Chivalrous Capitalism

The Transition movement does not reject enterprise or exchange economics, but offers different values and criteria to contain the powerful shadows of the relationship of exchange as expressed within the warrior model of capitalism

Chivalrous Capitalism

–by Saul Annenberg, Extract From, May 2012

Chivalrous Capitalism And the New Moral Imagination

The article is is an extract from:

Chivalrous Capitalism, Non Partisan Politics, Personal Responsibility & Ecological Consciousness – Aspects of the New Holistic Paradigm

Essays In The New Moral Imagination

By Saul Annenberg

The concept of chivalrous capitalism for some may seem a naive contradiction in terms.

Certainly the experiment of trickle down capitalism has been a failure – surely in no small in part because it was based on the separatist, independent and selfish values of warrior capitalism and monetarist fundamentalism that take no account of the relational social context or of the power relationship within exchange based economics.

Increasing numbers of people have become disillusioned by the lack of integrity in public life which has undermined our institutions. Business and commerce are no exceptions to this dis-ease within and about the public realm.

Professionalization, corporatization and globalization of the economy has seen the very opposite of trickle down – that is to say they have become the epitome of a vacuuming up or sucking out of profit and resources from local economies and less wealthy communities through the colonization by the corporate sector of the high street, by exploitation of the unqualified by the qualified, by the colonization of the soul of consumers by the advertising industry and by the degrading and pollution of the environment and the asset stripping of the Commons – our shared wealth.

Corporations are now more wealthy and powerful than governments and professionals either are, or aspire to be part of, an elite that see themselves as entitled, so even where lobbyists do not have excess influence, the question many ask is what is the point of democracy.

When governments have bankrupted the taxpayer to support the separatist interests of the corporate and banking sectors, whilst banks are unable or unwilling to support local economies and small business, and given most people cannot afford to use the law or private healthcare without bankrupting themselves, there is surely a crisis of our institutions that requires more than tinkering solutions that essentially support the status quo. Crumbs or even large chunks of corporate social responsibility are no answer.

The Transition movement’s focus on local community resilience is surprising only in how long it has taken us to get there as a focus for reclaiming the economy and reclaiming he high street as well as the environment from a system of domination and exploitation.

The Transition movement does not reject enterprise or exchange economics. It offers  different values and criteria to contain the shadows of the relationship of exchange as expressed within warrior model of capitalism.

It is  not unreasonable to ask whether this is naive and whether we can realistically incorporate new values – that is to say elements of gift within exchange. At first this seems a contradiction.

However there is a hunger for a new moral imagination based upon the higher brain and the more evolved part of our humanity.

According to philosopher Jessiah Ben Aharon, “When we resurrect the heart in our thinking we resurrect the other by seeing them through the lens of present time. When we resurrect the heart in our feeling we resurrect ourselves by being present to ourselves through self compassion and when we resurrect the heart in our will or in our actions we resurrect our family, our community and our society by being present to and with our humanity.” (1)

But what does this have to do with Capitalism?

Western culture conflates the concept of the Warrior with the Knight but there is a significant difference between the two in that the Knight is motivated by the heart.

The Warrior instinctively fights for his own agenda and is therefore easily tempted by the idolatrous worship of winning  and the means of winning at all costs for himself or for any separatist interests he aligns himself with – whether a community or a corporation – through the use of physical force ( in its widest materialist interpretation which can be monetary or technological) or through the power of mind.

In contrast the Knight archetypically represents the force of the will within the heart and therefore whenever possible stands for human and humane values of the whole which is about Interdependence and Love.

The Knight archetype contains a maternal and paternal gesture of protection that serves the feminine and Spirit by being both bold and self restrained through an internal or external code of chivalry for the sake of his or her honour and the metaphorical kingdom of the whole world to which she or he is in service.

Warrior capitalism is merely about the bottom line and reptilian self interest. It functions at the level of the reptilian brain as distinct from the mammalian or limbic brain. But the world is now at a stage where moral development has to advance so that technological development does not destroy either Nature or the Human Being. To do so we have to reach for the heights that were attained thousands of years ago by sages such as the Buddha and others in the Abrahamic and other faiths – not as a means of controlling individuals which many of the institutionalized versions of faith attempted to do in different ways and different cultural periods through dogma, but as a means of liberating every individual to choose Love through free will and to encompass for themselves and their communities and organizations the archetype of the Knight.

