If it can be shown that people are not inherently greedy, lazy or selfish, but that these traits tend to be fostered by the society we live in, then the argument against the possibility of a communist society on the basis that it would fly in the face of human nature, that people would somehow forestall or disrupt its implementation because they are inherently greedy, lazy, or selfish, will be disproved. The following propositions, amongst others, are implicit in the communist stance on the ‘human nature’ question;
1. There is no such thing as a fixed, immutable human nature
2. Behaviour is malleable.
3. The environment plays a key role in determining behaviour.
4. Humans are fundamentally social in nature
5. In the run up to the establishment of a world-wide socialist society, the notion of such a society will gain credence exponentially as it becomes an increasingly salient topic of debate, and pari passu, profound changes will be wrought on human behaviour as it finds increasing acceptance amongst the working class world-wide.
6. The values attaching to all forms of work will alter radically under communist because all work will be done on a voluntary basis. Thus, whilst highly paid though socially useless jobs ( such as stock broking ) may be highly esteemed at present, it will most likely be the more arduous jobs ( though probably no more or less useful than any other job in a communist society ) that will attract the most esteem - simply because they would be done voluntarily.
7. As the extent of vying over ( often artificially )scarce resources and the overriding conflict of interests between the capital and labour found in present -day society would no longer exist, communist society would be a far more harmonious and co-operative. This ethos would more than likely impact on every aspect of culture and on the way people related to one another
There are three inter-related themes that between them make free market truisms untenable, as one intellectual pioneer, Robert Lane of Yale University, describes it. They are: that economic man cannot be assumed to have perfect foresight; that the purpose of work is not to satisfy wants but is a basic source of human well-being; and that it is not true that as output expands, costs must necessarily at some stage rise.’ In the classic economic story, a worker surrenders leisure for work up to the point that the extra hour of pay exactly compensates for the utility lost through giving up leisure. The purpose of life is to consume, not produce; and to give up leisure is to surrender the chance of pleasurable consumption. Work is a disutility requiring compensation; the more people are paid and the less they are taxed, the harder they will work. Production is conceived as a tiresome bore; the economic McCoy is consumption. Not so, says Lane. Production and work are key sources of satisfaction and utility. Work fosters personal development, deepens skills, humanises and structure lives; above all, it makes us cleverer and independent. The process of production is a profound source of satisfaction in its own right; and money income contributes very little to a sense of well-being. In an astonishing chapter that will cause heart failure in the Institute of Economic Affairs and Adam Smith Institute, Lane even argues that money values obstruct rational market behaviour. Why? Because money is a symbol as well as a sender of economic messages. A growing body of research shows that money symbols trigger non-rational behaviour ranging from moral evil to shame. These symbols, says Lane, hinder rational judgment and undermine utility maximisation in a market. Source: Will Hutton in the Guardian 19/04/1993 discussing Robert Lane’s book, The Market Experiment (Cambridge)
Under capitalism people are at the service of the economy and are viewed as needing to consume more and more to keep the economy functioning. The massive and, in the words of Joseph Schumpeter, “elaborate psychotechnics of advertising” are absolutely necessary to keep people buying. Morally, the system is based on the proposition that each, following his/her own interests (greed), will promote the general interest and growth. Adam Smith famously put it: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” In other words, individual greed (or quest for profits) drives the system and human needs are satisfied as a mere by-product. Economist Duncan Foley has called this proposition and the economic and social irrationalities it generates “Adam’s Fallacy.”
The attitudes and mores needed for the smooth functioning of such a system, as well as for people to thrive as members of society—greed, individualism, competitiveness, exploitation of others, and “consumerism” (the drive to purchase more and more stuff, unrelated to needs and even to happiness)—are inculcated into people by schools, the media, and the workplace. The title of Benjamin Barber’s book—Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole—says a lot.
The notion of responsibility to others and to community, which is the foundation of ethics, erodes under such a system. In the words of Gordon Gekko—the fictional corporate takeover artist in Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street—“Greed is Good.” Today, in the face of widespread public outrage, with financial capital walking off with big bonuses derived from government bailouts, capitalists have turned to preaching self-interest as the bedrock of society from the very pulpits. On November 4, 2009, Barclay’s Plc Chief Executive Officer John Varley declared from a wooden lectern in St. Martin-in-the-Fields at London’s Trafalgar Square that “Profit is not Satanic.” Weeks earlier, on October 20, 2009, Goldman Sachs International adviser Brian Griffiths declared before the congregation at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London that “The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is a recognition of self-interest.”
Wealthy people come to believe that they deserve their wealth because of hard work (theirs or their forbearers) and possibly luck. The ways in which their wealth and prosperity arose out of the social labor of innumerable other people are downplayed. They see the poor—and the poor frequently agree—as having something wrong with them, such as laziness or not getting a sufficient education. The structural obstacles that prevent most people from significantly bettering their conditions are also downplayed. This view of each individual as a separate economic entity concerned primarily with one’s (and one’s family’s) own well-being, obscures our common humanity and needs. People are not inherently selfish but are encouraged to become so in response to the pressures and characteristics of the system. After all, if each person doesn’t look out for “Number One” in a dog-eat-dog system, who will?
Traits fostered by capitalism are commonly viewed as being innate “human nature,” thus making a society organized along other goals than the profit motive unthinkable. But humans are clearly capable of a wide range of characteristics, extending from great cruelty to great sacrifice for a cause, to caring for non-related others, to true altruism. The “killer instinct” that we supposedly inherited from evolutionary ancestors—the “evidence” being chimpanzees’ killing the babies of other chimps—is being questioned by reference to the peaceful characteristics of other hominids such as gorillas and bonobos (as closely related to humans as chimpanzees). Studies of human babies have also shown that, while selfishness is a human trait, so are cooperation, empathy, altruism, and helpfulness. Regardless of what traits we may have inherited from our hominid ancestors, research on pre-capitalist societies indicates that very different norms from those in capitalist societies are encouraged and expressed. As Karl Polanyi summarized the studies: “The outstanding discovery of recent historical and anthropological research is that man’s economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets.” In his 1937 article on “Human Nature” for the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, John Dewey concluded—in terms that have been verified by all subsequent social science—that:
‘’The present controversies between those who assert the essential fixity of human nature and those who believe in a greater measure of modifiability center chiefly around the future of war and the future of a competitive economic system motivated by private profit. It is justifiable to say without dogmatism that both anthropology and history give support to those who wish to change these institutions. It is demonstrable that many of the obstacles to change which have been attributed to human nature are in fact due to the inertia of institutions and to the voluntary desire of powerful classes to maintain the existing status’’.
Capitalism is unique among social systems in its active, extreme cultivation of individual self-interest or “possessive-individualism.” Yet the reality is that non-capitalist human societies have thrived over a long period—for more than 99 percent of the time since the emergence of anatomically modern humans—while encouraging other traits such as sharing and responsibility to the group. There is no reason to doubt that this can happen again.
The incestuous connection that exists today between business interests, politics, and law is reasonably apparent to most observers. These include outright bribery, to the more subtle sorts of buying access, friendship, and influence through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts. In addition, a culture develops among political leaders based on the precept that what is good for capitalist business is good for the country. Hence, political leaders increasingly see themselves as political entrepreneurs, or the counterparts of economic entrepreneurs, and regularly convince themselves that what they do for corporations to obtain the funds that will help them get re-elected is actually in the public interest. Within the legal system, the interests of capitalists and their businesses are given almost every benefit.
