The New Dimension of Political Economy in the 21st Century

The Emergence of a New Dimension of Political Economy
J.P. Malkin argues that we have been thinking in the wrong dimension. The political spectrum of left, right and centre as well as  the concept of the “free”  market have locked us into illusions of freedom and choice. The emerging new political economy is collaborative self regulating and vertical between the poles of life-creation and life negation in the forms of corruption, extraction and degradation.

The act of naming is a very significant gesture.

Where our thinking or language does not allow us to name “qualities without a name’, it blocks transformation. Christopher Alexander (i) suggests that the act of naming allows human beings to pattern share.  He draws our attention to how patterns can open up, and blind us to,  new realities and new designs. In times like our own it is helpful to be reminded of this ancient concept of the “quality without a name” that thinkers have struggled with throughout the ages from within different cultural traditions.

Naming patterns allows us to change the world

Over the last few hundred years,  one simple pattern has dominated western economies to the exclusion of almost all others. The adversarial, win-lose model of profit – what I have called ‘warrior’ capitalism has become what Paul Hawken (ii) has called ‘the global operating system’ – otherwise known as the “free” market.

The primitive mechanism of maximising profit has been virtually the only model of economic reality western culture could conceive of, because its opposite has remained “a quality without a name”.

The language that we have had to describe this “free” market pattern has hidden its true nature from us . It has locked us into an illusion of freedom but in actuality it has been anything but free. But it has been presumed the only realistic possibility  because we could not name its true opposite which remained a “quality without a name”. ( The opposite of the free market is not socialism or communism – that would be to think in the wrong dimension)

However according to Otto Scharmer (ii),

We are on the brink of a third phase of capitalism – a movement from unregulated (free) and regulated (social) markets to self regulating modes of doing business.

Self regulation can be described as a key characteristic not just of nature but of the planet (iv). Taking a cue from ecological perspectives, Marjorie Kelly (v) has named the generic pattern of collaborative, economic, self-regulating initiatives – that operate beyond profit – as ‘generative’. And she has correctly named free market profit correctly as ‘extractive’  – the business model  designed and dedicated to maximising profit which is is the basis of global capitalism and speculation  (that is still mistakenly named shareholding) . Consequently through this renaming we are able to see the global economy more clearly in a new economic dimension.

The naming of these economic poles – Generative versus Extractive – gives a new compass for navigating the not only the economic but also the social and political sphere.

I have written elsewhere on this blog about the new holistic paradigm in which entitlement and contribution provide equivalent poles within a strategic civil society perspective.

In the political sphere there has been an equally dysfunctional, adversarial win-lose model that has obscured the true nature of our defective democracy. The horizontal political spectrum of left, right and centre has locked us into an illusion of choice. Currently no matter which party we vote for we can choose different versions of big government or small society. Millions of voters have lost confidence and interest in such politics but polticians cannot understand why. When they are thinking in the wrong dimension it is not surprising. We need another way of thinking- another way of naming patterns.

Just as the generative economy is about collaborative shared value that creates a foundational context for wellbeing and indeed for life, so too in the political sphere there is an equivalent continuum between the collaborative commons at it highest point and extraction, corruption and degradation at its lowest.

We could describe it as continuum between forces of life (Eros) and forces of death (Thanatos), though  we might also say between the sacred and the profane.

In this dimension the politics of left and right and centre that simply protect separatist identities and interests make little sense. What matters is our humanity and our values. The new politics is more traditional because it is about caring, conserving and protecting and it is more compassionate because it respects the fundamental dignity, diversity and contribution of all. And it is more radical than any existing party can conceive of because it is an integration of the best of philosophical conservatism and the best of philosophical liberalism. It is a new integration of the feminine and the masculine gestures of the nurturing mother and the protective father.

This new political spectrum is vertical not horizontal.

