Prosperity & Wellbeing Are Beyond The Market & The State

Civil Society Is The Ground Of  Wellbeing

“The major problems of our time — energy, environment, economy, climate change, social justice — cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are all interconnected and interdependent, and they require corresponding systemic solutions’ Fritjof Capra

In the forthcoming General Election, both main parties are incapable of delivering solutions to the dysfunctional systems failure that people feel but the media and politicians are unable (or unwilling) to articulate.

“Put simply the political parties offer cake when the bakery is burning down. Social impact is not the same as systemic impact.”

Rather than addressing our broken systems – from economy to finance, planning to housing and media to education – not to mention our political system, both main parties offer old solutions – different versions of the same neo-liberal ideology of economic growth and political centralisation. But this out-dated pro-market, or pro-state duality are two sides of the same coin.

“The choice is heads we get centralised big government or tails we get centralised small government. But prosperity and wellbeing do not stem from either the market or the state. Big society was never something either could deliver.”

This linear out-dated notion of left or right serves the interests of two competing tribes – from which the majority of people have increasingly excluded themselves. A hugely significant consequence of this mafia duality is that new leaders cannot emerge naturally without having to join and at least be seen to defer to party ideology. Politics today has become little different from supporting a football team and indeed this is the logic of May’s nationalist appeal to the nation – back your team against Europe in the Brexit cup final!
Being continually asked to choose between two options that are not addressing the fundamental core issue creates election fatigue and undermines democracy itself.
“After the election, politicians will claim a mandate for any electoral victory. But most people (who are not the party faithful) – especially those in safe seats who form the majority of the electorate will have voted tactically on the basis of the least worst option.”
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet the irreconcilable conflict between two competing families results in the demise of both their children, the death of love and of a future generation. Our current ‘democratic’ choice offers a similar prospect of self interested, self-inflicted impotency. Our politicians have begun to realise there is a plague on both their houses but not that a necessary requirement for prevention is letting go of linear, neo-liberal economic thinking and identity politics.
The neo-liberal ideology of unrestrained ‘free’ trade is an ideology of economic growth, sold to us on the basis of discredited, trickle down economics,  that seeks to dominate nature, society and culture. It is an extractive ideology of economic war whose aim is conquest not generative economic relationship whose aim, in contrast, is to create conducive conditions for life. Unrestrained ‘free’ trade could be described as a form of warrior capitalism. It is ironic that this ideology is promoted most fiercely in our political system by so called conservatives who despite their self deception of moderation, in practice seem to have little respect for conserving very much apart from the status quo and the power of the wealthiest and most influential.

“The real conservatives – the real radicals – are those who propose systemic solutions of a diverse and de-centralised politics and an ecological view of economy “

Here the aim becomes the development of a balanced self-replenishing system that offers societal and environmental wellbeing and the protection of both human and natural value. This requires the protection and replenishing of the Commons.
The ‘Commons’ can be thought of as the shared value – all the things in nature and civil society – that provides and supports a conducive context for human flourishing from which we all benefit and which we are all duty bound to protect, extend and develop for the wellbeing of present and future generations. The Commons can be thought of as every generation’s birthright or legacy. (i) In contrast, creating private wealth by extracting  value from people place and planet is the essence of unrestrained ‘free’ trade.
Capra goes on to suggest that, “In a broad sense …ecological economics refers to economic theory and practice that see the economy as operating within, rather than dominating, the spheres of nature, society, and culture.”
Prosperity and wellbeing do not stem only from the market or the state but from the Commons. 

The political challenge of our age is to re-balance our economy by freeing the Commons which have been enclosed both by the market and the state.

Following David Bollier, I have suggested elsewhere, that the perspective of the Commons is being rediscovered as a versatile new narrative of economy, self-governance and resource management as a third sector complement to private and public sector models of ownership and distribution. ‘The Commons comprise :-
  • Those aspects of civil society – the relational and institutional arrangements of community, economy and culture – that constitute a foundational context for all to flourish, create, learn and trade – including universal values that allow for diversity and difference through respect and reciprocity.
  • The specific contextual settings, and rules in which these arrangements are accepted, co-created and culturally interpreted, that are consistent with the unity of whole-system maintenance of life. Namely,
  • The Earth, its atmosphere, soil and water systems and the bio diversity of the natural world
  • Ourselves as bio-psycho-social and spiritual beings
Currently there are no institutions specifically designed to systematically steward and invest in this legacy at a bioregional or other level.’
J.P.Malkin in ‘A Commons Equity Society’


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