Given the power exercised by business interests over the economy, state, and media, it is extremely difficult to effect fundamental changes that they oppose. It therefore makes it next to impossible to have a rational and ecologically sound energy policy, health care system, agricultural and food system, industrial policy, trade policy, education, etc.
Last year, 60.8 million people, or about 26 percent of Americans age 16 or older, performed unpaid work for a non-profit organization, the report says.
And the report reveals some other promising signs, too, such as a growing number of volunteers who dedicate substantial time to service. Last year, the proportion of volunteers donating more than 100 hours annually was 34 percent, the highest level since 2002
- Why Controlling Bosses Have Unproductive Employees 12:08 PM Tuesday May 25, 2010
by Andrew O’Connell
Believe it or not, the mere thought of you can make your employees do a lousy job.
In fact, if your employees consider you a controlling person, even an unconscious thought of you can have a negative effect on their performance. If, for example, they were to happen to subliminally see, out of the corner of their eyes, your name flash for 60 milliseconds, you could expect them to start working less hard. Even if they didn't intend to slack off.
Obviously it's not too likely that they'll see a subliminal flash of your name, but students participating in a psychological experiment did see such a flash — not of your name (of course) but of the name of a "significant other" (a boss, a mom, a dad) whom they perceived as controlling and who wanted them to work hard. Researchers found that the subjects, having been subliminally exposed to these names, unconsciously did the opposite of work hard. Specifically, they did relatively poor work on a complex anagram task that they were given.
I say all this to make the point that people deeply value their freedom, so much so that even an unconscious memory of a controlling person stimulates a behavioral reaction.
"We love our freedom to choose," Gavan J. Fitzsimons, a professor of marketing and psychology at Duke, told me.
The psychological mechanism that connects the love of freedom and the behavioral response is known as reactance. It's a concept that was described by Jack Brehm back in 1966, and though it didn't get much notice for a few decades, recently it has become an active area of psychological research with many implications for business.
The study on significant others was done by a team at Duke — Tanya L. Chartrand, Amy N. Dalton, and Fitzsimons — who wanted to see whether reactance, usually thought of as a conscious effect, could be unconscious too. Their findings show that indeed it can. The researchers suggest that in certain circumstances, "reactance becomes automatized."
Not everyone reacts strongly against perceived autonomy threats. The researchers found that people with an ingrained sense that others are trying to control them tend to have the most intense negative reactions to unconscious thoughts of significant others. Not only do these highly reactant individuals love their freedom, they'll also "do anything to protect it," Fitzsimons says. In organizations, that gets them into trouble sometimes.
In a 2007 paper, the researchers say that perhaps highly reactant individuals could be helped by their organizations to "learn to identify the situations that trigger reactance and plan in advance how to respond."
That's a good idea, but don't managers also have a responsibility not to become the controlling significant other in their subordinates' lives? I realize that idea might sound naïve, but it's clear from the Duke study that if you're a controlling figure, your direct reports will respond, to a greater or lesser degree (depending on their inherent reactance levels), by letting their performance slip, by screwing up, by undermining your efforts, and/or by doing the opposite of what you want.
It's all too easy, once people become managers, for them to forget how deeply their employees value freedom and autonomy, and the extent to which some of them, at least, will react to any infringement of it, even unconsciously.
Andrew O'Connell is an editor with the Harvard Business Review Group
Thursday 24 September 2009 08.00 BST
To solve global problems such as climate change, we need to escape our market-driven definition as greedy individuals
The global imagery of capitalist plenty has long ago been usurped, not only by other visions of an earthly paradise, but also other versions of prosperity. Capitalist ideology has ceased to be abstract theory and is made tangible in every object of desire set before us. At the same time, in this promiscuous spillage of commodities, a whole moral universe is implicit.
Puritans and moralists sometimes identify consumerism, the bonus culture, the acquisitive society, live-now-pay-later philosophy as "greed". But these, like all other sins and vices, have been recast by the altered moral order. Many of what were regarded as human failings have been transformed into economic virtues. Covetousness has become ambition, envy now reappears as a manifestation of a healthy competitive spirit, gluttony is only a natural desire for more and lust a necessary expression of our deepest human reality. Temptation is no longer an impulse to be resisted: it is our duty to yield to it in the name of that most exalted of purposes, "consumer confidence".
When what were regarded in a more primitive age as negative attributes are magically re-formed so they shine as virtues, it is easy to persuade ourselves that these represent human nature. It gives us permission, as it were, to be intemperate, self-indulgent and greedy. The morality of economic growth and expansion has invaded the psyche, the inner sites where people struggle with how to be a good person; and now reigns as the ultimate revelation of what it means to be human.
The success of industrial society depends on this grim account of "reality". "You can't change human nature" is the first article in the credo of capitalism; a mildly sorrowful recognition that human beings are "essentially" selfish, irremediably "fallen" in fact: and this exhibits continuity in what might, at first sight, seem a radical break with Christian teaching.
If the first article of capitalism has been the unalterability of human nature, its second has been a relentless remaking, domination and plunder of the rest of the natural world. Nature itself has been infinitely pliable, to be used and shaped to any purpose "humanity" proposes. Whole continents have been subjugated, forests felled, watercourses diverted, the earth gutted, seas fished to extinction; only human nature, remains triumphant, invincible.
The weight of the dazzling iconography of production and consumption, together with these vices-become-virtues leaves no room for other, eclipsed visions of the better world that this one might have been, but can no longer be, since these have been colonised by one of the many possible versions of prosperity or well-being. If the western view of the world has prevailed over all others, this is not so much a sign of its providential truth as of its physical power.
If this story of human purposes contains some truth, that truth conceals an even greater falsehood. It is undeniable that human beings have always longed for more, have yearned for possessions that will serve as a bulwark against existential desolation, as an illusion against eternity – the tombs of history are strewn with precious objects to accompany the deceased even into the afterlife. But, no one has ever before seriously believed that bliss is to be attained in this brief life, even those who have professed total faith in the pursuit of happiness.
Religion has always taught the necessity for restraint, limits and the impossibility of transcendence in this world. The ideology of limitless growth turns this on its head: it injects an otherworldly cosmology into an ostensibly secular context. Instead of promising happiness in the hereafter, it offers a happy eternity in the here-and-now. These doctrines are far more impossible of fulfilment than the dogmas of any religious faith; for while it cannot be proved that there is no afterlife, it is obvious that perpetual happiness in a life limited by insecurity, pain and loss is a vain endeavour. This is why much of the resistance to capitalist ideology comes from the religious; since priests, imams and intermediaries with the other world are well aware that it is their territory that is being trampled.
The conviction that the natural world is ours for the taking, but that human nature remains closed to change, has led directly to multiple global crises - climate change, growing inequality, and, less noted, but perhaps even more significant, a pervasive, doomed and morbid desire for the unattainable. It has now been recognised that disturbance of the biosphere, an addiction to progress, the accumulated effects of human action, have led directly to global warming; but there has been – understandably – far greater reluctance to recognise the role of an unalterable human nature in the achievement of this melancholy state.
This equation cannot be selectively modified, since it is, in its way, a holistic view of the world. Any resolution of the threats posed by globalisation requires a reversal of the ideology: the very opposite is needed of the cynical, taken-for-granted fatalism about the nature of humanity, for this has led to immobilism and sense of powerlessness in engaging effectively with the present crisis.