We can envisage it as made up of at least 3 columns of shared value. Firstly of real productive economic value as opposed to transactional/extractional value, secondly a column of real human value – who we are as human beings is much more significant than a materialist, reductionist perspective has presumed – and thirdly a column of shared environmental or natural value. All these are foundations that we can only achieve when we return to deep traditional values of respect, honour, compassion and integrity  that are commensurate not only with the core ancient values that are found at the centre of all faith traditions, with humanitarian secularism and with civil society – insert diagram here

Kelly writes that,

We’re experiencing today a system event operating at the scale of the planet. We are on the threshold of a passage likely to prove as significant as the advent of agriculture and the dawn of the Industrial Revolution

The problem we face as individual citizens is that no existing political party in the UK has the vision, understanding or agility to navigate the complexity of the comprehensive system breakdown that we are facing. So for those who can see past the ‘group think’ to the deeper malaise, there is currently no democratic choice out there worth voting for.We are experiencing a systems breakdown across the board both nationally and globally to which there are no answers from within the outdated political spectrum of right or left or centre. Banking, housing, energy, education, justice, business, media and politics have become more ineffective, risk averse, bureaucratized and dysfunctional. Significantly they have also become disconnected from the values that most people live their lives by.
Whilst the media and politicians are busy pretending it is business as usual or working out a ‘group think’ fix, not very far away there is discontent, disillusionment and anger in every local community and every parish. This anger in part is about the flawed and unfair way our systems “work”. But it is also about the “what’s in it for me” attitudes which have been the default setting for so much business and many professions for some time and which still continue to surface amongst those in positions of power.
This systemic breakdown has meant we have become a disunited kingdom.

Our old systems, and those who run them, are stuck in obsolete ways of thinking and committed to out-dated concepts of measuring wealth and success.
Without intending to, they have lost sight of the purposes and the people they were meant to serve. But it is wishful thinking to hope that the existing political parties or those in positions of leadership within our failing systems are able to put things right by better behaviour or a slight adjustment to the tiller.

We need a completely new compass

This is the challenge of our time. It is perhaps the biggest challenge that Britain has faced since World War II. And even if we are able to reset the direction of our country at the next election, reconfiguring these systems will take at least 20 years to truly put right.
The good news is that this breakdown also represents the greatest opportunity for large-scale positive reform there has been for generations. Our collective responsibility is to embrace it in a way that can include everyone.

This is nothing less than the next evolutionary step in civil society, democracy and economy.

Britain can be at the forefront of this global shift if we are courageous enough to embrace the new perspective.The coming step change necessitates the restoration of humane values and civil purpose to institutions and organizations across both private and public sectors. Power needs to refresh, renew and resacralize its covenant with the people and with nature. But it cannot do so on its own terms.

The new politics does not start with ideology, with the competing agendas of separate interest groups or with our cherished political identities. It starts with respect for human dignity, with our shared interest in the common, natural and civil ’wealth’ that supports us all and with the human values that we all can share

It aims to restore to citizens the sovereignty, power and responsibilities we have outsourced to politicians, corporations, institutions and the media. It represents a different axis and a different dimension from the old horizontal political spectrum of right and left and centre which is able only to look after sectional interests rather than the whole.
Some may be surprised to learn that the new politics is thriving right across Britain, indeed across the world outside governments. Many thousands of people are already working towards this end across the UK in local, community or environmental projects, in social enterprises and the new media (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

But if we are to successfully reconfigure our broken systems, we will first have to reclaim power from central government and the old political party system that prevents our communities having a meaningful voice and having the power and resources they need in order to do the job that Westminster cannot.

Reimagine is a contribution to the movement to create a new collaborative, community led political party to do exactly that. Our aim is the restoration of lost connection with ethical values, with the land and between generations so that wellbeing and civil society can become the means and ends of a re-united “kingdom”.


i) Christopher Alexander :  “The Timeless Way of Building”

ii) Paul Hawken:

iii) Otto Scharmer: Seven Acupuncture Points To Change Capitalsim and Create a Generative Sustainbale Economy

iv)  James Lovelock  : The Gaia Hypothesis

v) Marjorie Kelly


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


You may use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>