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.


10 responses to “Post-Capitalism and “Third Way” Ideology”

  1. donsalmon says :

    I’m so delighted to see such a positive post. I thought the Guardian essay was extremely interesting article as well. Will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

    My sense is people are ignoring this aspect of Bernie Sanders. if you look at some of his writings from the early 70s (not the silly sensationalist ones people are making a big deal of) there are a few things I’ve seen that give hints that he may have had a feeling or intimation about a different way of being.

    We’ll see if this comes out in any of his public presentations.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes… “open source” is the expression of a fundamental philosophical difference with capitalism — sharing rather than hoarding or acquisitiveness; collaboration being emphasised more than competition. In that sense, more ecologically-minded than narrowly economically-minded. The “network”, the “Global Brain” (Harold Bloom). It’s the modeling of “Indra’s Net”. Money is less interesting than “data” (money is just “data” anyway). Currency is data and that data must flow and circulate.

      So, yes, I think “acquisitive individualism” will retire slowly into the background as Open Source becomes more and more articulate about itself. It’s still fumbling towards self-understanding, but getting better at articulating itself. It has it’s negative side, though — like in that flick “Her”, of addiction, dependency on being constantly “connected” (too much like the Borg of Star Trek lore), of feeling totally helpless and lost if you’re not “connected” or networked. This constant texting (even while driving!) which has made distracted driving laws necessary — there’s a kind of madness in that.

      Once again, I urge “Khayyam’s Caution”, that “only a hair separates the false from the true”. Hive Mind (the Borg as metaphor) isn’t Indra’s Net, but it can become confused with it, just as Blake’s “Ulro” (the shadow world of images) is a perverted mirror of the true world.

      But it’s something McLuhan foresaw, and it reminds me that i really need to revisit McLuhan again just to see how his prophecies about that have played out so far.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I should mention in this connection also, that Gebser really doesn’t say much (if anything) about a “deficient integral”. But “Khayyam’s Caution” (as I call it) would be a judgement about the deficient integral. So “Hive Mind” is more about assimilation than integration. (In fact, isn’t that what the Borg say? “You will be assimilated”). And I think when Gebser complains of “metabolic” patterns, that’s what he has in mind — the confusion of the assimilatory with the integral, because “metabolic” must be seen in relation to “symbolic” and “diabolic” and the “parabolic”. “Metabolic”, as Gebser uses it, would then correspond to Khayyam’s Caution.

      For somewhat similar reasons, as you know I can consider Wiber’s “integral spirituality” also “deficient integral”, because his “instincts” are still too Cartesian, as made explicit in the shortcomings of his AQAL model.

      We have to always, always keep this “Khayyam’s Caution” in mind and remain vigilant, because it’s so easy to fall into the snares of the “demonic” in that sense. Khayyam’s Caution is just another expression of an old saying that “Satan is but the ape of God”, or what is sometimes represented as the difference between “Luciferic Light” and “Christic Light”, which also corresponds to the meaning of “Maya” or “Ultimate Truth”, and therefore to Blake’s “Ulro” (or the Mundane Shell) and the world as seen when the “doors of perception” are opened. “Everything possible to be believed is an image of the truth” (one of his Proverbs of Hell) also pertains to Khayyam’s Caution and the meaning of the Ulro.

      And, of course, that’s the meaning of “The Dark Side” in The Star Wars series. The Dark Side belongs to what Colbert called “truthiness”.The “Ulro” is Blake’s term for “the Dark Side”, and that is this present world in which we presently live, move and have our being, as it were. It is where we are now until such time as we perceive it as such. That’s our lamentable condition of human “narcissism” in its fuller meaning. “The Dark Side” isn’t something lurking and waiting to ambush us, and lure and seduce us into it’s snares. It’s where we are right now, in the Land of the Idols. Indra’s Net may be either a liberation or a snare.

      • davidm58 says :

        I’m very happy to see you mention “Khayyam’s Caution” and other caveats.

        I read the entire excerpt from Paul Mason on Postcapitalism, but remain unenthusiastic about this approach.

        As something of an antidote, I visited our locally owned independent bookstore yesterday to peruse Andrew Keen’s The Internet is Not the Answer (How the Digital Dream Turned Sour) – “He wants to persuade us to transcend our childlike fascination with the baubles of cyberspace so that we can take a long hard look at the weird, dysfunctional, inegalitarian, comprehensively surveilled world that we have been building with digital tools” according to the review in the Guardian.

        And “The more important truth about the internet, Keen thinks, is that it has evolved into a global machine for creating a world characterised by vast and growing inequality. “The error that evangelists make,” he writes, “is to assume that the internet’s open, decentralised technology naturally translates into a less hierarchical or unequal society. But rather than more openness and the destruction of hierarchies, an unregulated network society is breaking the old centre, compounding economic and cultural inequality, and creating a digital generation of masters of the universe. This new power may be rooted in a borderless network, but it still translates into massive wealth and power for a tiny handful of companies and individuals.”

        Along similar lines, another book I looked at was Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto.