The most urgent work is to address this fiction of human nature, which is viewed as the only fixed point in the constant churning of feverish change and growth. Human nature is not as it has been painted by the self-justifying prophets of economic ideology. It is one thing to compel people to behave in a particular way and then to approve the outcome of such conduct as in accord with human nature. If there is no public space for other attributes of humanity, this bleak view will inevitably crowd out our capacity for generosity, selflessness, sacrifice and kindness. We know these things exist: only they are barred, proscribed guests from the sombre economic banquet, except for the crumbs of philanthropy of leftovers. Ruthless, self-centred, individualistic – if these characteristics are rewarded, who will not cultivate them, leaving human virtues to be practised furtively, in the secrecy of a private life where they have been incarcerated as spoilers of the economic game?
"We must change nature, but we can't change human nature" has been the cry of the most serious conservationists of all, those who would conserve intact the dominant unjust paradigm. Even for the modest aim of 10:10 to work effectively in Britain, other human possibilities will have to be aroused from the common grave of unsettling ideas; among them, a reawakening of the resourcefulness, creativity and flexibility of people, which alone can mitigate our baleful effects upon the planet.
Perhaps there are, for the rich, other ways of being prosperous, and for the poor, other pathways out of poverty than those we know. But they remain blocked by the immoveable conviction that the disciplines of the market economy – that alliance of destructiveness of nature and the inviolability of our human nature – are still the only route to the realisation of our deepest dreams and avoidance of our worst nightmares.
It has now been generally acknowledged that the plunder of nature must cease; but without confronting the source of those predations, our chances of survival are becoming smaller by the day. Some radical questions arise, not the least of which is why it has become so difficult to distinguish between the nature of industrialism and the industrialising of our own nature?
by Anup Shah
From Global Issues :Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All
‘Global inequality in consumption, while reducing, is still high. Using latest figures available, in 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%’
Creating the Consumer A. Lavish consumption used to be for the highly privileged
‘The full-blown commercialized consumption that most in the wealthy nations (and the wealthier in poor nations) partake in today is not something that has always been around. It has been largely expanded in the twentieth century. Even in the United States, England and other European nations around the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century, consumption by most was based on necessities. Saving and being frugal was the norm for most, and spending on “luxuries” was typically frowned upon and seen as wasteful. Of course, the wealthy elite of the time would spend heavily and extravagantly, as they had done for centuries. On the one hand, religions and other belief systems that promoted limited consumption were supported by the wealthy elite to help sustain disparities and maintain control over the majority of people. (In many cases, those aspects of certain religions that were useful for the wealthy were promoted over other aspects.)’ ‘Yet, at the same time, other religions and belief systems that also promoted more limited, but careful consumption for all, also sprung up in partial protest at disparities and so forth, such as Jainism and Buddhism in Asia (as did Christianity and most other major religions and belief systems)’. ‘Another aspect of limited consumption in the past was due to the scarcity of resources. Not in the sense that there were necessarily less resources in the past than today, but more that the ability to extract and use them made them more limited. With new technological advancements and so on, additional resources became accessible that were not available before. Accompanying this though, was the want to dominate and control both the access to these resources and the means to produce from these. As city-states evolved and further became nation states, such domination was used to protect the lifestyle and dominance of the wealthy. While all would like to be able to afford a more comfortable living standard, in the past, there was harsh control over oppressed and poor people, so the wealthy could lavishly consume in comparison. Benefit from expansion of new trade routes, military conquest, technological developments, etc. would lead to further suppression of the ruled subjects to keep and attain more wealth and power. Those patterns also continue today.’ ‘As historians McKendrick, Brewer and Plumb point out in their book, The Birth of a Consumer Society (Hutchinson, 1983), while the want to consume was nothing new, “[i]t was the ability to do so, which was new” in eighteenth century England and other places. As they go on to point out further:
‘’The ferocious pursuit of getting and spending has a long history. The feverish pursuit of fashion is just as ancient. ... But in the past the acquisitive part of society was a tiny one. Its indomitable pursuit of possessions satisfied more than personal greed and personal whim [and extravagances] ... It served important social and political functions too [such as the ability to] mark the divinity of a king, ... underline the exclusive status of the nobility, or the professional status of lawyers, doctors, and the educated elite. To preserve those distinctions sumptuary laws might be required to reinforce the effects of poverty, to buttress the conservative effects of custom, to insist on the unavailability of a desired cloth, to prevent commercial cunning from bringing it within the reach of those who aspired to wear it.’’
Neil McKendrik, John Brewer, J.H. Plumb, The Birth of a Consumer Society, (Hutchinson, 1983), p.2
In the above quote, note is taken on how the poor were denied the wealth of the rich of that time. We can draw parallels today that while those oppressed and subjugated classes within the rich nations managed to attain some additional (but not all) rights and privileges (which included the ability to consume more), the same denial to the poor has continued through to today in the form of the so-called Third World. The structural adjustment policies and other economic systems as described on this web site, show how the majority of the world have been kept impoverished so that the First World has been able to continue its lifestyle, which today is marked by high consumption.’
B. “Supply-side” economics helped create mass consumerism
‘The enormous wealth coming from the colonized countries contributed immensely to an industrial revolution in England and other parts of Europe. With this and the growing merchant class, traditional forms of labor looked to be almost irreversibly changing. As summarized by Richard Robbins, Professor of Anthropology at State University New York at Plattsburgh in talking about the era of the industrialist and some of the impacts, the changing meaning of wealth, production and the wealth-producing process affected much of society:
‘’Wealth or money must be able to purchase labor power. But as long as people have access to the means of production — land, raw materials, tools (e.g. weaving looms, mills) — there is no reason for them to sell their labor. They can still sell the product of their labor. For the capitalistic mode of production to exist, the tie between producers and the means of production must be cut; peasants must lose control of their land, artisans control of their tools. These people once denied access to the means of production must negotiate with those who control the means of production for permission to use the land and tools and receive a wage in return. Those who control the means of production also control the goods that are produced, and so those who labor to produce them must buy them back from those with the means of production. Thus the severing of the persons from the means of production turns them not only into laborers, but into consumers of the product of their labor as well.’’
— Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), pp. 88 - 89
(Note that while the above describes the changes during the industrial revolution, one can also say that today with globalization, the same should occur around the world and that all should be able to afford and consume more of the world’s products. However, unequal pay combined with unequal trade between unequal regions leads to a massive imbalance, whereby the majority of the world’s poor cannot afford the types of products typically made, and end up servicing the consumption of the wealthier.)’ ‘While the above quote by McKendrick et al. pointed out that lavish consumption was concentrated in the domain of the wealthy elite, the “crisis” of over production in the nineteenth century created a platform from which consumption could grow and spread to an enormous number of people to help create mass consumerism. As Robbins describes:
‘’The consumer revolution of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was caused in large part by a crisis in production; new technologies had resulted in production of more goods, but there were not enough people to buy them. Since production is such an essential part of the culture of capitalism, society quickly adapted to the crisis by convincing people to buy things, by altering basic institutions and even generating a new ideology of pleasure. The economic crisis of the late nineteenth century was solved, but at considerable expense to the environment in the additional waste that was created and resources that were consumed.’’
Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), p. 210
Therefore, from a crisis of overproduction, many large challenges had to be overcome to encourage more people to consume. (Note just one parallel with today — as President George Bush has come into power in the United States, and as the problem of overproduction and decreasing demands hits home as well, his policies, especially seen in his energy policies, are about trying to increase consumption.) As McKendrick et al continued from the above: ‘’The barriers to a consumer society were therefore numerous and effective. To overcome them required changes in attitude and thought, changes in prosperity and standards of living, changes in commercial technique and promotional skills, sometimes changes even in the law itself. Above all it required the commercialization of society. ’’Neil McKendrik, John Brewer, J.H. Plumb, The Birth of a Consumer Society, (Hutchinson, 1983), p.2 (Emphasis added) McKendrick et al continue to also point out that these changes were more than just processes in the world of advertising and selling, fashion and credit; it importantly touched things like *Politics *Commercialization of leisure *Commercialization of childhood *Invention and creation *Economic, intellectual and social adjustments’
C. A change of culture was needed to increase consumption
‘In his book, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), Richard Robins describes that for the rise of consumerism in the United States to occur, buying habits had to be transformed and luxuries had to be made into necessities. He describes numerous ways in which this was accomplished (pp. 14 - 24):
- A major transformation in the meaning of goods and how they were presented and displayed. This included:
- The evolution of the department store into a place to display goods as objects in themselves. Orchestras, piano players, flower arrangements, and so on would be used to “present goods in a way that inspired people to buy them. The department store became a cultural primer telling people how they should dress, furnish their homes, and spend their leisure time.” (p. 15, emphasis added)
- Advertising was another “revolutionary development” to influence the creation of the consumer.
‘’The goal of the advertisers was to aggressively shape consumer desires and create value in commodities by imbuing them with the power to transform the consumer into a more desirable person. ... In 1880, only $30 million was invested in advertising in the United States; by 1910, new businesses, such as oil, food, electricity and rubber, were spending $600 million, or 4 percent of the national income, on advertising. Today that figure has climbed to well over $120 billion in the United States and to over $250 billion worldwide.’’
— Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), pp. 15 - 16
- The idea of fashion would help in the “stirring up of anxieties and restlessness over the possession of things that were not ‘new’ or ‘up-to-date’. Fashion pressured people to buy not out of need but for style — from a desire to conform to what others defined as ‘fashionable.’” (p. 16)
- Creation of, as well as improvement of service also helped. Customers were to be treated like guests. The adage of “the customer is always right” rings true here.
- A transformation of the major institutions of American society, each redefining its function to include the promotion of consumption.
- Robbins notes that, “Educational and cultural institutions, governmental agencies, financial institutions, and even the family itself changed their meaning and function to promote the consumption of commodities.” (p. 17)
- Education for example would be expanded from production/manufacturing knowledge to include things like accounting, marketing, sales, etc. Business schools popped up in many places.
- Robbins also describes the setting up of the U.S. Commerce Department in 1921, under Herbert Hoover, as a clear example of the increasing role of the federal government in the promotion of consumption. As he points out:
''Hoover clearly intended the Department of Commerce to serve as the hand-maiden of American business, and its main goal was to help encourage the consumption of commodities. For example, between 1926 and 1928 the BFDC [Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce], under Hoover’s direction, initiated the Census of Distribution (or “Census of Consumption,” as it was sometimes called) to be carried out every ten years. (It was unique at that time; Britain and other countries did not initiate government-sponsored consumer research until the 1950s). It detailed where the consumers were and what quantities of goods they would consume; it pointed out areas where goods were “overdeveloped” and which goods were best carried by which stores. The Commerce Department endorsed retail and cooperative advertising and advised merchants on service devices, fashion, style, and display methods of all kinds. The agency advised retail establishments on the best ways to deliver goods to consumers, redevelop streets, build parking lots and underground transportation systems to attract consumers, use colored lights, and display merchandise in “tempting ways”. The goal was to break down “all barriers between consumers and commodities” (Leach 1993:366)
— Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), pp.18-19
Robbins further shows how individual home ownership was also emphasized. This increases the amount of resources that are used, as well as increasing sales for related industries. Robbins is worth quoting again here:
‘’Hoover also emphasized individual home ownership. In his memoirs he wrote that “a primary right of every American family is the right to build a new house of its heart’s desire at least once. Moreover, there is the instinct to own one’s own house with one’s own arrangement of gadgets, rooms, and surroundings” (cited Nash 1998:7). The Commerce Department flooded the country with public relations materials on “homebuying” ideas, producing a leaflet entitled Own Your Own Home, along with a film, Home sweet home. They advocated single-dwelling homes over multiunit dwellings and suburban over urban housing. The leaflet recommended a separate bedroom for each child, saying it was “undesirable for two children to occupy the same bed — whatever their age.” Regardless of the reasons for these recommendations, the materials produced by the Commerce Department all promoted maximum consumption. Thus the government responded, as much did educational institutions, to the need to promote the consumption of commodities’’.
— Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), p.19
- Workers had to be given buying power in order to be able to create a consumer economy. This was accomplished via things like
Around 2001, the issue of rising consumer debt in America was fairly constant news on the mainstream media, yet the habit of saving in comparison was rarely promoted!
On May 3, 2003, the Britain’s BBC aired a documentary titled “Spend Spend Spend” (a second of a three-part series, the first of which is mentioned further below). They looked at the issue of consumerism and credit, mostly in Britain, and is summarized here:
- 45 years ago, there were no credit cards in Britain.
- The U.S. had introduced the world’s first credit card in the 1950s with dramatic success, allowing people to buy things that could not have been imagined before for some people.
- But it was harder initially, to convince the British public into accepting the credit card. Anothony Snow, Account Director of Barclaycard (a leading bank and credit card company in U.K.) from 1965-70, was one of many who went to the U.S. to see how they did it, to try and apply it in the U.K. A number of things were attempted to break through the resistance. He described some examples:
- In 1966, Barclays launched the Barclays Card, introduced as a “shopping card” rather than a credit card.
- Barclays then aimed it at women to show they could shop wherever and whenever they wanted. This also would have an effect of breaking the mold of the husband of the household owning the money flow.
- But the Bank’s agenda, the documentary said, was to make the shopping card a credit card, and so they extended the payback period.
- It would be more profitable for the bank if people did not pay back in full immediately, but instead pay in smaller parts, because of the interest that would be added.
- But in the 1960s the British government tried to stop it, though eventually relaxed their attempts because, as an internal memo revealed, there was a belief that such a significant amount of credit could never be involved as feared. (How wrong they would be!)
- By the 80s well after credit restrictions were lifted, credit cards were well accepted with millions of customers rather than being looked upon negatively as in previous years.
- Today most adults have a credit card in Britain.
- But they also have an average of 6,400 British pounds (about 10,000 U.S. dollars) in credit card debts and loans, the highest in Europe. “Its what the critics feared; its what the bankers hoped for, though I don’t think anyone realized how far it would go,” commented Leslie Hannah, Chief Executive of Ashridge Management College.
- By the 1970s shopping habits had been transformed by credit.
- Recession at that time meant new techniques were needed to get people to consume.
- One way was by major designer brand companies, formerly targetting exclusively to elites now started producing for the high street and for ordinary people.
- Michael Gross, a New York fashion journalist commented that, “Designer products are to a certain extent, a con. But the con is that you are paying for the marketing.”
