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Politics, Economics and Culture

On this page I offer ideas and perspectives on issues affecting contemporary society. Economics, economic development, globalisation, social justice, human rights, international finance, employment, income distribution,and of course environmental concerns are major themes on the political and cultural landscape.

I welcome your reflections, questions and comments.

Human society – a developmental perspective
There was a time in human history when the world and nature was considered a revelation of the divine. Tribal life was ordered accordingly. The great early civilisations were built around a theocratic structure where priest kings mediated between the heavenly and earthly worlds.
All human activity was subsumed under this overarching principle. Remnants of this societal form continue even today.
During the Greco-Roman culture beginning around 500BC a new principle emerged which recognised the civic state and democratic participation of citizens. The democratic principle was born to stand alongside a theocracy which would continue to claim a “higher standing” right up into our times. The battle for pre-eminence between church and state can be found throughout history since those early days.
During the 16th century the development of a new scientific method emphasising empirical facts paved the way for ground-breaking technological achievements and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. With the growth of industry came a massive expansion of trade and economic activity and our lives today are largely characterised by the accomplishments of technology and industry. This economic paradigm which sees the market place as the primary ordering principle in society is the hallmark of neoclassical economic theory.
A study of the economic development in modern history* will show how the market place has progressively claimed land and human labour as commodities which can be bought and sold like any other commodity. In fact according to the neoclassical view nothing exists which cannot be traded or “monetised” including money itself!
The battle for pre-eminence between the civic state (citizens’ rights and public policy based on democratic principles) and the economic order can be followed in the media on a daily basis. Religious life has been largely consigned to the private sphere having only limited bearing on social and economic affairs.
Since the recent disaster of the Global Financial Crisis and an impending environmental catastrophe due to the spread of industrialisation, the struggle is intensifying to tame the economic behemoth which continues to assert that growth is the only way forward.
Are human rights and environmental protection necessarily opposed to our economic wellbeing? Is our spiritual / cultural life of no consequence when it comes to understanding the issues of our times?

The ancient theocratic states were led by priest kings who claimed divine inspiration in shaping social affairs. While the character, scope and intensity of this social form has many variations, primacy is given to a divine order.
The contest between a religious and secular ordering of society has also assumed many forms and in various guises continues into our time. We might summarise by stating that in western societies the religious dimension has largely retreated into the individual private sphere, while the democractic principle occupies the public space.

The legal recognition of corporations as having rights (legal personhood) has enabled the economic sector to assume extensive powers and influence in virtually every aspect of society, threatening to eclipse civil rights and environmental protections. Just watch the news headlines for examples of the struggle underway. I borrow the term “Econocracy” from the book of the same title by Joe Earle, Cahal Moran and Zach Ward-Perkins.

*See Karl Polanyi – The Great Transformation for a discussion on Land, Labour and Money which he describes as the three “fictional commodities”.

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