Saturday, January 15, 2011

More on integral capitalism

In the IPS discussion e linked to this video without comment. I replied:

Since you didn't frame the stats in that video I'll respond as if they prove capitalism is what raised the standard of living in the world. I'll even operate from the perspective that indeed it was the driving generator for this development. That in no way negates the inherent inequities of capitalism that are now the dominant drivers of its continued existence. Perhaps capitalism was a necessary good in the appropriate time and context. The question is, has that time and context passed and is it time to move into a more beneficial economic model to address the inequities? Marx argued for a developmental economic trajectory in this way, with socialism coming after capitalism. We see this already happening in western Europe with social democracies and more socially-based economies.

Would not a self-professed leader in developmental studies, i.e., Integral Institute, not promote the next development in an economic model? One might argue that is what they're doing with conscious capitalism, but why not conscious democratic business? Good capitalism is much like Loy said above about being a good slave owner. The slave's standard of living was certainly raised but they were still chattel, as is most modern day labor, despite the toys they can buy. Well not so much anymore, since many don't even have a job. And why? Ask the speculative capitalists on Wall Street who devastated our economy, and not adhering to their vaunted principles of capitalism were not allowed to failed but bailed out by what? Socialism.

Here's an interesting blog post from economist and lawyer Kimball Corson called "Was Marx right about capitalism?" where he summarizies Marx thus:

"Marx argued that at capitalism would succeed in its initial stages quite well in promoting growth by means of capital investment in new technology and improved means of production. Everyone would prosper. As capitalism developed, however, he argued that capitalists would appropriate to themselves more and more of the profits or income from the economy and that laborers would come to have increasingly less.

"Over time, in...such circumstances...first, capitalistic economies would undergo ever more vicious cyclical swings from boom to bust. These cycles and the on-going process of capitalism would, second, result in ever richer capitalists and ever poorer working classes, until, finally, at some point, laborers would revolt and take over the means of production, causing Socialism to ensue as a result. Socialism, in turn, was merely a transitional step to Communism."

He then proceeds to provide current examples of exactly this happening, except for the proletariat revolution. He does note though that the likes of the Tea Party is a step in that direction. And I suggest that this transition is also being enacted in western Europe, with some setbacks in recent years due largely to burgeoning multi-national corporate influence and religious fundamentalism.

Also see this recent article about the decline of social democracy in Europe, mostly for abandoning their original agenda and selling out to the corporations.

"Indeed, repudiating their very foundations has become a habit: European social democrats decided years ago to ramp up privatisations, demand lower budgets at the expense of the citizens, call for raising the retirement age, dismantle the public sector, while pushing for giant corporate mergers and concentration and pampering the banks. It gradually converted itself, without remorse, to social-liberalism, dropping as priorities certain objectives that were part of its ideological DNA — for example, full employment, the defence of acquired social advantages, the development of public services, and the eradication of hunger and poverty."

I.e., the ideas would likely still resonate but the "party" supporting them sold out. Much like the Democrat Party in the US, for the most part. He suggests that South America is the place to look for the new social democracies.

Below are some excerpts of summary points from Michel Bauwens' 7/13/07 blog entry at P2P Foundation “What P2P means for the world of tomorrow“:

"Our current world system is marked by a profoundly counterproductive logic of social organization: it is based on a false concept of abundance in the limited material world; it has created a system based on infinite growth, within the confines of finite resources.

"We need to base our physical economy on a recognition of the finitude of natural resources, and achieve a sustainable steady-state economy.

"Markets, as means to to manage scarce physical resources, are but one of the means to achieve such allocation, and need to be divorced from the idea of capitalism, which is a system of infinite growth.

"Peer to peer as the relational dynamic of free agents in distributed networks will likely become the dominant mode for the production of immaterial value; however, in the realm of scarcity, the peer to peer logic will tend to reinforce peer-informed market modes, such as fair trade; and in the realm of the scarcity based politics of group negotiation, will lead to reinforce the peer-informed state forms such as multistakeholdership forms of governance.

"The world of physical production needs to be characterized by:

a) sustainable forms of peer-informed market exchange (fair trade, etc..);
b) reinvigorated forms of reciprocity and the gift economy;
c) a world based on social innovation and open designs, available for physical production anywhere in the world.

