Livelihood = Home + Community + Region ==> EarthCare
The formula above tips off the Dear Reader as to where I am heading. The key move shifts from global capitalism towards a decentralized but vigorously networked world. This working document initiates the explanation of a solution to capitalisms based on expanded livelihood and vibrant citizenship, not socialism or big-government programs.
I have argued that capitalism faces imminent challenges and internal contradictions that now undermine its future viability. I envision supplementing capitalisms (yes, plural) with processes of value creation, distribution, and right-consumption consistent with democratic practice. (A version of this post first appeared on my blog as Livelihood.) Part II of this project defines a long term strategy to limit the scope and proportion of capitalisms within a fuller notion of the economy and value creation. The gambit intends the following:
- Invert the role of the economy within society and nature: the economy serves rather than dominates society and nature. Remember the pro-life values: the flourishing of humanity and the enhancement of nature as if a wild garden (Dubos), consistent with the notion of the Anthropocene. As climate change rapidly intensifies, as inequality reverses, and as fiscal crises mitigate the imperative for monetized economic growth diminishes.
- Shift the hierarchy away from the globalized corporation toward the household, the community (commerce), and the supporting bioregion, which I will dub LifeWorlds. Render the external economic linkages manageable, and supportive. Deprecate the significance of market-driven monetized transactions in favor of patterns of local viability and self-reliance. The test is not the velocity of money but the level of constructive activity and the vitality of network commuunication (Habermas).
- Reinforce the integration of lifeworlds around distinct, identifiable regions. So did the USA with the founding of the Federal Reserve System as guardians of regional economies supported by specific bundles of exports. Your particular economy would not only preserve its integrity and health but negotiate within a regional communicative network. The network connects the bordering areas and the upper and lower levels. Arthur Koestler dubs this arrangement holons, where each holon maintains both its functionality, its identity, and its integrity. The interactive network can be monitored through its dashboard, as does the Fed’s regional Beige Books track events and trends within regional economies and, importantly, the constituent metropolitan areas. See an example applied to the industrial ecology of the Hawaiian Islands.
- This extended flexible framework provides the context for Integral Ecology by its citizens and communities. The framework buffers each region and community from the vicissitudes and gyrations of the globalized economy and its geopolitics, enhancing local autonomy. Such self-determination and clarity encourages investment, financial and emotional. Inventories of both human and natural aspects might initiate the program at a highly decentralized level.
However, capitalism must be rendered in the plural, recognizing various forms from American neoliberalism to German social markets to Chinese state-capitalism. I discuss this in my blog, Capitalisms: plural. Further, the economic (often export) base of a region will influence not just its employment structure, its service economy, its population, but its social character. Looked at in this way, an Integral Ecology can be seen broadly and dynamically.
Just do not allow any form of determinism to colonize your mind and limit the perceived alternatives. I remind you that both Adam Smith and Karl Marx, decades but worlds apart, based their divergent analyses on but a single case study of England, including Scotland in Smith’s case and a bit of Germany in Marx’s. Regrettably what passes as the academic field of economics in the USA provides only an ideologically drenched course in capitalist enthusiasm (see Shaikh and Piketty).
My blog post on the Braudel Ensemble has provided background toward an alternative economy that can reframe, invert, and shrink capitalism. No, this is not socialism, the ownership of the means of production by the government. Rather, decenter economic life, bring it closer to home and to community, disclose and expand ways of value production outside of capitalism, and conserve and protect the Earth. A guiding light is the early 19th century masterpiece by Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.
So, the name to this configuration of households and commerce (comunity-based), Livelihood, tells the story. The term, often associated with subsistence-based economies, suggests that a localized, small-unit close to the average citizen works best toward promoting a living, local economy. Even neighborhoods and districts in metropolitan areas constitute realms of Livelihood.
Dear Reader, I intend not only to breakdown the notion of capitalism into its many forms, but disclose other forms of economic activity. I will say again that I do not seek to abolish capitalism, merely to dethrone it. Broadly, Integral Ecology can enlarge into the space so created.
The semantic legerdemain will be explained later and elsewhere but the vocabulary will include such terms as
- Oikos: the extended household. Following the Greeks, this refers to a cooperative division of labor outside market exchange. Note that oikos provides the root to both ecology and economics, now at loggerheads.
- Chrematistics: financial exchange purely to have money make money, with no substantive production. We now elevate finance to that status which Aristotle rebuked as economic parasitism. The authentic economies were the Oikos, the household (or manor) and the open-air commerce in the agora, the town center.
- Cooperation: We do this all the time, but has been relegated by formal economics as unproductive, a massive deprecation of the work of women.
- Reciprocity: The asynchronous exchange of personal services. The work in economic anthropology by Karl Polanyi adds much to the expansion and contrast among forms of economic activity.