Post-Capitalism and “Third Way” Ideology
“As with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by postcapitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started.” — Paul Mason, excerpted from his book Postcapitalism.
The “long read” in today’s Guardian newspaper is an excerpt from Paul Mason’s book Postcapitalism. “The end of capitalism has begun” makes for some pretty interesting reading and bold, visionary statements about a “new kind of human being” in the making. Those kinds of claims about a “new kind of human being” in the making always attracts my cautious attention, given even Nietzsche’s prophecy about the coming of the “transhuman”, Aurobindo’s evolutionary spirituality of the “supramental consciousness”, and Jean Gebser’s anticipation of the new “integral consciousness”.
Whenever I hear some new ideological fashion or another describe itself as “Third Way” (such as former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s description of New Labour as “Third Way” politics), I cringe. “Third Way” was also how fascism described itself — as a synthesis of capitalism and socialism: a mongrel and hybrid politics that was confused with transcendence and transformation when it was nothing of a kind. “Third Way” is a monstrosity of a perverse dialectics, in which an antagonistic contradiction between a thesis and an antithesis (in this case, capitalism and socialism, respectively) is supposedly reconciled in a “synthesis” as the third term of a triangular logic of relationships.
But if you have been with The Chrysalis for any length of time, you know what I think about such a triangular and triadic (and trivial) logic. Not much (and yes, indeed, there is a common connection of meaning of the number “3” between the terms “triad”, “triangle”, and “trivial”). We don’t live in that three dimensional universe anymore, where that logic made a kind of sense. Ours is now a four dimensional cosmos and that cosmos requires a quadrilateral logic. The “new kind of human being” is one whose form is a mandala and not a pyramid or triangle. On that score, one must be very vigilant and cautious in assessing some new political or economic proposal as being a solution to the contemporary crises of Modernity and its structure of consciousness. And it’s one of the reasons I’ve recommended reading Arthur I. Miller’s timely book Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung.
Fortunately, Mason doesn’t fall into that trap of proposing yet another “synthesis” or “Third Way”. He may well be on to something in this era of “post-Everything” — post-Enlightenment, post-ideological, post-democratic, post-humanist, post-modern etc, etc, an era in which, as Bob Dylan put it in song, “Everything is Broken”. So, why not “post-Capitalist” too?
Any suggestion about a “new kind of human being” must necessarily also imply a new kind of consciousness structure and logic, and that also implies a new self-understanding of what it means to be “human”. That’s what civilisations are — various artefacts of the human self-understanding and of possible structures of consciousness and potentialities of human self-awareness become inscribed in stone, as it were (Gebser calls this “concretion” of a consciousness structure). That’s how you test for whether a consciousness structure is indeed “new” or is just a pretense and a hoax like “Third Way” ideology. It is when surprising connections are drawn between events and things that were hitherto invisible to perception or ignored as irrelevant or as having no connection to one another. The “Eureka!” moment comes when the formerly discrete and separate events are seen as, indeed, connected to each other and “mutually entangled” in very surprising ways, like quantum non-locality and Jungian synchronicity.
And it is usually the artist who leads the way in that respect, just as the perspective artists of the Renaissance led the way for the scientific thinking about space in three dimensions and a three-term logic which I have called “point-of-view-line-of-thought” consciousness. Galilean “ideal space” and Newton’s “Frame of the World” relied on perspectivism (as I’ve explored in more detail in earlier posts). Civilisations are, first and foremost, works of art and imagination — affairs of perception and of self-understanding.
So Mason’s thinking about a post-capitalist society is quite intriguing, in that respect, and he may well be right about the emergence of a new kind of human being. That’s the issue of The Chrysalis, after all. There are already some corporate collectives and collaborative formations that are functioning much as Mason describes — as “Open Source”, for example — and they may well be the model for a future post-capitalist society where collaboration and conviviality have become more important than competition. That would be an “ecological” logic in practice.
So, yes. There are signs of the emergence of new “integrating” consciousness in that respect. And they are most welcome.