- Calvin Klein jeans, for example, were really jeans contracted out and just given the CK label. Their Obsession fragrance was made by Unilever.
- But brand loyalty is a hot selling device. “The triumph of designer labels is that most of us have almost unwittingly fallen into line. Whether it is mass market brands ... or exlcusive brands ... branding is now all pervasive” as the documentary highlighted.
- “A huge reason why people buy designer clothes and crave designer labels is insecurity,” according to Alice Rawsthorn, Head of Design Museum, London. “Its very simple psychological way of somehow placating people or convincing them that they have bought the right thing so they don’t feel nervous about the symbols of consumption that they associate themselves with. it sort of gives them that guarantee that if Prada designed a certain type of clothing, Prada is the right look to have.”
- “Aided by easier credit and seduced by the designer revolution, consumers in the 80s just couldn’t stop borrowing and spending,” continued the documentary. “With the ‘buy now pay later’ culture gethering pace, the economy had started to become increasingly sensitive to consumer behaviour. Sudden changes to spending could bring disaster.”
- Alarmed by the boom, the government in the 80s was unable to put a tax on credit, that it wanted to do, due to political pressures, that it would be unpopular. With consumer spending soaring and risking the British economy over-heating the interest rates shot up to 15% at one point. The spending revolution bust for a while.
- Consumer spending rose in the 90s. This time, the area was technology such as mobile phones. In just less than a decade the UK market for mobile phones had saturated. For the phone industry to survive, the documentary said, consumers today need to buy into the phones more often than their grandparents did the car.
- “Speeded up obsolesence” is a phrase the documentary used where by the speed at which things get obsolete is so quick that this is to keep the cycle going.
- In Britain, 1 million people are thought to have a serious shopping addiction. In the U.S., it is 5 million. “You're urged to buy and you are urged to define yourself by what you have and what you can buy and what you own.... so I think it is a matter of some people being more vulnerable to this, than others,” said Dr. Lorrin Koran, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. “Its not just individuals who are addicted to shopping, our economy is too. Personal spending now plays a bigger and bigger role in keeping the modern economy going. And when things start going wrong, there is no magic pill. Governments rely on consumers to bail them out. There was a very real fear that September 11 would cause spenders to lose confidence and plunge the world into recession. ‘Keep spending’ was the plea. [The documentary showed the former New York mayor, Guliani urging people to spend, shortly after 9-11, in order to help the economy, as well as other ads of a similar nature]. So shopping is now the new patriotism. Keeping people spending has become the top economic priority.”
- “The economic dream. We refuse to let anyone take it away. So GM announces interest free financing ... ‘Keep America rolling’ says another documentary” as this documentary was concluding.
- The documentary also highlighted the price that consumers may have paid. “In Britain, consumers fell happily into line. Spending soared, the economy prospered. But this new consumer boom, as in the 80s has been paid for by record borrowing. Now consumers, worried by debt and the Iraq war, have started to tighten their belts — the economy is paying the price. Up to now, Britain’s shopping obsession has helped keep the economy afloat, but it has meant huge personal deb
Currently in many parts of the world, the level of consumption, in comparison is low. With “corporate-led” globalization, the fear is that these negative aspects of consumerism will be pushed throughout the world as well. What is not clear is the cultural resistance to this, and also how different cultures will also assimilate this with their own blend of consumerism, and whether or not the same problems would show up, or not, or if they would be different. Studies are slowly coming out on this aspect (some showing negative signs others showing signs of more choice and freedoms for people) and over time hopefully I will be able to highlight some of those here.
- There had to be a “change in spiritual and intellectual values from an emphasis on such values as thrift, modesty, and moderation, toward a value system that encouraged spending and ostentatious display.” (p.21)
- This was seen especially from 1880 to 1930.
- Robbins further details how religious movements, which became known as “mind cure religions”, became (quoting research from William Leach) “wish-oriented, optimistic, sunny, the epitome of cheer and self-confidence, and completely lacking in anything resembling a tragic view of life.”
‘’These movements held that salvation would occur in this life and not in the afterlife. Mind cure dismissed the ideas of sin and guilt. God became a divine force, a healing power. Proponents argued that Americans should banish ideas of duty and self-denial. ... These new religions made fashionable the idea that in the world of goods men and women could find paradise free from pain and suffering; they could find, as one historian of religion put it, the “good” through “goods.” ‘’
— Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), p.22
- That is, a more materialistic view on things like life and relationships with others, etc. would tend to be encouraged or promoted.
While the above from Robbins is based on looking at the U.S., he points out that this also happened in Europe, such as in France, Britain and Germany, but “it happened with the most intensity and rapidity in America.” (p.22).
On March 31, 2002, Britain’s BBC aired a documentary called The Century of the Self. It explored how psychology contributed to increasing individualism in post World War II America. From its social and political activism beginnings it was ultimately turned on itself and used and understood by corporate America to create more diverse products for consumers. But, as well as meeting consumer desires, there was a more fundamental political and economic reason for promoting individualism. The documentary described the social, economic and political aspects behind this:
- In the 1960s especially, there was a growing student-based and civil right movement, and amongst many other things there was activism (some of it quite militant) and criticism about corporations and their exploitive drive for profits and the already increasing mass consumerism that was creating conformity. (The Vietnam protests are perhaps the most well-discussed aspects of this movement.)
- With increasing activism, this had a possibility of threatening political stability for powerholders, and economic stability for corporate America, as students and the young are the consumers of the future. For such large numbers to be rebeling was already impacting some industries.
- Corporate America as well as the political elite had to naturally try to regain some of the desired conformity which would help a stable and predictable political economy. Methods of psychological research were deployed by corporate America and various research institutions to understand and categorize people into predictable behaviors and be able to get people to express their individuality by purchasing products they would have produced for meeting those needs.
- Economically, this contributed to a rise in the American economy which up to that point was facing a lot of unemployment and slow down (though there would still be booms and busts to follow).
- Politically the impact could perhaps be seen as more significant:
- This support for individualism was seen as very valuable because it was a form of subtly imposed social control, whereby it would individualize people in a way that would remove or loosen the strong political and social activism, as people would turn inwards to themselves only.
- A group of people who were once concerned about social issues were largely transformed into exploring and fulfilling their individual desires through the purchase of material goods.
- At a time when left wing political parties would be seen as championing social causes, candidates like Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher in Britain, would appeal to the expression of individualism, to gain appeal, support and power.
The same documentary continued April 7, 2002, to also detail how this affected political parties in USA and UK. Thatcher and Reagan had started off a new drive towards increased individualism and increasing consumerism and getting people to express their own personal needs, without requiring or demanding any needs for society. Subsequent parties and their leaders such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair also found that they too had to change their party’s ways and ideals to meet the desires of consumers. Democratic participation had become more about expressing needs and wants.
The documentary pointed out that this shaping of people’s choices and opinions came from the pressures and skills of big business, to which now even governments had to succumb to gain power. In this way, the documentary had pointed out an irony in that the drive for individualism had made people feel unique and not driven by big government or big business in their lives and choices, and yet it was big business that had been able to influence deeply both individuals and governments; people’s desires were being listened to, but people’s democratic rights and broader powers were being undermined; a process that has been attempted for centuries by the elites of the time.
