A British colleague, Tim Jackson (Prosperity Without Growth, 2009), has recently organized the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP). This blog by Daniel Hausknost reviews the basic principles behind CUSP. If you study this piece closely, you’ll come face-to-face with some serious myth-busting, exposing society’s many illusions about what lies ahead.
But is it really enough to understand the dynamic structure behind capitalist growth? How are we applying and acting on this knowledge?
Every day I speak with economic reformers who believe that we can get through our civilizational crisis with shiny things like carbon taxes, electric cars and metallic straws. Or perhaps by throwing massive amounts of money at the endlessly wicked problem of climate change, following ideas like Modern Monetary Theory as recently put forward by the backers of the Green New Deal.
To all of whom I ask: how long until you grasp the real connection between our monetary debt and our ecological debt?
To untangle the modern roots of this planetary dissociation, I keep going back to 17th century Cartesian rationalism, which taught that human bodies (and thus the whole of the biophysical world) are subordinate to human minds. This mind/body split — now embedded in virtually all of our top-down institutions, legal systems and worldviews — is the reason we still do not understand why the world’s social inequality and natural resource declines are actually two sides of the same coin.
This is an epochal moment when the world must recreate its economies as ecosystems. If the geometric growth of resources that is driven by the rational mind is not superseded by the regenerative growth that arises through the needs of living organic bodies, our highly complex societies will collapse. We will then lose our capacity for self-sufficiency and an extraordinarily large number of people will suffer from lack of food, water, energy and shelter.
As market rationalists, the producers and consumers in modern societies have literally become too smart for their own good. Dethroning the false god of capitalist growth now requires a change in power and scale unlike anything known in human experience. Can this even be articulated?
Here, Hausknost echoes my own worst fears, that “we continue to talk about transformation without [truly] meaning transformation”. Frankly, the one chance we have in addressing the massive problems of economic and societal disjunction is not by attempting to change peoples’ minds. It is in teaching our minds to listen to our bodies and allowing our bodies to guide our minds. That is how we educate and organize. That is the essence of social action for deep and lasting change.
Featured header image: Jospeh Schumpeter (CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 :: Linda Geẞner/kultur.work (derivative of Dids/pexels; and Schumpeter portrait/wiki commons)