I’d like to introduce you to a new way of thinking about the world we live in.
In everything humans do, either together or as individuals, there are a variety of motivations that underpin those activities. The motivations themselves are highly determinant of the outcome, a concept that is obvious and entirely natural.
The same dynamic exists for higher organizations of human activity to be found in institutions such as the military, government, economy and enterprise. Aided by ideology, and contained within politics, vast areas of operation and resources have come to bear upon our emerging world through the goals we hold as a society.
In this piece I wish to explore the economy through the lens of our collective motivations.
The emerging world has produced a system that we have so far yet to master, and we owe ourselves deep consideration of this situation. We find ourselves struggling to deal with the concurrent issues of ecological crisis and socio-economic stagnation.
Indeed, human civilization may be on the precipice once again.
We currently live in what I call a highly ‘Goal Oriented Economy’ (GOE): in which the economic linkages between people and institutions have been deeply skewed towards one goal above all others.
That goal is the embodiment of capitalism, and the maximum return of profit to the capital owner in everything we do. This is the world that has emerged over the past 30 years and is the hallmark of post-modernism and the neo-liberal capitalist world order.
It’s not that other goals don’t co-exist with our primary drive in today’s world. But the reality is that from the very top down, we have a deep organization of our activities to propel the accumulation of wealth through capital returns.
By understanding that this goal orientation has taken place, we can better understand our place in that system, and what to do next.
It may seem self-determinant that we have chosen to focus so intensely on the accumulation of wealth as a society. But the reality is that over history we have many examples of societies adopting other goals as the basis of their endeavor.
Consider the ancient Egyptians, and their societal drive to create monumental architecture such as the Pyramids. Or in medieval Europe when vast resources were spent building cathedrals or fighting the crusades. These are examples in which the ethos of the time created GOEs that had little to do with wealth creation as we know it today.
Most recently, and perhaps most worthy of our attention, we retooled our entire modern economy towards the fighting of World War 2 in a time span of less than 2 years.
It’s amazing to think of what was accomplished as a society to fight WW2. We suspended all other goals and achieved a highly skewed GOE almost overnight that is unrivaled in its scope of operation, and its marshaling of resources.
The entire sphere of economy and society was mustered. Individuals happily submitted to deep rationing of critical resources, and literally paid with their lives to achieve the societal aim of the day.
Additionally, in order to achieve our goal, we created institutions and technology that continue to impact our world. To name a few: atomic energy, rocketry, aviation, modern warfare, modern medicine, computation, telecommunication.
It’s not a stretch to say that the world we live in today was created by the utterly intense crucible that was WW2, and the Cold War that followed.
Fast forward to the present, and our society that has been so utterly skewed towards capital accumulation, and understand that things can be different.
It’s our goals and ideology that have created this, and those goals remain as malleable as they ever have been.
If we seek to pivot to meet our destiny as a civilization, we can do that so long as we choose it.
By understanding the mechanics by which vast resources come to bear in the creation of Goal Oriented Economies, we will better know our ability to respond to our collective situation.
In the face of the emerging existential ecological crisis we will need to shift our aims to meet the solutions that we know exist.
I believe we can do it. After all, we’ve done it before.