With these types of transformations, the consumer society has evolved in such a way, that consumption and consumerism (for good and bad) is identified as being at the core of a modern culture and society.
D.Consumerism drives most aspects of our lives today
The BBC also aired a documentary called “Shopology” (September 2nd and 9th, 2001) where psychologists looked into the psychology of shopping and consumerism in places like Britain, USA and Japan and asked if it was healthy for consumers. Of the many points they raised, they pointed out that:
- Consumption now helps to define and answer who we are
- Social definition revolves around consumption (which is heavily commercialized)
- That we essentially “buy” a lifestyle
- Brands help turn perceptions into reality, thus encouraging purchases based on fashion and peer/social pressures to fit in.
- Consumerism can increase stress for various reasons
- To deal with social and consumerism pressures and their effects, people may on occasion resort to what psychologist term as “compensatory consumption” — that is, consuming even more to feel better (similar to how one might feel tempted to take alcohol to relieve stress). This is ironic because this additional consumption often stems from the culture of consumerism itself.
- Rising consumer debt puts pressure on families
- Malls are carefully designed to create appropriate moods to indirectly encourage buying (this is a similar parallel to how department stores evolved, as described above, except that from a department store, it now includes entire malls.)
The BBC focused on the impact on consumers in wealthy countries, which is important to consider. Additionally however, consumerism by the wealthy is also at the expense of the poor around the world (the majority of people) which has enormous ramifications. This will be introduced in the rest of this web site’s section on consumption.
On April 27, 2003, the BBC aired another documentary, as part of a 3-part series called Spend Spend Spend. The first part looked at the issues of whether or not the increased wealth and consumerism had led to more content and satisfied individuals. The documentary made some interesting observations:
- Research evidence seemed to suggest that increased wealth did not necessarily lead to more content and satisfaction, in Britain.
- Professor Andrew Oswald of Warwick University said that the key reason for this was because as we get wealthier there is often a tendency to compare more with others, which contributes to more anxiety. The “keeping up with the Jones’” syndrome.
- As we get wealthier, so do our expectations and the people we caompare ourselves with change, from peers and neighbours, to the likes of celebreties. (The increase in media attention on celebreties contributes to this.)
- In various experiments conducted by Professor Oswald on relationships between wealth and happiness he found that some two thirds of people were willing to reduce what they had if it meant others would lose out and be worse off.
- The impllications of this is profound. As Oswald suggested, it is “hard to make society happier as they get richer and richer because human beings look constantly over their shoulders. Thats the curse of human beings; making comparisons.” Side Note»The professor didn’t clarify if this was the case for all cultures, as most of his experiements appeared to be with British citizens and the documentary focused on Britain and also mentioned the United States.
- It used to be a question of what we will do with all the spare time that the increased affluence and increased consumption of consumer goods would have led to. This promise was often made in the 1950s and 1960s, but “it hasn’t quite turned out that way” as the documentary said.
- Britain works longer hours than other European countries and time is getting increasingly precious. Side Note»Compared to some other European countries, Britains also get paid relatively less in many fields.
- The documentary noted how increasingly, extremely wealthy people were employing services such as personal trainers, shopping services, and even services to organize their lives.
- As the documentary also added, “the average American now works a whole month more a year that in the 1970s — one of the main reasons why happiness there reached a peak in 1957 and has been going down since.”
- Professor Juliet Schor, of Harvard University and author of The Overworked American added that the “culture of long hours has spread like cancer” in the U.S. leading to more divorces, and other social problems. Spending has been one way to compensate for the loss of time.
- The increased affluence for some people has contributed to a decline in national services such as health and education.
- UK, one of the most affluent countries in the world spends less than 40% on national services, while Europe spends some 45%.
- As we have got richer we have spent a lower and lower share of wealth on public services and more on ourselves. Private wealth has prospered at the expense of public spending. Side Note»There is a pervasive ideology of reducing spending on public services noted by the demonization of “big government.” True, in many cases, government excess can be over-bureaucratic and stifle individual’s innovative abilities. Yet, at the same time the wealthy sometimes seem to forget that they have benefitted themselves from public services which serve to slightly address inequality. In some cases arguments are often heard such as “why should my taxes go to those people who got themselves into this mess, or should work hard to get out of it, rather than wait for handouts and charity” sometimes ignoring that other social conditions may have contributed to some people’s problems. As mentioned on the poverty part of this site, inequality is a major cause of societal problems. It is therefore in the interest of the wealthy to also give back to society, rather than demand even more from it, while also important to address the causes of deep inequality as well.
- In the 1980s and 1990s after the 1960s policies of expanding public services, they started to decline.This was in line with the resurgence of the ideology of neoliberalism under the the Raegan and Thatcher eras.
- This saw the increasing affluence of a few while public services for the majority started to go into decline. The documentary pointed out how poorer members of society in U.K. suffered from disempowerment and a feeling of hopelessness to varying degrees.
- Yet as works by the likes of John Kenneth Galbraith and others have shown, and as also discussed elsewhere on this site, the public wealth (or lack of) helps everyone, rich and poor. To neglect them contributes to societal decay, such as increased crime, which affects both the wealthy and the poor alike.
- As Professor Schor summarized, people who care how much money they make, about their possessions, about their wealth, financial and economic status are often more depressed, and have a lower self-esteem.
- To make up for this and also to make up for getting 'bored' of the posessions already obtained, you spend more to buy more things.
- Research suggests social connections, marital status and health are what makes ultimate happy lives.
The documentary therefore began to hint at the complex relationships between poverty, inequality, wealth and consumerism. Beyond just simple economic theories, there are other factors such as politics and culture that are involved.
Hence, consumerism has come a long way, and involves a lot of money too:
‘’Thus by the 1930s, the consumer was well entrenched in the United States, complete with a spiritual framework and an intellectual rationalization that glorified the continued consumption of commodities as personally fulfilling and economically desirable, and a moral imperative that would end poverty and injustice. ... Since that time the institutions of our society, particularly those of corporate America, have become increasingly more adept at ... hiding the negative consequences of our patterns of behavior, consequences such as labor exploitation, environmental damage, poverty and growing inequalities in the distribution of wealth.’’
— Richard Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), p.22
Hence, consumerism has come a long way, and involves a lot of money too:
‘’World consumption has expanded at an unprecedented pace over the 20th century, with private and public consumption expenditures reaching $24 trillion in 1998, twice the level of 1975 and six times that of 1950. In 1900 real consumption expenditure was barely $1.5 trillion.’’
— Human Development Report 1998 Overview, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
A vivid example of this increasing consumption and its associated impacts is the use and promotion of consumption by children’.
Counter Our Consciousness Destruction by Capitalist Doctrine: Stress the Real Economy
by Horace Carby-Samuels
Capitalist doctrine has promoted a civilization where persons are socialized to live their lives by primarily chasing after money and financial-equivalent results. However, humans are essentially mind-guided entities who are intuitively aware of their latent cosmic-linked Consciousness. Addtionally, the fiduciary currency which capitalism is conditioning humans to chase, has been a relatively recent convenience that has been created to accompany human civilization.
Meanwhile, as the human brain and our physical structure evolved, humans developed awareness of a number of critical dispositions, which capitalist doctrine and its supporting apparachnicks is busy trying to get us to overlook. Humans recognized their mortality, at the same time that they framed a latent awareness that they shared in a cosmic linkage, (which essentially led them to construe and to execute burial rituals).
