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What are and where are the spiritual (in sense of immateriality, not religion) limits of degrowth?

What are and where are the spiritual (in sense of immateriality, not religion) limits of degrowth?What are and where are the spiritual (in sense of immateriality, not religion) limits of degrowth?
Татьяна Филякова, студент, кандидат экономических наук, ph.d. экономических наук

University of Vienna, Австрия

Участник первенства: Национальное первенство по научной аналитике - "Австрия";

Открытое Европейско-Азиатское первенство по научной аналитике;

Today we are facing the miracle time – the transformation and the obvious need for this transformation of the humanity as of whole not just in the field of economic or political life, as mainly was before, but in the field of the humanity itself in the stage of its soulful intellectand the mindfulness of the human being and cognition with the clear, as I see, appeal for being transformed andtransgressiveinto the new spiritual reality. Such kind of reality in this case I would like to be called as degrowth and what are and where are the possible spiritual (not religious but soulful) limits of such a path I would like to present in this work.

Keywords: сonsumer society, consciousness, degrowth, development, ideology, intellectual capital, spirituality, soulfulness, well-being, utopia.

 

Turn on your TV set – what you hear? Turn on your radio – what you hear? Open some news page in your smartphone – what you see? Could you find one common word for all ‘those’ things that you hear/see/read? I found one and I suppose you will agree with me on that – it is ‘the War’. Sorry, sounds terrifying, but if you open your yeas and think critical of what is going on in our world – you will see this ‘word’ very clearly. You need just to accept it – acceptance is the first step in order to understand something. It is the War – intellectual, mental, cold, warm – you can find many adjectives to deeply describe it, but it is definitely not ‘peace’. Is this what we strived for? Is it what we – you/I/our parents/nations – all of us were dreaming of? I don’t think so. We lost SO MANY in two World Wars, all other war conflicts, we should be aware of it – we know the real face of this monster. Why then it is happening and happening and happening? Why ‘those after War Institutions, Norms’ don’t work? – look at the migrants’ number, that is even bigger than after two World Wars – I can surely say, that those Institutions of regulations don’t work, or they don’t work in sense of how they supposed to work.

If you look through the economic glasses onto human history, you will definitely find the constant changing of two opposite poles in the main theoretical thoughts – ‘free market’ and ‘controlled market’ – very rude, but these are the two main poles. Then you will have lots of critics to one pole and then to another, but the root stays always in the ‘intervention’ – rather it should be or not. The very word ‘intervention’ means that you have some system, that you, as an external player, could somehow intervene or not. But this ‘system’ itself should contain different agents – other players of this system. The whole economic world that we do have until now is made (the question by whom remains out of the issue) through this perception – that there are some agents (let’s call them ‘white supreme power’) who can rule/lead/control/impose some rules to other agents, means just ‘use’ them for their own benefits. That is also how the mechanism of happening inequality could be probably explained to children. The reasons ‘why’ it happens and ‘why’ it is ‘so’ are out of our issue.

So, having in mind some existing structure of ‘world-life’, while assuming economy as a ruling ‘mode’ of living and combining this with existing newsfeed – what falls into your mind? I have one more word for you – ‘WRONG’. Something is definitely wrong with us/with our world/with our way of thinking/with our empathy and respect to ‘other’ (I don’t even talk about this common ‘tolerance’, just about respect at least!). It looks like we forgot that we are human beings, and all ‘others’ are same – people.

It is already pretty clear – the existing reality should be thought under different theoretical field. And this one already exists – the degrowth perspective. There is lots of literature concerning that issue, lots of authors who already work on it. It started already on 1972 with André Gorz in Paris and ‘is a call to decolonize the social imaginary from the ideology of a one-way future consisting only of growth’ as Giorgos Kallis (2015) [https://degrowth.org/2015/05/15/yes-we-can-prosper-without-growth/] says. In such a way it is not the same thing as recession. It is the hypothesis that we can achieve prosperity without economic growth. Overall such a concept, according to Viviana Asara (2015)'aims to repoliticize the debate on the relationships between sustainability, economy and society and to advance a new vision of social–ecological transformations' [Asara (2015): Introduction].

If we do talk about economy, we do have this ‘white supreme power’ in our minds, that comes very closely to capitalism, which does not have any limits, ‘it only knows how to expand, creating while destroying’ [Giorgos Kallis (2015):https://degrowth.org/2015/05/15/yes-we-can-prosper-without-growth/], that is also questioned by degrowth, that, in its perspective, has a comprehensive social transformation process, as Ulrich Brand calls it ‘Change by Design, not Change by Desaster’ [Brand, Ulrich (2014): 31]. As Asara (2015) also claims, degrowth does not mean reducing the GDP, but to increase social justice, meaning of life and well-being, nevertheless staying in the ‘utopia-mode’, cause an analytical limitation would be that degrowth, according also to Kallis (2014) wording, ‘is nowhere to be seen’ [Kallis, Giorgos (2014): 361].

