Havoc, Chaotic Transition, and Confucius
I burned the midnight oil to get through Peter Pogany’s posthumously published Havoc, Thy Name is Twenty-First Century: Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order. I went against my better judgement, downloaded Amazon’s Kindle app, and purchased the ebook edition.
My interest in the book (and I must say that while brief, it’s not for casual reading) was spurred by Pogany’s late-in-life interest in the consciousness studies of Jean Gebser, and how he utilised Gebser’s Kulturphilosophie, the history of consciousness, to illuminate his own field of economic history, as well as emphasise his own expectation of global catastrophe or “choatic transition” (“havoc”) on the way to what he calls GS3 (Global System 3) as the successor to the present socioeconomic paradigm. Most of the book is the application of thermodynamics to a reinterpretation of modern history (especially economic history), and why the present world system is going to start colliding with the reality of the limits to growth between now and 2030.
While I am sympathetic to the thesis that “havoc” will indeed be the historical endgame of the Modern Era, and that this will be a “chaotic transition” to a new planetary reorganisation (world order), I’m not persuaded that GS3 (defined as “two-level economy/ strong multilateralism/ mostly government money (maximum reserve banking)” has much in common with Gebser’s “mutation towards” arational or integral consciousness. For one thing, Pogany cites China as an emergent model of GS3, quite in keeping with the Chinese government’s own boast that its form of social organisation and government is the most appropriate one for a new world order, and which it promotes through its “Confucius Institutes”.
Pogany seems to think that Confucianism is our future. But if it is, this hasn’t much to do with Gebser’s “integral consciousness”. This is the concluding paragraph of Havoc,
“It is worth mentioning that Quesnay showed a remarkable interest in China, seeing a great promise in the fusion of central authority with Confucian philosophy. The focus gravitates toward China also in the thermodynamic framework of universal history. The most populous country’s two-level economic organization seems to anticipate what the planet will eventually need, but with Confucianism, not communism, in the background.”
Peter Pogany (2015-10-23). Havoc, Thy Name Is Twenty-First Century!: Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order (Kindle Locations 1735-1737). iUniverse. Kindle Edition
First, I’m glad to see that someone has correctly noted that the political and social condition of China is not “communism” but the rehabilitation of Confucius, who was very conservative. The Maoists, in fact, blamed Confucianism for keeping China weak and backward relative to the West, and did their best — in the “Cultural Revolution” — to purge Chinese society of the taint of Confucianism. That ended with the trail of the Gang of Four, effectively being China’s “Thermidor Reaction” after which Confucius was restored, and China reverted from a totalitarian system to an authoritarian one.
Admiration amongst some Western leaders for China’s “basic dictatorship” (as even newly minted Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau openly confessed) is actually an admiration for Confucianism. And while that might seem shocking to hear coming from a Liberal Prime Minister, it’s even refreshing compared to former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s obsession with Stalin and the Stalinesque (as reported by “a senior Conservative senator”).
Is the new god of our near future going to be Confucius? If so, that hasn’t much to do with Gebser’s arational-aperspectival consciousness structure. The great foe of Confucius was Lao Tze, the Taoist. The opening lines of his famous Tao de Ching took direct aim at Confucius and Confucianism:
The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
It’s hard to see how one can reconcile China’s “basic dictatorship” with Gebser’s “integral consciousness”, which has more in common with Lao Tze and Chuang Tzu than with Confucius.
GS3 strikes me more as being the immediate near term response (authoritarianism) of the Modern Era to its own self-contradictions, dilemmas, and predicament, rather than a revolutionary transition or in any way a correlate to Gebser’s emergent aperspectival-integral consciousness structure.
While “havoc” and the “chaotic transition” may indeed provoke an authoritarian response (and in fact, it is doing so already, including scenarios like Bertram Gross’s “Friendly Fascism” and Sheldon Wolin’s “Democracy Incorporated“) GS3 seems very unappealing as a new “steady state” New World Order, even though it is likely to come to be, but as part of the chaotic transition, and not as its resolution.
Apart from that, Pogany’s description of the predicament of Late Modernity is worth considering. But it needs to be restated that any true “mutation” of consciousness must be made plain and explicit by the addition of new powers or faculties of consciousness, powers or faculties which reveal hitherto invisible or surprisingly overlooked aspects and relationships between things, including, as I noted in the last post on “Complexity and Consciousness,” dexterity in handling more than one or two variables simultaneously, and I do not see how a merely globalised Confucianism represents such a mutation as much as a reactionary formation.
But it’s true. Even as our politicians and captains of industry bash China’s model, they secretly envy it, without apparently realising that they are all becoming Confucians.