Additionally, as humans began to develop technology, they also began to formulate concepts about their quality-of-living; and about how their own living could be advanced. Humans therefore began to see their living as exercises in how they are able to manage the commitment and the allocation of the time (for living) that became available to them. Humans therefore began to economize on the allocation of their time for living, long before the invention and the usage of any other sort of currency.
Humans as mind-guided entities, have therefore historically set out to budget, to categorize, and to evaluate (appraise) the returns from the allocation (commitment) of their time. In his book Principles of Economics, which was first published in 1890, the neo-classical English economist Alfred Marshall explicitly recognized that humans draw on this intuitive principle of ranking in living-centred terms, the different yields from how and where their time for living had been committed.
In recognition that living, was the substantive operation that humans saw at hand, Marshall stressed that persons changed jobs on the basis of their judgments as to how their real income would change, rather than how their money income would change.
Clearly, when Marshall drew attention to the latent historical presence of the real economy, that was critical.
In particular, Marshall was pointing out that conscious, mind-guided persons, had targets in respect of the quality of their existence, that they used to judge how effective their time ommiments had been.
In contrast, proponents of the capitalist doctrine do not make what happens to people, their priority. Instead, they emphasize the money economy. However, the money economy, which capitalist doctrine emphasizes, was a manifestation of society, which was developed much later, after societies developed fiduciary currencies, to counteract the quantity and other limitations of commodity currencies.
Meanwhile, historically, by virtue of their ideological commitment to focus only on monetary-equivalent transactions, capitalist economists (such as Milton Friedman) have downplayed the presence of the real economy. They argue that, the real income (to which Alfred Marshall had alluded), is no more than the monetary income of persons, which they have [implicitly statistically] adjusted, for changes in the price levels which [they may expect to] occur as a result of inflation. Accordingly, that misperception by capitalist doctrine, is therefore being fed to us in the statistical reports that Western governments provide.
Capitalism does not emphasize persons, as being consumers of their time for living. It also does not emphasize them as being managers of that time, toward maximizing their opportunities to achieve Human Development. Therefore, proponents and supporters of capitalist doctrine, do not countenance the presence of the real (living-centred) economy out of which Marshall’s comment had come.
However, the ancient Gnostics had warned us about the presence of a hostile, predatory, alien consciousness (such as that which is now behind the promotion of capitalist doctrine), which is living among us in various masquerades. They pointed out that the aim of this predatory consciousness is to capture and to manipulate the evolutionary potential and the soul of humans. Accordingly, the hostile alien consciousness (behind capitalist doctrine), aims to use a human focus on monetary results, to befuddle and to distract humans.
This latent , hostile, and predatory alien consciousness behind capitalist doctrine, aims to distract the latent Consciousness which humans have of their cosmic linkages; and thereby aims to destroy human existential sensibilities.
By means of formal and informal programs of education and socialization, the capitalist doctrine is being used to steer us away from either being aware of, from contemplating, or from pursuing, an action-linked evolution of our Consciousness. Instead, the capitalist socialization emphasizes how our actions can be linked to the enhanced private acquisition of financial-equivalent wealth.
In the name of science and the scientific method, the capitalist doctrine promotes a civilization where persons are conditioned to primarily and overwhelmingly pursue the enhanced acquisition of money, (which they may then spend in profit-supportive trade). The system of governance in societies that have been conditioned to operate under the guidance and under the recognition patterns of capitalist doctrine, therefore promotes the generation of financial balance sheet results, (and so measures economic performance).
Living is about Trade and Exchange
Quality-of-living is about what we get in exchange for committing our time. Therefore, although the usefulness and convenience of money in commercial trading operations cannot be gainsayed, our latent awareness of the historical presence of the real economy, leads us to recognize some critical existential facts. Chief of these is the fact that it is the presence of the real economy, (in the form of the mix of opportunities among which we may commit our time), together with the understanding that we form as to what living is all about, that enables us to decypher the quality-of-living which we have.
Accordingly, we may not allow ourselves to forget that, notwithstanding the capitalist emphasis on monetary results, an economy is not about the monetary value of prevailing trade and exchange. Rather, it is about the pattern of outcomes which arise, in association with the time and effort management operations of the people who make up a society.
In particular, an economy (of any sort), shows the living-related results, that have been forthcoming from the productive participation of collectives of persons. who together contribute to the mixes of products and services which comprise the real economic data.
These participating persons should be seen as coping with their environment, while they are at the same time aiming to give content and meaningfulness to their respective decisions to remain alive. We therefore need to move our understanding of our reality, away from the money-chasing civilization into which the capitalist socialization has systematically set out to condition us.
As Conscious mind-guided persons, our alternative is to focus on the sense of being, toward which our historical and latent awareness of the real economy (in which our historical commitment to survival via time use management), has so far nurtured us. Therefore, ,to appraise prevailing economic performance, we need to look at the pattern of survival benefits that humans secure, as they aim to enhance the effectiveness of how they are able to commit their time for living.
An economic performance appraisal context which is consistent with this type of time-use recognition, was elaborated by Horace Carby-Samuels (2006) Quality-of-Living and Human Development as the Outcome from Economic Progress; Ottawa, Canada, (Agora Cosmopolitan Publishing, ISBN1897036353). He elaborated that, toward achieving the patterns which frame the quality-of-living that arises in the real economy, and that also lead to the achievement of Human Development, there are three types of not mutually exclusive time-use management activities among which persons allocate their efforts.
These critical indicative time-use activities of persons comprise their (a) Subsistence-Securing operations; (b) Meaning-Search operations; and ( c) Rest and Recreational operations. As a result, governments that aim to service the real economy, will need to ensure that their economic development commitments will enable persons to secure access to (at least minimum) targetted levels of these mixes of critical living-supportive services.
Additionally, mindful that persons aim to give meaning to their decision to reject suicide (and remain alive), economic development programming that aims to service the real economy, must foster and must also complement knowledge-acquisition by the members of the society.
Governments therefore have the responsibility to see to it that barriers are not placed on information transference (as persons aim to understand and to cope with their natural environment, and its laws of autonomous evolution). Finally, governments will need to recognize that in the real economy, persons also seek to have at least some customary amount of time for rest and recreation..
Prevailing Economic Management Realities
Meanwhile, consistent with the capitalist oversight of the opportunities which people have to manage the allocation of their time, reports about the economic downturn of 2008-2009, concentrated on what the money economy showed. Circumstances regarding the real economy, and about how the quality-of-living of the members of the society could be enhanced, were essentially ignored. However, what cannot be ignored is that the recorded downturn in trade and exchange, arose from some disingenuous business operations in the banks and near-banks, that form the U. S. system of (trade-centred) financial intermediation.
True to the greed-promoting norms of the money economy, a number of these bank and near-bank agencies, in pursuit of profit results, had created a mix of questionable commercial paper “assets”. These “assets” were then sold (for profit, of course) on the world-wide market, to other financial institutions, which later found themselves holding what amounted to worthless paper..
The cascade of financial credit curtailment that then resulted in the commercial market; was also accompanied by insolvencies in the commercial banking sector.
However, notably, the “corrective” measures which governments then took, were largely all directed at propping up the commercial banking system. In the process, these governments caused their treasuries to create financial assets that were then ploughed back, as capital, into the ailing banking system, which has since then continued merrily on to generate “profit” earnings, through its speculation in commercial paper..