Kallis (2015) in his article ‘Yes, we can prosper without growth’ actually proposes real 10 steps to be implemented (in his case in Spain) in order to get degrowth model ‘switched on’ as well as he quotes Latouche and his ‘eight Rs of degrowth’, namely: ‘reevaluate (shift values); reconceptualize (e.g., wealth vs. poverty or scarcity vs. abundance); restructure production beyond capitalism; redistribute between North and South and within countries; relocalize the economy; and reduce, recycle, and reuse resources’ [Kallis (2014): 361], that I personally find more attractive as the 10th mentioned above (shortly: 1. Citizen debt audit. 2. Work-sharing. Reduce the working week to at least 32 hours and develop programmes that support firms and organisations that want to facilitate job-sharing. 3. Basic and maximum income. 4. Green tax reform. Implement an accounting system to transform, over time, the tax system, from one based principally on work to one based on the use of energy and resources. 5. Stop subsidizing and investing on activities that are highly polluting, moving the liberated public funds towards clean production. 6. Support the alternative, solidarity society. 7. Optimise the use of buildings. 8. Reduce advertising. 9. Establish environmental limits), that I would even disagree with. I do believe that those ’10’ could actually not be realized, or will be definitely difficult to be realized in the whole world, while the world is ruled by the minds of businessmen and triumph of the consumer society.

I would like here to focus on the triumph of the consumer society and explain briefly what I mean. Brand of your car and cell phone model, brand label on your jeans – these became the values of the modern world, but they are false and fake. Initially, when a person comes into this world, he/she has a great potential. Gradually, year after year, he/she/we is/are losing it. Why? Because by virtue of social orientation, he/she/we is/are aiming to tangible assets (that is actually implanted by modern capitalist and neoliberal ideology – we are managed by economics), in pursuit of which we are spending our spiritual potential (in sense of immateriality, not religion, which is out of our issue right now). Getting deeper and deeper into debt while buying a house, a car, an apartment, the rest of our lives we pay those debts and monstrous interests. Any civilization destroys itself by itself. When the culture is transformed into anti-culture, creating false values, where people live ‘behind the glass’, while eating, sleeping and reproducing themselves for the amusement of the viewers – decline comes.

The triumph of consumer society is in such a way a triumph of all private goals over all public goals [Pawly (1973): 60], and the triumph of mainly ‘wrong’ goals, deeply ‘penetrated into the psychology of the population’ [Cahill (2002): 630].According to Cahill (2002) consumer society by its nature and by its assumptions tends to the private and personal that Asara (2015) will put under the ideological limits of growth. ‘In a society where pleasure has been privatized, to be without the necessary goods creates frustration on a large scale. Crime and vandalism are obvious outcomes’ [M. Cahill (2002): 636].

That is why I do find that those above mentioned 10 steps could not lead to our willing utopian (and probably therefore it is so utopian until now) stage of degrowth. We do need first to start from the formation of the right theoretical base, from the right code of human consciousness, namely from the transformation of this ‘code’ toward spirituality.

I do talk about that kind of spirituality that is strongly related to the human intellect, the soulful intellect. There are lots of disputes about the very notion of intellect, of what is it, where is it, or how does it develop. But the main point here will be that under this kind of intellect I do understand the human thinking ability. What also Bell (2001) calls the ‘coming of Post-Industrial society’ would be the relevant acceptance of that kind of ‘Knowledge’. The other thing is how will we use that ‘Knowledge’? There are two main ways – one is for the need of all kinds of existing or possibly coming Wars, another one – for the development itself, what kind of development then. Our spirit should be seen as the other side of knowledge.

In this regard I would like to lead here an example of so the called gerotranscendence from sociology science. This theory was suggested in 1989 by Swedish sociologist Tornstam, who defines it as ‘a shift in meta-perspective, from a materialistic and rational vision to a more cosmic and transcendent one, normally followed by an increase in life satisfaction’ [Tornstam (1994): 203]. This sociologic theory is about aging people and some theoretical analysis, as well as research that were made in order to investigate the behaviour of older people and possible ways of their depressive conditions avoidance. But this is also what I find we strongly need in our degrowth path – the self-transcendence.

The Self-transcendence, according to Wang (2011) as he quotes Coward and Reed (1996), is an indicator of spirituality, and should be defined as ‘the ability to reach out beyond oneself and discover or make meaning of experience through broadened perspectives and behaviour’ [Wang (2011): 2630]. This strongly corresponds to what Asara (2015) says, ‘that degrowth is about a (collective and individual) democratic movement of establishing limits within which human well-being and creativity can flourish’.

The all above mentioned is a trial to respond the question of what are the spiritual limits of degrowth. We do have one more – where are those spiritual limits of degrowth? Can we actually talk about some limits of being spiritual/immaterial in degrowth? Should we remind the usual case with Buen Vivir in Ecuador or Vivir Bien from Bolivia? Or we can say that there are no limits for this? I would rather propose at the very end one more notion – ‘intellectual capital’. I did already mention the intellect itself as the most important resource and the flip side of the spirit in our society of knowledge. But still living in the system of capital management in totally immoral economy under the framework of financial success ideology, that can and will lead just to the further processes of social norms and rules decomposition, we could think about our own capital, that everybody has inside, just should develop it – our intellectual capital. Right now we can ask more precisely – where are the limits of this/of our intellectual capital? And if from one side it could be of no limits, then from the other side limitless is also not the case. I believe that the direct application and usage scope of the intellectual capital can display the limits of its use – in what field is the intellectual capital used, by whom and who leads the whole process, who controls and who gains and gains what from this process? And at that rate we are coming back to the abovementioned problems of ‘intervention’, but then also to self-realization and self-development and this is the exact field where we, according to Asara (2015), could challenge and escape the ideology of growth.

