Thursday, February 24, 2011

Progressive Economics

Yesterday Integral Options featured a story by Kalle Lassn called "Paradigm shift: the great machine of capitalism starts to heave." Lassn speaks of a movement afoot to challenge neo-classical models of economics. A new model is emerging that takes account of the usually hidden environmental costs in any economic formula. We must contextualize within the larger bioeconomy and go beyond typical reductionist views of merely material or monetary concerns. He points to the website for more info.

One of their introductory articles on the movement's pioneers features E.F. Schumacher, who, interestingly, is also seen as an integral predecessor to Wilber. However unlike Wilber Schumacher was interested in an alternative economic model. Here are a few excerpts:

"Schumacher was sent on a mission to Burma to teach its citizens how to achieve progress by following the Western model of economic growth. Once there, he quickly surmised that the Burmese were better served drawing from their own traditions rather than from Western ones. He coined the term 'Buddhist economics' to describe a model that, in complete opposition to its Western counterpart, didn’t allow for unlimited growth and consumption but emphasized the use of renewable resources.

"To those who questioned the relevance of Eastern philosophy to economics, Schumacher replied: 'Economics without Buddhism, i.e., without spiritual, human and ecological values, is like sex without love.'

"He later returned to the Coal Board, but working at one of the largest commercial organizations of the day contributed to Schumacher’s deep-seated conviction that large-scale technologies were dehumanizing. His experiences had led him to conclude that 'man is small and, therefore, small is beautiful.' It was this syllogism that inspired the title of his 1973 treatise Small Is Beautiful, a sweeping indictment of the neoclassical model. The work introduced Schumacher’s concept of 'natural capital' and outlined an alternative economy based on human-scale, decentralized and appropriate technologies that has inspired generations of environmentalists. To the very end of his life, Schumacher lived by his own prescriptions. He baked his family’s weekly bread supply with locally procured organic wheat that he ground himself in a hand-operated flour mill."

 Also see Schumacher's seminal essay on buddhist economics. It's curious that trademarked integral, being buddhist-centric, does not advocate this integral, buddhist economics. However Christian Arnsperger says in "Integral Economics":

"On the normative side, work on a Buddhist economics...would be extremely helpful to delineate paradigmatic ideals of economic organization and economic agency towards which conscious evolution might be geared in a liberation-oriented economy."

Ok then, let's get normative.

Here's more from Arnsperger I find illuminating:

"It might—to take a hard and sensitive issue—show us that along certain lines of moral or psychodynamic development, Soviet Russia in the 1960s, or Cuba in the 1970s, was clearly superior to the United States of the 2000s in the sense that, for instance, Soviets and Cubans had developed a more communal attitude in some sectors of social life (though by no means in all…) and also that communist principles implied that basic social provisions, lodging, health care, etc., were to be provided freely to all citizens, regardless of their ability to purchase these things on markets—something the less evolved US mentality makes unthinkable.”

Leading up to Arnsperger’s comments above about communism being developmentally superior he said the following:

“Such [interior] work is an integral part of what economics is about, namely, to contribute to not only a positive description of how today’s capitalism works but also to a critical description of how tomorrow’s economy ought to work if it’s to be a support for the conscious evolution of all of us (or as many of us as possible) along all (or as many as possible) developmental lines….[a] theory or paradigm [that] respects the necessities of emancipation-fostering methodological pluralism…. This would imply an economics that’s constructively critical of material reductionism and of capitalist, growth-oriented and wage-employment-oriented, competition-driven markets.”

His article was posted on 3/14/08 and written by Arnsperger in 12/07. So we might surmise kennilinguists felt it was important. Yet we find the integral capitalistic ramblings (criticized in the integral global capitalism thread, and integral capitalism thread before it) appearing on Integral Life sometime thereafter (there is no date stamp). Seems Arnsperger didn’t have much influence?

One of the themes in a progressive economics is that unending progress and growth is unsustainable in an environment of finite resources. We might argue that intellectual as opposed to material resources are limitless so not bound by such parameters. But even our minds, and our spirits, are constrained by the limitations of our embodiment, the latter being part and parcel of the biosphere. It seems that this fixation with never-ending progress and development, even in terms of ever-higher levels of cognition (of whatever line) is endemic to a uniquely American socio-economic paradigm in which trademarked integral is itself embedded, apparently beyond its control.

This might also be where the theory doesn't meet the practice. The theory is well aware that integration must come before a new level can be approached. It seems the pluralistic stage has not adequately been integrated in TM integral, as if in a hurry to get higher and farther and better we took on more than we were ready to chew. As a result we retained the formal rational adherence to the myth of eternal progress, which seems the clue that our integration of pluralism is not yet complete.

I'm reminded of my dance training. When a beginner I was in a hurry to be intermediate, taking on moves and patterns for which I was not ready. I learned them all right but they were lacking without a strong foundation in basic technique. Then I was in a hurry to be advanced and the same pattern repeated, and again those advanced patterns were lacking. In the past few years I've returned to the basics, to get the technique right this time, and now my intermediate and advanced patterns are finally expressing well. And I realized I'm still not a very competent advanced dancer, still a long, long way to go.

It seems this syndrome is playing out in our collective transition from pluralism to integral. I've noted before that we can have the phenomenon of a formal rational cognition that has integrated his lower "state-stages" thorough meditation or contemplation but still expresses it through a metaphysical view, as well as a postformal cognition with a postmetaphysical view that has not integrated his lower state-stages. It seems rare to have both and I certainly don't lay claim to that achievement. It really does behoove us though to at least recognize where we are and are not, to work toward the goal, and to not be so easily mistaken or inflated in our hurry to be better.

See the IPS thread for continuing discussion.

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