Chivalrous capitalism is not merely about fulfilling corporate social responsibility at a deep level as a model of enlightened self interest but is about extending and protecting the Commons and extending Shared Value for employees , customers and the community of which businesses are a part

It is therefore a model of good business practice not merely in the selfish sense of building customer loyalty but by integrating the interests of the corporation with the interests of the communities it serves rather than the other way round.

It thereby introduces relational awareness into the power exchange that is the “corporate – customer relationship” by mediating the exchange economy with some aspect of the gift economy. In essence this is about recognizing that we are in community – relationship. Our collective task is to raise up and acknowledge  the quality of that relationship. The gesture of the Knight is to provide and protect – at the archetypal level this is the energy of the father or the authentic masculine which can only remain as such in relation to the gesture of the mother archetype which is about nurturing and nourishing.

By taking on board the parental but not the patriarchal parenting gestures, chivalrous capitalism builds real value for the community and protects the environment instead of asset stripping the natural world or manipulating customers.

Chivalrous capitalism allows entrepreneurs to make a significant and real contribution to civil society and in turn be valued by society for creating real wealth that everyone benefits from rather than mere monetary wealth which is hoarded as capital and taken out of circulation to the detriment of all. It is not about charity or crumbs of social responsibility.

It offers a contemporary and grounded route for philanthropy in line with Victorian entrepreneurs who built cities and civic buildings that reflected their pride in their achievements and their connectedness to the places and communities in which they lived and in which they built their wealth. Whilst such an exchange may have been motivated by egotistical or penitential reasons it still defined a relational attitude to exchange and to community.

Chivalrous capitalism offers a contemporary win win cultural possibility that can protect nature, protect and extend the Commons and extend shared value beyond simplistic corporate responsibility models. Chivalrous capitalism therefore can also potentially become civic capitalism, cooperative capitalism and ecological capitalism. It requires the corporation to redefine its purpose and its legal structures that currently require directors to maximize profits for shareholders in order to align with Love rather than with power by internalizing the archetype of the Knight.

Shareholding in such corporations then becomes an act of enlightened self interest rather than speculation. Chivalrous capitalism makes ethical investment the norm and corporate responsibility an integral part of economic activity by putting the creation of shared value at the heart of business.

Some feminists might cynically suggest that the Knight archetype is only useful in so far as it gives men something productive to do for women by sublimating sexual drive. However it is much more important than that. The Knight archetype which is not gender restricted is about what it is to be a true human being and what it is to be a true partner in a marriage as well as offering a model of finding oneself and ones purpose in the world through deep self knowledge and personal challenge.

It integrates the liberal and conservative traditions in western thought by being a champion of radical interdependence through a non partisan approach that is committed to the well being of the whole and the highest values within the whole.

It also integrates the Islamic concept of inner jihad with contemporary psychotherapeutic understanding and the Christian concept of Love as Rudolf Steiner understood it as the Christ gesture in the world.

The chivalrous business can take different economic and legal forms. It can be a cooperative owned and run by it’s workers and shareholders, it can be a corporation that shares wealth with employees and customers, it can be a sole trader operating a specialist niche business on ecological principles.

Models of Chivalrous business shun the warrior capitalist mode that exploits markets, exploits nature, exploits customers and employees in pursuit of profit and nothing else by asset stripping the world and asset stripping our humanity.

The idea that warrior capitalists create real wealth that can be shared is a myth perpetrated by the idolatry of self interest and non regulation. To create self restraint we need an inner rather than an outer regulation to be truly effective – that is to say a culture of contribution and honour both of which are central to the Knight archetype.  ‘Honour means priceless and invaluable human contact and cooperation” (2)

Notes:

1) Jesiah Ben Aharon – Lecture on ” The Singularity in the 21st Century” at South Devon Steiner School  May 2012

2) Heide Goettner-Abendroth on ” The Relationship between Modern Matriarchal Studies and the Gift Paradigm” – The Gift a Feminist Analysis –  www.gift-economy.com

The above is an extract from:

Chivalrous Capitalism, Non Partisan Politics, Personal Responsibility & Ecological Consciousness – Aspects of the New Holistic Paradigm

Essays In The New Moral Imagination

By Saul Annenberg
All rights reserved – copyright © New Harmony 2012


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