In this case our Intellectual capital can't exist without the work of ideology. We all are leaving somewhere – we have some friends, who influence us, we have our political structure that does rule our governmental society, we do have our parents, who teach us something within the perspectives of their own believes. There are also different types of this ideology – it could be political, scientific, religious, etc. Ideology in such a case is a special form of social consciousness. And in our case I am taking about such kind of household Ideology that should rule our society in the path to the prosperous future of socially oriented individuals.

Just in short wanted to highlight the very notion and aspect of 'socially oriented individuals'. In soviet Russia we tried to build the socially oriented society – it happened not to become the 'good' reality, as we know. In 'Nord' it seams to be aimed onto the 'individual' path that led us to the spreading of well-known consumer society with above discussed pitfalls. Therefore I am insisting that those two ways definitely should not be seen or analysed or be realized separately – those two should be applied altogether! And in such a case we can't stay apart from the spiritual mode, cause this is that 'bath', where we can take forces and prosper to our individual development, but always keeping in mind, that this 'individual development' should be always aimed to the social well-being. I think just this combination can and will give us the path to the real degrowth.

 

Conclusion

Today we are facing the transdisciplinary crisis – the crisis of all spheres of our ‘being’ strongly connected with the need to transform the very form of this ‘being’. And in such a case I do clearly see the appeal to change not just the form and structure of ‘how we live’, but the need to transform ourselves. The vulgarity of EVERYTHING becomes today the mainstream of our lives, it’s not enough already to talk just about the total reification of everything, there is a time to understand that we became some sort of ‘amoral consumer’ and that this type of consumer has become an integral part of what we want to achieve. The reason for this in my opinion lays in an imposition of the capitalist economy principles with unwise consumption on the grounds of use and exploitation for the sake of increasing rates of production to be able to consume more on a par with the decomposition of the spiritual sphere, which is the life-saving belt itself, which will give the opportunity to see all the banality and the absurdity of human life for the sake of consumption. Just spiritual, soulful intellect, based on moral ideals and moral values, can and will give us the very bridge of transcending to the to date utopian degrowth.

 

References:

  • 1. Bell, Daniel (2001) The coming of Post-Industrial society, in: https://www.os3.nl/_media/2011-2012/daniel_bell_-_the_coming_of_post-industrial_society.pdf
  • 2. Brand, Ulrich (2014): Degrowth. Der Beginn einer Bewegung. In: Kommentare und Berichte; p.29-32.
  • 3. Kallis (2015) Yes, we can prosper without growth, in: https://degrowth.org/2015/05/15/yes-we-can-prosper-without-growth/
  • 4. Kallis, Giorgos; March, Hug (2014) Imaginaries of Hope: The Utopianism of Degrowth. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, [Peer Reviewed Journal]
  • 5. M. Cahill (2002) ‘The Implications of Consumerism for the Transition to a Sustainable Society’, in M. Cahill and T. Fitzpatrick (Ed.) Environmental Issues and Social Welfare (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers).
  • 6. Pawley, Martin (1973) The private future: causes and consequences of community collapse in the West London: Thames and Hudson, c1973. 208 p.
  • 7. Tornstam L. (1994) Gerotranscendence-a theoretical and empirical exploration. In Ageing and the Religious Dimension (Thomas L.E. & Eisenhandler S.A., eds), Westport, Greenwood, pp. 203–225.
  • 8. Wang J.-J. (2011) A structural model of the bio-psycho-socio-spiritual factors influencing the development towards gerotranscendence in a sample of institutionalized elders. Journal of Advanced Nursing 67(12), 2628–2636. doi: 10.1111/ j.1365-2648.2011.05705.
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Воропаева Татьяна Сергеевна

Уважаемая Татьяна! Мне очень понравилась Ваша статья, которая посвящена актуальным проблемам нашего времени. Подобная проблематика созвучна дискурсу Римского клуба. Очень хорошо, что параллельно с рассмотрением вопросов производства и потребления Вы акцентируете на проблемах духовности, интеллектуального капитала, нравственных идеалов, моральных ценностей и т.п. Желаю Вам успехов! С уважением, Таня.
Комментарии: 1

Воропаева Татьяна Сергеевна

Уважаемая Татьяна! Мне очень понравилась Ваша статья, которая посвящена актуальным проблемам нашего времени. Подобная проблематика созвучна дискурсу Римского клуба. Очень хорошо, что параллельно с рассмотрением вопросов производства и потребления Вы акцентируете на проблемах духовности, интеллектуального капитала, нравственных идеалов, моральных ценностей и т.п. Желаю Вам успехов! С уважением, Таня.
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