The Earth as Marketplace
If commerce were permitted to act to the universal extent it is capable of, it would extirpate the system of war, and produce a revolution in the uncivilized state of governments. The invention of commerce has arisen since those governments began, and is the greatest approach toward universal civilization, that has yet been made by any means not immediately flowing from moral principles. — Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man
I am very intrigued by this statement from Tom Paine, for with it we come to the crux of the matter — the utopian mission of capitalism and the idealism of neo-liberal globalisation: a vision of the one space of the Earth as global marketplace realised as the universal civilisation of commerce, or the Empire of Commerce. The One World realised as a borderless and uniform space of free trade and commercial exchanges, a singular matrix of global supply and demand, of production and consumption, of “the virtue of selfishness” and acquisitive individualism; one global space of economic transactions for each and all, everyone peacefully pursuing their “rational self-interest” in the spirit of entrepreneurialism and universal goodwill.
It explains much behind the project of uninhibited global free trade. But the whole planet as “free market” and the Earth as Marketplace is delusional.
The Earth whose diverse life-spaces of the wild and the tamed are now reconceived as one homogenous space, as a singular commercial entity and economic unit — whose spatial boundaries and limits are contiguous with the “free market” — means that all such spaces must be processed and assimilated to the logic of the global commercial enterprise system, which proceeds 24/7. Your home, your bedroom, your living room, your kitchen, inasmuch as they are “private” spaces, stand as offences against and contradictions towards the universal market. They will be assimilated. They, too, become commercialised sites of supply and demand, of economic exchange, sites of production and consumption according to the logic and requirements of the universal free market, which is “free” only because it recognises no limits to itself. Your television, your telephone, your internet connection become simply extensions of the global market into your home, integrating or assimilating those spaces into its commercial logic. Even your love-making in the privacy of your bedroom, or the inner subjective space of your thoughts and feelings, can be remade into “branded behaviours” and assimilated to the commercial logic of the Earth as global market.
And all in the name of universal harmony, peace, and prosperity, and all benevolently, uniformly, and universally administered by “the Invisible Hand”. No space must be left unassimilated. Anything and everything can be analysed, costed out, and commodified, and be assigned an exchange value in terms of dollars and cents because it is now the only language that makes sense. Even the dissenters from this project feel it is necessary to speak commercialese, and also recast the value of parks and wilderness in commercial terms and cost-benefit analysis. We seem to know no other language at our “end of history”.
The space of the Earth, as a web of life, is revalued as the web of commerce, which is the meaning of The Anthropocene. There is a kind of perverse mirror imaging here, a revaluation of values, that belongs to the problem of “technocratic shamanism” in which what is intuitively recognised as true is grasped, seized upon, analysed, rationalised, technicised and then systematised until it only becomes the shadow of the authentic and the true — as an image and idol. It is transmogrified. The web of commerce simulates the web of life just enough for us to become bewitched by its “truthiness”. We forget that it is just a simulation and an imitation, the result being, as Nietzsche put it, that “the will to a system is a lack of integrity”.
This, again, arises because of our deep confusion of the whole with a mere totality. The whole is what is given to us perfect, complete and entire of itself, before it is analysed and vivisected and abstracted into bits and parts, and then reassembled as a totality. The totality becomes a mere simulacrum of the real and of the whole. It only apes the whole. This is what the web of commerce does with the web of life and then usurps and displaces the latter and becomes, itself, only a pretense of the real.
Does that not remind you of something? Those of you who have read Iain McGilchrist’s book on neurodynamics The Master and His Emissary will recognise this usurpation as the work of the “Emissary”. And I happen to believe that the neo-liberal form of globalisation — this process of systematisation of the Earth’s spaces into the universal market — is only the workings of the “Emissary,” while “globalism”, which is the more holistic perception, is already the perception of the “Master” awareness. This is, I think, what underlies the distinction between “globalism” and “globalisation” wherein they are often confused with one another, and which corresponds to Nietzsche’s distinction between “integrity” (or the whole) on the one hand, and “system” on the other. And so the difference lies again in the difference between the whole and the totality. Globalisation then becomes the process by which the “Emissary” mode of consciousness seizes the more globalist or holistic or integral perception of the “Master” awareness, breaks it down, vivisects it, and then reconstitutes it as a “genuine imitation”, as a totality — as “system”.
That is how I understand the difference between “globalism” and “globalisation”, as reflected in Nietzsche’s distinction of “integrity” and “system”, correspondingly, in which the Master’s more holistic perception of the web of life, which we know through “intuition”, is broken down, abstracted, and then translated and reassembled into a machine “totality”, and that this is, in effect, the process we call “secularisation” too, but which, when it forgets its source and its roots, becomes, instead, a profanation. Basically, “profanation” is what McGilchrist means by the Emissary’s “usurpation” of the perceptions of the Master awareness, the Emissary being, of course, the ego-consciousness, or otherwise Blake’s “Urizen”. Reductionism and fundamentalism, or the devaluation of values these represent, is the work of the Emissary consciousness structure. This is what Jean Gebser means by the current dominant “mental-rational consciousness” functioning in “deficient mode”.
We could say, that secularism is, in effect, the mental structure of consciousness, as Reason, functioning in “efficient” or “effective” mode, for it is involved in the “concretion of the spiritual” as Gebser calls it. But what we all “profanation” is the mental structure functioning in deficient mode as rationality — as “the mental-rational structure of consciousness” functioning as “rationalisation”, or as “technocratic shamanism”, as Algis Mikunas called it in his essay on “Magic and Technological Culture”.
And so, the translation of the integral life-spaces of the Earth into the singular, homogenous and uniform space of the global market and the “universal civilisation of commerce”, administered and adjudicated through and by the World Trade Organisation, is the work of technocratic shamanism. But, paradoxically, it is also very possible that it can be reversed in the other direction and that neo-liberal globalisation is itself preparing the way for a more authentic globalism, a truer integralism, and a more authentically life-based planetary civilisation than is promised by the “universal civilisation of commerce”.
After all, the roads that the Romans built to expand their empire, were the same roads used and followed to conquer Rome, and were the same roads the Christians took to evangelise Europe.