Like other Wesern governments, in the “corrective” economic measures regarding the 2008-2009 economic downturn, the president of the United States proposed in his Economic Reconstruction and Renewal package, no substantive remedy focus on fostering enhancement in the quality-of-living of the people who make up the society. Rather, these (western) governments were largely concerned with what the cash-equivalent volume of profitable commercial trade (largely by the banks and corporations) would show.
Their remedial focus was NOT on promoting the avilability of services that form the backbone of the real economy, (where the economic emphasis is on the types of participative efforts which are available to the persons who make up the society).
Arguably, therefore, these governments need to recognize that notwithstanding the capitalist propaganda (such as that which is offered as economic development “advice” to The President of the United States, and to western governments), an economy, is not about the changes in monetary value of trade, that the activities of corporations have generated.
An economy is about the pattern of outcomes which arise, in association with the time and effort management operations of the people who make up a society. Additionally, an economy shows the mixes of products and services, which have been forthcoming from the productive participation of the collectives of persons that operate within an environment of governance..
Meanwhile, these participating persons must be seen as coping with their environment, (while they are at the same time aiming to give content and meaningfulness to their respective decisions to remain alive). Accordingly, and in particular, an economy (of any sort), shows the living-related results from the resource management operations in which thepeople at hand participate.
Real economic performance is therefore shown by HOW the quality-of-living of the human participants (in the society at hand) has been affected. However, capitalist economic reports are not interested in those economic outcomes, in behalf of human survival, (that are shown by the opportunities of persons to enhance their quality-of living). Meanwhile, the ancient Gnostics had warned humans about the fact that a predatory alien consciousness which is operating among us under various masquerades, will advance an insidious emphasis (such as the money-centred one of capitalist doctrine) which is indifferent to fostering the quality-of-living the experience of people.
These capitalists argue that application of the scientific method, shows that this money-centred doctrine which they articulate (and also empirically apply), provides the best vehicle for understanding what constitutes revealed progress from how humans manage scarce (biologically limiting) time and their other resources.
Indeed, capitalist doctrine, uses this “scientific bogeyman arbiter”, as an excuse to ignore and to essentially downplay the living-centred aim which is behind human economic management activities. The capitalist doctrine argues net financial-equivalent gain (as the indicator of economic performance), because that happens to be the ONLY measurement context which may be also used to gauge the success of the banks, and the corporations, (whose operations and objectives, the capitalist governments aim to service).
Through programs of formal and informal education, capitalism therefore executes a pernicious socialization. In it, persons are conditioned to accept an economy as being an environment where they must go about earning money, that will thereby show (as it does for in non-mortal corporations), how successful the management of scarce resources on their their time path of survival, has been..
The capitalist socialization, therefore conditions people to seek “employment” where they are “hired” to perform as corporate “wage slaves”, who are in market competition with each other (in the cycle of financial achievement). In that socialization, people are distracted from their latent awareness of the real economy; from their mortality; and from their latent cosmic linkage (as mind-guided entities). As a result, they are not conditioned to seek out, and to execute positive participative opportunities in their personal evolution, and in that of their society.
Capitalist doctrine has therefore been used to generate, or to perpetuate among human beings, an exploitive socialization, rather than one where persons relate empathetically to each other, at the same time that they recognize their mutuality.
Additionally, by keeping the prospects for the private acquisition of money at the forefront of the awareness and interactive patterns of persons, the capitalist socialization is centred on having people chase after money. However, experience shows that the perpetuation of the money economy is a societal mode of fraternal and environmental parasitization, rather than one of mutual ennoblement.
The Adjustment Path
If citizens aim to enhance their quality-of-living attainments so as to access oppportunities for Human Development, there are specific operations into which they will need to enter. For example, they will need to require, and to also give support to those governments that begin to focus on fostering their access to those types of time-use opportunities which will lead to enhancement of (what Alfred Marshall had called) their real income; and also about which Carby-Samuels (2006) had elaborated
Any sort of government commitment, to fostering the availability of features that lead to quality-of-life enhancement, will await citizen prompting and insistence. That is because governments will look beyond servicing the profit opportunities of the corporate sector, only after citizens begin to demand that these governments make themselves aware of the real economy which they must also service. It must also be impressed on these governments that this real economy is expressed in the mix of the time-use opportunities that are available to the persons who are contributing participants in the society.
It happens, however, that when the foregoing type of citizen input is made, governments will need to pay close attention to the structure and to the content of prevailing programs of education and socialization which they promote. In particular, these programs will need to do more than deliver mixes of “wage slaves” who will compete among each other for corporate-provided financial compensation (only.
Meanwhile, under the influence of the prevailing predatory hideous alien consciousness that is behind capitalist doctrine, a capitalist-sponsored government and the educational system that it promotes, will dig their heels in to emphasize the overwhelming importance of likely financial outcomes. Such a government and its systems of formal and informal education will be unlikely to aim to foster the capability of citizens to develop the technical and environmental awareness, that will assist them to achieve opportunities for Human Development (as a bonding with their cosmic-linked human birthright).
Additionally, IF the type of economic shock which we experienced in 2008-2009 is not to be repeated, there must necessarily be also legislative reform of the privilege mix on which the commercial banking system now operates.
'I confess I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human
beings is that of struggling to get on; that the trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other's heels,
which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of humankind, or anything but the
disagreeable symptoms of one of the phases of industrial progress'. (Mill 1848: 748)
The two principal environmental reasons given for the American obesity epidemic (the "Big Two") are decreasing cost and increasing availability of food, especially in the form of fast or junk food high in fat and sugar, and the decline of physical exertion (Keith et al. 2006). Although there is surely some truth to these claims, they do not seem capable of explaining the full extent and timing of the explosion in obesity. Throughout much of history, the very wealthy have had food--even fat-rich and high-sugar foods--readily available. Further, they had servants and thus labored little. Although sometimes plump--a mark of high status--they were not typically obese (Gilman 2004: 10-14). Surveying the evidence, Keith et al. (2006) conclude that undue attention has been given to the Big Two, resulting in neglect of 10 other equally plausible mechanisms.
This article explores a potential socially-generated cause of obesity not included in the list provided by Keith et al.--the possibility that the obesity epidemic is substantially due to increased insecurity and stress in an environment of ready availability of high-fat and high-sugar foods. (4) As will be seen below, an emerging body of research establishes a highly probable association of insecurity, stress, and weight gain. Physiologically, stress leads individuals to prefer fatty and sweet foods, and frequently to consume more calories, exacerbating weight gain, especially in the form of highly dangerous abdominal fat.
Surveys and polls report that many Americans feel stressed. For instance, in a 2006 representative sample of American adults (18-plus), almost half (47 percent) reported being concerned about the amount of stress in their lives. (24) It found "that people experiencing stress are more likely to report hypertension, anxiety, depression, or obesity" (Stambor 2006: 28).
An ERG poll asked respondents to select as more true one of the following statements:
Most people today face increasing uncertainty about employment, with stagnant income, paying more for health
care, taxes, and retirement, while those at the top have booming incomes and lower taxes
Our economy faces ups and downs, but most people can expect to better themselves, see rising incomes,
find good jobs and provideeconomic security for their families.
Sixty-four percent chose the first statement; 32 percent the second (Kusnet et al. 2006: 23).