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Conscious economics is an “intersection” of economics and psychology. It is different from ‘behavioral economics’ which is a behavioral, instrumental psychology in the service of unexamined economic purposes. ‘Conscious economics’ is economy in terms of the consciousness of the observer and its self-understanding which in turn is generated through interaction and group membership -- a depth, emancipatory psychology of mutuality.
More broadly, conscious economics points to a possible transcendence of subject-object duality in the “economic actor” and the implications of such a transcendence for the (human) economy as popularly understood today, including alternative economies to the one we have today. “Non dual being” is a general name for being in the world that integrates intuitive, emotionally resonant, lucid awareness with discerning, rational orientation.
Economics generally speaking is about how the human deals with his or her physical existence. Its domain of focus is intelligent ways of surviving in nature. It is premised upon a confrontation of mind versus matter, and secondarily on the individual subject versus the collective “others.” Traditional economics takes the individual person’s consciousness as his or her personal resource for effectively navigating and surviving in the material, competitive world.
Conscious economics takes this division of mind and matter, person and society, and considers that the mind and consciousness of any one individual is not really separate from other minds. While a person has a separate body and brain, the mind and consciousness and all its capacities (for language, knowledge, rationality, perception, intelligence, identity, motivation) is bound up with all other minds. Not that there is some supra-mind hovering over individuals, but that any meaning an individual has, is only created in that individual’s relation to others. We have a separate, physical body but our mind – our awareness -- is trans-physical and entangled with others.
Furthermore, the manner in which any one individual deals with his or her physical existence economically is conditioned by the person’s relational capacities – how that individual interacts with, collaborates with, and takes mutual coordinated action with other people. So at the level of mind and at the level of behavior, economy is entirely a social phenomenon and furthermore somehow integrated beyond matter. As the subject-object duality of the lone individual is transcended, there is a different approach to the mind-matter divide than how it is appears in a strongly individualist, me-versus-the-world orientation. Non-dual consciousness is also called “participatory,” “relational,” “heart centered”, "integral" consciousness among many other names.
Defining economy from the consciousness of the person-in-community has several implications about how humans should consider organizing for effective economic endeavors:
- Groups are the locus of activity. How one “couples” with others and engages with groups directly correlates to outcomes, personal and collective.
- The sense of individual person that is widespread today especially in “modern” Western economies – that of being self-contained, self-interested, competitive and entirely dependent on strategic, mental calculation -- is an ideological position, not an empirical one; it reflects a consensus within persons who are perceiving a world in a particular orientation; it lives psychologically in persons; it is an understanding of self that lives on an extreme pole of a spectrum of possible understandings self and relationship; it restricts human freedom despite and paradoxically to what its adherents believe; it orients individual persons and groups of persons (including societies) to think and act in specific ways; these specific ways of thought and action lead to outcomes that can be considered “effective, coherent and synchronous” in varying degrees according to various criteria.
- Understanding and engaging with others and the world is intimately bound up with personal conscience and maturity. One’s personal psycho-emotional growth changes the possibilities for economy in the world.
- "Full" individuation (aka psychoemotional maturity; self realization; soulfulness), where each person is comfortable in their utter uniqueness and that of others, is compatible with collective solidarity. It is the "far side" of today's neo-liberal/libertarian concept of individualism, which is a retreat into a restrictive conformity, focused on physical possession. Only the fully developed mature personality can make fruitful use of freedom. Without a greater development of the many intelligences of the person, the person is incapable of bearing the burden of freedom and individuality and tries to escape into artificial attachments which give him/her a sense of belonging and worth. Full individuation is the essence of the socio-ecological-cosmic principle, "e pluribus unum."
- Communication is critical to personal growth and is reflective of one’s level of growth.
- Agreements around group activity – critically dependent as they are on communication and personal growth – is the consciousness-space of all genuine economic reform. The self-conception of the participants to agreements -- varying from atomistic-egoistic to transpersonal -- will shape those agreements.
- The biggest agreements humanity faces today and those which self conception are critical, are around forms of governance and government, ownership and property, and the nature of money and credit (the latter being, at present, the means of exchange, store of value, investment and creation and maintenance of wealth).
- Appropriate scale (i.e. size) of economic activities and ownership of their inputs and outputs depends on intra- and inter-group dynamics, and the corresponding personal psychological and communicative issues of every person involved. (See this post for more.)
- Practices for self awareness and for group coherence are critical to bringing in a better economy.
- "Emancipatory knowledge" -- intuition, introspection, self-reflection, lucidity in conversation and group process, self-witnessing, etc. -- is what will supercede empirical, material, instrumental knowledge as the "engine of economic growth" if world civilization should go forward.
- The primacy of emancipatory knowledge, with all its subjectivity and intersubjectivity, transforms the field of economics. Economic science no longer is primarily a passive repository of facts, causal relations and empirical propositional knowledge. It is action through conversation to improve shared living arrangements. It compels each person to be responsive and responsible in these conversations to the other, the group and the larger field of existence.
These points sketch the basic idea of conscious economics. Over time, I will elaborate these ideas with further writings linked to this page. Your input is most welcome. I don't have a "comment" field on this page, but please use comment fields in the BLOG section or send me an email for comments.
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