The human economy: a strategy in the struggle for happiness

An earlier essay, ‘Manifesto for a human economy‘, deals explicitly with the object, theory and methods of a human economy approach. Here I examine some of the precedents for such an approach in the history of modern revolutions, drawing on Kant, Jefferson, Tocqueville, James and Gandhi.

‘Human economy’ is one way of taking forward the great conversation about making a better world. Here I will mention a few individuals who have helped me to find my own voice in this conversation, all of them participants in the revolutions that made the modern world.  I focus on two historical sequences – the Western liberal revolutions of the 17th to 19th centuries and the anti-colonial revolutions which displaced European empire in the 20th. The American Revolution was both liberal and anti-colonial. A similar combination undermined the Soviet empire two decades ago and now fuels resistance to the American Empire in North Africa and the Middle East today. After three decades of neoliberal globalization, we are entering a new phase of the struggle for a world fit for all people to live in. Emergent world society is the new human universal – not an idea, but the fact of our shared occupation of the planet crying out for new principles of association. So the context for a human economy approach is this unfinished attempt to remove unequal society, a process that has often been shaped by war and revolution.

Read the rest of this short essay here.

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Comment by Keith Hart on August 6, 2013 at 9:04pm

Hi Elaine, thanks for wandering into this lonely corner of our ghetto.

The point is not just to operate at the global level, but to set in train the possibility of bridging the extremes between each unique human being and all of us together. I talk of a process of extension out from the local and familiar towards the whole. We can't jump straight from parochialism to a vision of the totality. We have to work at it, bit by bit. Money (not just microfinance) allows us already to imagine the impersonal universe of our social relations while making our most intimate experiences concretely specific. I do believe that we have recently entered a special moment in human history when for the first time we have access to universal media capable of expressing universal ideas. The OAC is an amazing medium for dabbling in global networks. It's a pity that most of our members are turned off from that possibility. Scaling down takes many forms, but the reduced format of a movie or paperback allows us to enter history subjectively, a task that was once performed by praying to God -- and still is for many. The new media facilitate this, but so too do the old media.

Comment by Elaine Forde on August 6, 2013 at 5:34pm

Interesting stuff, Keith.

So are you proposing  that the entire world is the appropriate social scale for the human economy project? This sounds ambitious but I think you make  a case for it with the emergence of the new communication technologies, as well as the new economic forms like microfinance. Do these technologies facilitate the scaling down of the world that you mention as a prerequisite to establishing the meaningful relationship between self/world that you talk about?


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