        The book I actually purchased, however, was John Michael Greer’s “The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age.” Published in 2008, but still quite relevant I think, outlining his view of what he calls “catabolic collapse”: “Like the vanished civilizations of the past, ours will likely face a gradual decline, punctuated by sudden crises and periods of partial recovery. The fall of a civilization is like tumbling down a slope, not like falling off a cliff. It’s not a single massive catastrophe, or even a series of lesser disasters, but a gradual slide down statistical curves that will ease modern industrial civilization into history’s dumpster.”

        In a more recent essay (Jan. 2014: ), Greer outlined 3 actions that will help ease the post-industrial transition:

        1) Conservation – “unromantic but effective techniques such as insulation, weatherstripping, and the like, all of which allow a smaller amount of energy to do the work previously done by more.”

        2) Decentralization – “In an age of declining energy and resource availability, coupled with a rising tide of crises, the way to ensure resilience and stability is to decentralize instead: to make each locality able to meet as many of its own needs as possible, so that troubles in one area don’t automatically propagate to others, and an area that suffers a systems failure can receive help from nearby places where everything still works.”

        3) Rehumanization – “Industrial societies are currently beset with two massive problems: high energy costs, on the one hand, and high unemployment on the other. Both problems can be solved at a single stroke by replacing energy-hungry machines with human workers. Rehumanizing the economy—hiring people to do jobs rather than installing machines to do them—requires removing and reversing a galaxy of perverse incentives favoring automation at the expense of employment, and this will need to be done while maintaining wages and benefits at levels that won’t push additional costs onto government or the community.”

        • Scott Preston says :

          Odd that you should mention Greer, as I linked to his “Archdruid Report” (“Era of Pretense”) in today’s blog on “Reckless Endangerment”.

          Prognostications about the future are always fraught with difficulty (Yogi Berra’s “the future ain’t what it used to be” comes to mind). Mason’s is certainly speculative, but not unprecedented. Nietzsche also held that homo oeconomicus would be replaced by homo ludens, that economics would cease to be the centre of social life (economism), and trading would become simply a game and a pass-time.

          Mason apparently has a video presentation (recorded during a Guardian debate) in which he goes into more detail about what he means by a “new kind of human being” in the making. I haven’t watched it yet (or read his book for that matter), but it follows that if economics is no longer considered central to social life or human self-understanding, then capitalism (if not a “job”) becomes an anachronism. For the time being, I’ll reserve judgement on whether digital technology plays a deciding role in this (but I will read the reviews to which you linked).

          Greer’s approach seems to be “survivalist” in the sense that he anticipates a longer or shorter period of decline and fall for the Modern Era — at least, that’s my take on what I read in “The Era of Pretense”. He may have an alternative view in mind in his other postings or books, but that’s something I’ll be wanting to look into, to see how it might reflect on Gebser’s anticipated, emergent “integral consciousness”.

          • davidm58 says :

            In one sense it makes sense to refer to Greer as a “survivalist,” but that signifier tends to have many other connotations that would not apply to him.

            The “Era of Pretense” post of his that you linked to today has a portion that contains the gist of one of his common themes: that he sees history in cycles rather than as any kind of progress, and so he takes a stance against the Hegel/Marx kind of idealism. This is a reflection of his belief system as Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America.

            Here is a quote from The Era of Pretense:
            “Fortunately history, the core resource I’ve been using to try to make sense of our future, has plenty to say about the broad patterns that unfold when civilizations decline and fall. Now of course I know all I have to do is mention that history might be relevant to our present predicament, and a vast chorus of voices across the North American continent and around the world will bellow at rooftop volume, “But it’s different this time!” With apologies to my regular readers, who’ve heard this before, it’s probably necessary to confront that weary thoughtstopper again before we proceed…

            It’s been a source of wry amusement to me to watch the same weary, dreary, repeatedly failed claims of imminent apocalypse and inevitable progress being rehashed year after year, varying only in the fine details of the cataclysm du jour and the techno-savior du jour, while the future nobody wants to talk about is busily taking shape around us. Decline and fall isn’t something that will happen sometime in the conveniently distant future; it’s happening right now in the United States and around the world. The amusement, though, is tempered with a sense of familiarity, because the period in which decline is under way but nobody wants to admit that fact is one of the recurring features of the history of decline.

            There are, very generally speaking, five broad phases in the decline and fall of a civilization. I know it’s customary in historical literature to find nice dull labels for such things, but I’m in a contrary mood as I write this, so I’ll give them unfashionably colorful names: the eras of pretense, impact, response, breakdown, and dissolution. Each of these is complex enough that it’ll need a discussion of its own; this week, we’ll talk about the era of pretense, which is the one we’re in right now.”

            Greer is very conversant with Toynbee and Spengler, but when I asked if he had read Gebser, he replied not yet, But he seemed to have interest. Perhaps if enough of us keep bringing him up in the comments he’ll make the time.