"The best guarantor of the spread of the peer to peer logic to the world of physical production, is the distribution of everything, i.e. of the means of production in the hands of individuals and communities, so that they can engage in social cooperation. While the immaterial world will be characterized by a peer to peer logic on non-reciprocal generalized exchange, the peer informed world of material exchange will be characterized by evolving forms of reciprocity and neutral exchange.

"We need to move from empty and ineffective anti-capitalist rhetoric, to constructive post-capitalist construction. Peer to peer theory, as the attempt to create a theory to understand peer production, governance and property, and the attendant paradigms and value systems of the open/free, participatory, and commons oriented social movements, is in a unique position to marry the priority values of the right, individual freedom, and the priority values of the left, equality. In the peer to peer logic, one is the condition of the other, and cooperative individualism marries equipotentiality and freedom in a context of non-coercion.

"This is the truth of the peer to peer logical of social relationships: 1) together we have everything; 2) together we know everything. Therefore, the conditions for dignified material and spiritual living are in our hands, bound with our capacity to relate and form community. The emancipatory peer to peer theory does not offer new solutions for global problems, but most of all new means to tackle them, by relying on the collective intelligence of humankind. We are witnessing the rapid emergence of peer to peer toolboxes for the virtual world, and facilitation techniques of the physical world of face to face encounters, both are needed to assist in the necessary change of consciousness that needs to be midwifed. It is up to us to use them."

Also see this 2007 Open Integral discussion on emerging economic systems, where Michel Bauwens and Ray Harris participated.

Highly recommended: Ray Harris' two-part essay "Left, right or just plain wrong" and "Thoughts toward an integral political economy."


I did not frame the video because it seemed uncontrivertible that capitalism just about doubled life expectencies over the last 200 years. Even if you attribute that to just one thing e.g. the large scale production of antibiotics...are antibiotics an artifact of hunter gatherer or agrarian societies or capitalistic industrial societies? Maybe you feel that capitalism is crumbling because the US and Europe may have over 10% unemployment but China moved over 300 million people out of poverty (the largest move ever in history) and what about India and South America, etc.? Before my wife and I conceived our child, we looked into adopting. My wife volunteered at an orphanage in India when she was 16 and so she had her mom talk to the director and ask about adopting to us in the US. The director said that they don't adopt to people in the US anymore, that Indians were now adopting their orphaned. That is, Indian society has become prosperous enough to take care of their own... after how long... 60 years of becoming a capitalist democracy?! That we need a kinder gentler more level playing field (regulations to weed out corruption, etc.) for the "least" among us and the environment goes without saying. A move to a sustainable energy economy would be a step in that direction. It is arguable that the doubling of gas prices in the US caused the housing bubble. That is, when people with sub-prime mortgages had to pay $100 a week instead of $50 a week to drive to work, that $200 a month loss in income (for a 2 income household) caused them to not make their mortgage payment. Now imagine these same people with electric cars and "free" energy from solar panels on their roofs. Maybe then folks lower on the economic ladder would have been given loans and the bubble still would have burst...who knows.

Re: Marx's idea of Socialism leading to Communism. Communism is one of those things that is good in theory but not good in practice. Just ask the folks who lived under it. It is kind of telling when you have to keep a wall around your country to keep people in.


I don't deny the benefits of capitalism and in fact see them as necessary prerequisite for socialism and communism, as did Marx. If you've read any Marx, and most Americans have not, socialism is based on democracy, a much more humane one that comes from capitalism. And communism must also be based on democracy. Humanity has not yet seen the kind of communism Marx envisioned, and the ones calling themselves by that name were indeed not based on democracy but by powerful State elites. What we do have ample evidence for is the next stage after capitalism, social democracy, which has proven quite effective in many countries. And a Marxian communism can only grow from this.

Plus these stages of developmental economics are not rigid and so markedly distinct but go through a series of transition phases, and the trajectory is not usually linear with all sorts of ups, downs and sideways. Hence a more beneficent capitalism with triple bottom lines, for example, is a step up in that transition. But capital still in the hands of a moneyed class, with no ownership or managing input by the worker, is a holdover that prevents further progress. Granted some companies allow at least some degree of employee ownership and management but a crucial transition step into socialism is full ownership and management by employees. Co-ops take this last step and many do just fine in competitive capitalistic markets.

