hand the shareholders who own the companies, which can be both private fortunes, small savers, institutional investors and hedge funds, and on the other, the bosses, the managers of companies.
Thusinducing a divergence between the world of finance sometimes described as “virtual” economy and that of as a “real” economy, even if they are intrinsically linked. In addition, regulatory mechanisms have been put in place in most societies based on capitalism, whether in terms of social protection or regulatory supervision of the actors.’ Portia says, as she makes me another cup of tea.
‘These mechanisms proved to be insufficient. Thus, new forms for rethinking man in economic thought have emerged.’ says Portia.
Portia outlined three points for us to ponder on for a new social contract:
Organizing social life through Solidarity
If Solidarity has changed in nature over the centuries, from mechanical Solidarity to organic Solidarity, it nonetheless constitutes the organizing principle of all social life.
What does the expression “rethinking solidarity” mean? This is not to suggest that the principles of Solidarity have disappeared in many societies, and the necessity to build new ones is apparent.
The idea of ”new solidarities” to be invented to cope with the decline of the moral order is of a great naivety since life in society places every human being from birth in a relationship of interdependence to others and that in all stages of socialization, Solidarity is the bedrock of what could be called the homo sociological, the man linked to others and to society not only to ensure his protection from the hazards of life but also to satisfy his vital need for recognition, the source of his identity and his existence as a man.
In fact, this notion of Solidarity is the basis of humanistic thought, which aims to promote and place Man at the centre of his thought. It is primarily inspired by values of Renaissance humanism, but placed in the current context of globalization and technological progress, defining itself rather as an alternative to materialist values. It aims to consider a man at the centre of society, to have for objective the human development, the improvement of the happiness of the human being, the progress of humanity.
Happiness is measured not only in material comfort but above all in spiritual and relational satisfaction, the art of living together. It is based on respect for others, tolerance, openness, belief in the abilities of every man, his potential.
The necessity of a new social contract
The hard-working middle class, which was the visible horizon for the social ascent of the poor, where merit and adherence to the system were rewarded, which owed them stability in return, returned to poverty without the burden that weighs on his shoulders be lightened. No future has replaced the hope of a better life for each generation.
Also, the people, noting the privileges enjoyed by an oligarchy, noting the disappearance of the social elevator that worked on merit, consider themselves justified in rejecting an unjust order that does not respect the spirit of the social contract. And when the representatives he has chosen himself democratically do not condemn the system that crushes him, but on the contrary relay this system rather than they represent the people who elected them, they lose all credibility in his eyes. It is then that the people turn around with the violence of despair against the institution itself.
Moreover, as the figure below shows, the crisis of representative democracy is becoming more and more serious.
The New Social Contract should be multi-party
The budding proto-capitalism of which Hobbes was the contemporary has given way to rooted and pluripotent capitalism whose dynamics underlie the political world. It would, therefore, be important to consider large multinationals as one of the new contracting parties. The information collected and held by GAFAM testifies to the power that these societies enjoy in intelligence matters, formerly the exclusive jurisdiction of the State, and the balance of power that may ensue.