The New Wealth of Nations

By John Raven

 

Part IV

The Way Forward

 

Chapter 17 - Section II

The Critique Summarised

Summary of Parts I, II, and III

and an

Introduction to, and Overview of, Part IV

 

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Index



The Way Forward: The New Values

Despite the continuing strength of reactionary, conservative forces in the world today, there is now surprising agreement about how society needs to change. The constellation of new ideas and goals is often referred to collectively as the "New Values", although this term is sometimes also used to refer to their antithesis - to a new-found faith (often grounded in despair) in blind market processes.

The "New" values are actually ancient ones, remarkably similar to those espoused by American native peoples, and involve recycling, conservation, respect for, and harmony with, nature, and community care.

More specifically, the New Values involve:

Many of these values are captured by the term "sustainability". We should not live in a way which the planet cannot sustain, heap burdens on our children, destroy the resources of the planet faster than we replace them, or set in train irreversible processes (such as global warming). Nor, while it may be sustainable for us, should we externalise our economic and political problems to the other side of the globe.

Other values can be subsumed in the wider notion of "Emphasising Quality of Life rather than GNP". Such a reformulation of goals leads to a new concept of wealth. Wealth inheres in such things as the quality of human relations; the aesthetics and liveability of built environments; stress-free journeys to work; non-stressful working arrangements; freedom from the threat of crime or fear of arbitrary prosecution for trivial "offences"; the sense of being able to rely on being cared for in a humane way if one happens on misfortune (something which can only be effectively provided through community support networks); security to plan for the future; the absence of the discomfort which stems from an awareness of gross disparities in quality of life in one's own community; ability to influence what happens in society or the future - to feel that one has made a difference; satisfying work - which means opportunities to exercise discretion and judgement and have a satisfying relationship with others; opportunities for leisure and the chance to use it in satisfying ways; opportunities to develop, use, and gain recognition for, one's talents; and opportunities to contribute meaningfully to society.

Still others are captured by the notion of "seeing through economics". Although most people are not aware of much of what has been said in earlier chapters, there is growing awareness of the absence of real economic advantages in large-scale production and distribution and an awareness of the disbenefits. There is an increasing sense that economics, by addressing itself to GNP rather than Quality of Life, does not deal with what really matters. And there is increasing recognition that the policies of the IMF do not improve the quality of life in the Third World.

Not only is there direct evidence of support for the New Values in the work of the Taylor Nelson Monitor17.11 and that of Yankelovitch and his collaborators17.12, indirect evidence of the extent of recognition of the need for change comes from the fact that, in the last three elections in the UK, both the Conservative and Labour parties obtained the support of the lowest-ever proportions of the electorate. Other evidence of the extent of this recognition is to be found in the low-level of support for privatisation and the enterprise culture among the bulk of the population17.13.

 

Beyond The New Values

Despite the fact that New Values are clearly a step in the right direction, what we have seen in this book is that, on their own, they are insufficient. Although the previously mentioned surveys provide some grounds for optimism, they also show, less positively, that few people realise just how serious is our predicament. Few realise how entrapped we are in what Milbrath17.14 has termed "dominator" thoughtways and a "dominator" society - a pervasive climate in which social and economic processes collude with scientific assumptions to ensure that power orientations dominate over an orientation to peace, co-operation, and peaceful co-existence with each other and with nature. No one is free to choose peace, but anyone can impose on all the necessity for power. A society that exploits nature quickly acquires more power than one which exploits it more slowly. Power over nature also means power over people.

We have suggested in this book that we need to completely re-design our way of life. The changes that are needed include:

In summary, introducing a sustainable way of life means largely abandoning the great engines of our economy - engines which provide employment and give meaning and purpose to most people's lives - and finding new ways of organising things and giving new meaning to people's lives. Only drastic measures will lead to improvement in the quality of life, both for ourselves and for other species.

The most important developments that are required are alternative societal management arrangements which will result in much more innovative information-based action being taken to enhance the common good; arrangements which will bring the dominator society to an end.

 


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Continue to Chapter 17, Section III
Return to NWN Introduction    
Chapter 1 which provides a sketch map of where the book is going and an overview of its contents similar to the final, summary chapter of many books.
Continue to Chapter 4  Some Observations on Money
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