Now as I said many social democracies in western Europe are losing ground and returning to more conservative corporate ways of economics. But that is not evidence that socialism failed, only that corporate capitalism is such a strong regressive force pulling it down. Hopefully it a mere transition fluctuation and progress returns. If not there could very well be serious and possible fatal consequences for an inappropriate economic level does not meet today's societal needs. If fact capitalism has dissociated so much it has gone pathologic and indeed not only has the capacity but seemingly has an inherent suicidal drive to destroy the environment and the base of its profits, the labor force.

Wilber to his credit addressed Marx in Excerpt A, Part III. On page 1 of that discussion Wilber paraphrases Marx thus: "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their reality but their economic-material realties that determine their consciousness." He of course qualifies it but agrees that the economic system is an incredibly strong factor is shaping the consciousness of most of society's individuals.

An important point W makes is that the techno-economic base, which often has rapid changes, usually precedes the corresponding interior societal shift in consciousness to match that development, the latter be a more slow process. He notes that this disjunction between base and superstructure has some rather unpleasant consequences and this is in fact the case with capitalism not being a functional fit with the information techno-economic base.

W also notes that this change to the new superstructure takes a precocious few to incite revolution (not necessarily violent), for the old worldviews will not budge and in fact will use the new base to support it. This is rather obvious in the case of corporate capitalism. I-I indubitably considers itself part of this advance evolutionary guard so should find it incumbent upon themselves to lead the revolution. And as I said, moving into a more humane capitalism with triple bottom lines is a step in that transition but they have yet to take the step toward democratic ownership and management. In this regard they are not the vanguard but lagging far behind other more precocious leaders like social democratic societies. Plus they seem unconscious of the very real social-economic pull that good old American capitalistic individualism has on their own inner realities. Their superstructure is not keeping up with the P2P informational base.

Another interesting point W makes in page 1 is that some societal revolutions are merely translative, i.e., they don't step to the next level. They are basically window dressing on the old superstructure. This has been a major complaint of what I-I is doing with conscious capitalism, not really taking the next step but rationalizing the aforementioned rugged individualism inherent to the orange meme.

1 comment:

  1. Wilber makes clear that for Marx "history was therefore marked (at least in part) by a series of revolutions linked to progressive (or vertically transformative) changes in techno-economic capacity." Wilber though does not explore those actual stages Marx discussed, from capitalism to socialism to communism. Perhaps it is because W thinks that while the "general ideas were often sound, he got virtually every detail wrong." There are no doubt many economists, including Marxist economists, who think Marx got details wrong. But not the general progression of the stages named above. W's own notion correlates 2 of these stages through the interior-exterior lens labeled rational-industrial and pluralistic-informational. These should also correlate with capitalism and socialism. Wilber sees integral starting in green pluralistic but developing further within the emerging cusp on pluralistic-informational, since the informational is the latest revolution in the techno-economic base.

    I'd agree insofar as this must be established before Marx's last phase of communism can be manifest, which is a long ways off into the hazy future. But what does seem clear is that socialism is indeed the next socio-economic level to manifest after capitalism, and that clinging to capitalism, even a kinder, gentler one, is still part of the disconnect of the old rational-industrial mode not yet willing to let go to into the more P2P modes of consciousness-production necessary to get to that next phase, communism. And I would suggest that it is at the level of communism where something resembling "integral" will begin. Which of course cannot be attained until after the full realization of socialism, which itself has a long, long way to go. Until then, current notions of integral seem more like the lofty window-dressing put on the superstructure worldview of capitalism in the legitimization crisis with the emerging socialist P2P mode.

    In kennllingus, certain integral currents have yet to fully realize green through socialism and their turquoise is more like an illusion caused by wearing a certain tinted lens that makes orange appear a different shade. Hence we get this distorted notion that we can functionally fit a so-called integral superstructure into an old mode of production, capitalism. It not only doesn't fit but why it appears to do so is that the superstructure is really still rational-industrial with delusions of grandeur.

    I might even argue that democracy, contrary to Wilber's contention, does not begin in rational-industrial capitalism but in pluralistic-informational socialism. When the capitalistic industrial revolution began there were no such things as health, safety, wage, and child labor laws. This mode was infamous for extreme exploitation. I suggest that it was only in those transition steps to socialism where we got the notions of democracy, that each person had rights to such social benefits listed above. The extension of wealth and life expectancy noted in e's linked video might have more to do with this transition as well, not pure capitalism. And we are still in this transition, with some steps forward and back, corporate capitalists fighting this advance every step on the way. For they do not want democracy but to remain the feudal lords that capitalism affords.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.