            Interestingly, your blog post on nihilism is mentioned in the comments under The Era of Pretense. Greer’s response: “I’ll have a look as time permits, but it sounds as though Preston is using the word “evolution” to mean “progress,”
            which is of course erroneous. Nihilism isn’t limited to one of these five stages, btw — as I noted here before, it’s a feature of the process by which ages of reason end, and thus is present in some versions of the five-stage pattern and absent in others.”

            Commenter “Dwig” had a nice reply to that: “…Well, it’s not quite that simple. It would be closer to say “increase in complexity”, although each stage in Gebser’s model (which Preston uses as a basis, but not his entire worldview) has what Gebser called an “efficient manifestation” at the beginning, and a “deficient manifestation” later, which is similar in some respects to the decline phase of an empire or civilization. The current stage, called “mental-rational” by Gebser, has been in its deficient manifestation for some time now….”

            To which Greer replied: “Dwig, and yet complexity only increases when there’s an increase in energy per capita, and decreases when this goes down. Here again, it seems to me that the temporary spike in energy per capita and its results caused by fossil fuels is being mapped onto all of history, with unhelpful results.”

            My reply to that is to agree with Greer about the fossil fuel spike (the Pattern of the Pulse), and that the downside of this Pulse has a great role in bringing about the chaotic transition that breaks apart the deficient mental-rational structure, which then paves the way for the possibility of the integral consciousness to emerge that enables a functional civilization to operate in our low energy future.

            This is the essence of a paper I just presented to the Integral Theory Conference: “Patterns for Navigating the Transition to a World in Energy Descent.”

            This is also the position outlined by integral economist Peter Pogany, who has presented several excellent papers to the Gebser society, in addition to his 2006 book “Rethinking the World” (though in the book he doesn’t mention Gebser).

            Scott, I strongly encourage you to check out Peter Pogany’s work. Here’s one easy place to start, with is blog post: “Al Gore, Stephen King, and Jean Gebser are related. How?”

            Followed by his more rigorous paper: (“Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order”).

            Finally, to get a sense of Greer’s ideas on catabolic collapse, perhaps the best place to start is with his very first online post, a 14 page article from 2005: “How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse.”

            • Scott Preston says :

              Yes. I’ve heard of Pogany through the Gebser grapevine. I’ll will make the time to have a look at his work.

              I’ld also like to have a look into Greer’s other works, although I’m skeptical in some ways. Rosenstock-Huessy was very critical of Toynbee and Gebser was very critical of Spengler, both very the same reasons, apparently — lack of insight into the meaning of time. The two most popular models of time — as arrow, or as cycle — don’t get much traction in either Rosenstock-Huessy’s or Gebser’s social and cultural philosophy.

              So, that’s where I’ll want to focus in my explorations of alternative futures — what they understand about the nature of time.

    • Scott Preston says :

      The history of mirrors is, in itself, quite a fascinating subject, and the fact that the physical world as we understand it (spacetime) is a mirror in itself is what makes this reality so endlessly intriguing and mysterious. McLuhan came very close to understanding that with his notion of “media as extensions of man”, just as Nietzsche came very close to that with his understanding that “fundamentally we experience only ourselves”.

      In other words, it’s not so much the “mind” that is the mirror of the reality (ie, “reflection”). It’s the reality that is the mirror of the soul. And in that sense, “everything is a teaching”, ie, the dharma is everywhere. And Blake’s objection to Locke, Newton, Bacon, et alia was his understanding that they had gotten everything upside down and backwards. It was the world that was the mirror, not the mind as “tabula rasa”.

      • donsalmon says :

        “Khayyam’s Caution”

        Excellent point!! Yes. But it’s all part of the expected adventure:>) (for me, anyway, as I understand it)

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    Personally, I cannot wait to put capitalism in the rearview mirror.

    “It has it’s negative side, though — like in that flick “Her”, of addiction, dependency on being constantly “connected” (too much like the Borg of Star Trek lore), of feeling totally helpless and lost if you’re not “connected” or networked. This constant texting (even while driving!) which has made distracted driving laws necessary — there’s a kind of madness in that.”

    Yes, and it seems to me this is because most people are disconnected from their inner self. One’s actions and outlook only take into consideration one’s image, position, status and rank on the outside, whereas no image of one’s self on the inside seems to exist. It is as if some magic eraser has erased that inner self image. No wonder Seth says we have “forgotten” who we are.

    From the article “The end of capitalism has begun,”:

    “The main contradiction today is between the possibility of free, abundant goods and information; and a system of monopolies, banks and governments trying to keep things private, scarce and commercial. Everything comes down to the struggle between the network and the hierarchy: between old forms of society moulded around capitalism and new forms of society that prefigure what comes next.”

    It seems to me, with the exception of “abundant information,” we did live in relatively much freer societies until monopolies and banks interfered. Although, I cannot blame banks entirely for this, because it’s still the people who borrow the money. But there is no question that banks have the wind in their back as they receive free cash and increase it tenfold or so through the multiplier factor of the lending process.

    This is something I think about in my dreams that:

    “Just as Shakespeare could not have imagined Doyce, so we too cannot imagine the kind of human beings society will produce once economics is no longer central to life.”

    I’d love to see the day. Alas, that day may bee too far into the future.

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