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.
So, if there are challenges great enough to warrant the effort to bring a new politics into existence, and there is already some awareness that a new approach is needed, there are some fundamental questions to ask; what is the new politics, what does it look like, will it work and how can we bring it about?
Back to first principles
Thinking about what might be done I decided to go all the way back to first principles; by doing that I'd be able to lose baggage from both left and right but in losing the baggage I also lost the majority of explanatory frameworks and needed a new one. Not a small task. Creating an explanatory framework now became my main challenge. I am sure it is possible to derive a new framework for thinking about political economy from current knowledge. I have pieced together what I think it looks like and I believe it to be well founded and coherent; it has both, a sound ethical foundation and is grounded in the emerging view of how the world and humans work. I hope this is an original contribution. I think I am ahead of the curve, but only just. There are many people out there who are just getting on with it, by grounding the new politics in what we know it should work better and deliver better results.
That it is necessary, I am sure, but it is not sufficient. To be sufficient at least three additional things are needed:
- Firstly, there must be a vision of how things can be better - this vision has to be optimistic, inspiring, uplifting and motivating
- Secondly, it has to be practical, it should be possible to see how it will actually work. The test I use is will it fit with human nature
- Thirdly, it has to translate into realistic politics and show how people can mobilise and create change with a prospect of success
A realistic vision
The vision I suggest is one where we design a politics that is no longer a competition to get control of the state (which dooms us to perpetual conflict) but the collective quest for good governance (cooperation). In business we move away from the pursuit of profit at all costs, towards a joint endeavour to increase the common wealth, within sustainable limits and with a minimum below which no one should fall. This would be a paradigm shift compared to the prevailing zeitgeist. With a paradigm shift this vision becomes thinkable and eventually inevitable. To bring it about we first have to develop, explain, educate, and convince people. That requires a movement which adopts the right tactics to bring it about.
The paradigm change will not come about by tweaking the present system, it is structurally competitive making a hypocrisy of the very idea of cooperation. If we want (and need) a co-operative system we have to actually start cooperating. We need systems designed to foster and encourage cooperative behaviours. This requires nothing less than a redesign of our political and economic institutions, it cannot be brought into existence by either revolution or the election of a government (though we will need some enabling legislation). But first we have to recognise the equal citizenship of all people and bring as many people as possible into the process. We have to share what is possible, share successes (of which there are many) and build the self confidence to create alternative structures.
If the theory is well founded and the practice is realistic the ideas behind holistic political economy will spread. As more and more people come to it, understand the implications and the urgency of some of the challenges we face, then the demand for change will build. There will come a tipping point, when enough people “get it”, the new politics will become not just possible but inevitable, the new normal.
Presenting the evidence
Thinking how to present the arguments I decided to use my professional training. I use systems thinking to comprehend the big picture and the tools of business and IT strategy analysis to organise the evidence and present the case. Systems Thinking is one of the foundational ideas within holistic political economy - it needs to become the default way of thinking, working out solutions and anticipating outcomes.
It is paradoxical that so much of business studies (which is of necessity multi-disciplinary) uses systems thinking and is built on an understanding of human nature. Good businesses know how to bring out the best in people, how to foster team work, how to use facilitation to come up with robust solutions, where brainstorming recognises everyones contribution. But at the same time so much of business is locked into a mean spirited, greedy and competitive environment. If ideas that work inside the best companies are valid, why don't they have wider application?
This site is my eBook on holistic political economy (HoPE). First, I develop the theory, then tease out the practical implications and finally develop (at some length) the strategy and tactics needed to bring it into existence. I have organised it into 4 major sections (Review, Assess, Consider and Act). The case is made step by step. By using a web-site you don't have to read it sequentially, it is designed to be explored, so you can follow the arguments in the ways that work for you.
A truth, not the truth
It is quite possible to hold a principled objection to what I describe as holistic political economy. It might run like this; everyone must be free to fail or succeed, the world is a hard place, no one owes us a living. Not my view but one of the reasons I chose the yin-yang symbol which represents opposites in dynamic tension. The knowledge we have about human nature and behaviour, which makes HoPE possible can also feed pessimism and the conclusion that we are always going to fight, be exploited, and our weaknesses used to manipulate and control us.
So what is the case for holistic political economy, and what actions follow from it?