A note on point of view; a large part of this book on the working of the human activity system and its implications for holistic political economy has general relevance but one of the components is culture. Inevitably my point of view, knowledge and experience, is limited by as well as informed by my UK perspective, especially when using political and historical examples. I'd welcome contributions from others applying the general case to their specific circumstances.
If you doubt that what we call representative democracy has run its course, consider the way politics and economics has been playing out recently. Just when the pressures, caused by world population, climate change, and power block competition, are getting to a critical point the political processes and the ideas that support them, which we have grown up with, are failing. They have failed to deliver prosperity for everyone, failed to secure commitment and engagement and failed to deliver greater contentment or humanity. In the midst of some awe inspiring progress (and there is a lot of good news out there) we are squabbling over trivialities. What is going on?
The idea of a new politics has been mooted as a response to the ills outlined above. When he was elected leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn said he wanted to create a new approach to politics (Example). The Director and Founder of the Ecoliteracy School at Berkley together with the Professor in Biochemistry at the University of Rome, in the preface to an undergraduate foundational text book say this; “There are solutions to the major problems of our time; some of them simple. But they require a radical shift in our perceptions, our thinking, our values….it has not yet dawned on most of our political leaders who are ‘unable to join the dots’…They fail to see how the major problems of our time are interrelated” (Capra and Luisi, Preface). Both, from different perspectives, speak to the need for something different.
Firstly it is necessary to define what a new politics might look like. Is it desirable and is it possible? I have deliberately made this about political economy, an older and to my mind more serviceable term. The economy is where a lot of power gets created and used, it impacts on all of us so what is part of economics is part of politics.
In Part 1 and 2 I develop the case for HoPE from first principles. In broad terms it is this;
Secondly, it is no good just having an idealistic solution, even if it is theoretically possible; the next question is it practical? In order to address this question we come face to face with power and change and have to ask the question what can be done? Are there practical steps, starting now, from here, that we can take with any chance of success?
In parts 3 and 4 I look at the practicalities of bringing HoPE into existence. This part of the argument runs as follows;
We are using up the time we have before a climate tipping point is reached and we are not significantly slowing carbon emissions. We cannot know when the tipping point will occur only that a stable system, far from equilibrium (global weather) has one. These things are crystal clear
- The less we do now the harder it gets. The scale of change is already huge; it needs investments in green technology and the mobilisation of people. On the positive side that means there is almost certainly enough work for everyone, we don't have to waste human capital
- The change we need simply will not happen without a paradigm shift and radical changes to the structures and institutions of political economy
- Change will happen anyway. It might be one of these: the loss of democracy and the enforced direction of labour, chaos with local wars, disasters and migrations or a collective effort where the sense of joint ownership and endeavour brings us together.
- Of the possible futures, only the collective route gives us agency. It is enlightened self interest, doing nothing makes the other outcomes more likely.
Bringing about radical change is a big challenge but not impossible. At key points in history paradigm shifts occur; if we look at the past we see just how differently people thought. A better future depends on action, it will not just happen. I want to find people who will act collectively to take this forward.