In Part 5 of our seven-part series on the transformative worldview, we consider the economic patterns of this worldview. For an introduction to the transformative worldview, please visit Part 1. Part 2 discusses the cultural patterns of the transformative worldview, while Part 3 considers its political patterns and Part 4 its social patterns.
Those holding a transformative worldview believe in creating a more just, equitable, and sustainable economy that places less stress on an overtaxed environment. They are trying to counter the damage from global capitalism and its related values of greed and consumption that have been inflicted upon the human psyche. Many individuals and organizations with a transformative worldview struggle to eliminate free trade agreements such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the WTO (World Trade Organization), which have wreaked havoc on local economies, workers, small businesses, and the environment, while enriching multinational corporations and their shareholders.
Some people are working to reinstate bilateral trade agreements, where each trading nation makes its own mutually beneficial trade agreements. Others are working to set up alternative business forms, such as nonprofit businesses, cooperatives, and local, community, or employee-owned enterprises. For example, a committed group of individuals in my local community is working to establish a community-owned bank in which the state and local governments deposit their excess funds. The profits from this enterprise are channeled back into the local community rather than to out-of-state investors. Many people struggle to break the corporate lock on the “economic imagination” and develop diverse enterprises in which workers have a stake in their workplace, and the sustainability of the Earth is given utmost consideration.
Some people argue that we can more effectively deal with the extraordinary rate of economic change by actively participating in life choices and not embracing rampant consumerism. Natural capitalism, which places priority on the well-being and sustainability of the Earth, is among the many economic changes that are emerging. Other significant economic changes include socially responsible investing, social entrepreneurship, micro-credit banking, community development, local businesses, self-managed worker-run enterprises, cooperative enterprises, nonprofit organizations, and disinvestment measures. For example, some people on college campuses are calling on college financial administrators to disinvest their investments from the fossil fuel industry. There is also a renewed call for stricter financial sector regulations, a cap on excessive executive compensation, the breaking up of large corporate holdings, and other reforms.
One alternative to the globalized economy is the redevelopment of the once-flourishing local or domestic economy. Local community members, government officials, and business owners can alleviate the wealth depletion of the local economy by returning to “economic self-determination.” This return to local capitalism reduces dependency on multinational corporations while creating wealth-accumulating enterprises at the local level. Local economies can produce, market, and process many of their own products for local or regional consumption, reducing transportation and middleman costs.
Local capitalism can bring local economies into harmony with the surrounding ecosystem, foster cooperation within the community, and substitute more personalized local products for more expensive imported, and often substandard, goods. In order for such a change to occur, the real effort must come from the local community, which can better utilize available resources in imaginative ways and provide more economical and high-quality food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and energy. A transfer of economic interests and activities from urban, core centers to the local community can reduce dependency on the core and revive local economic vibrancy.i
Concerns are arising over the fact that our industrial form of agricultural production is no longer able to meet the needs of the world’s population. Along with industrial agriculture’s enormous demands for irrigation water, its chemical inputs deplete the fertility of the soil, and its fossil fuel dependency contributes to global warming. Alternatives to mass-produced, industrial agriculture are emerging, such as the rise of sustainable, organic, and local agriculture. An alternative to industrial agriculture, organic farming connects what one eats to how one lives. It also considers the person charged with spraying destructive chemicals on foods and the considerable harm done to his/her health.
A number of communities scattered throughout the world are working to incrementally achieve the goal of greater local businesses rooted in the community. For example, in the United States, a worker-owned initiative is located in the economically hard-hit city of Cleveland, Ohio. The “Cleveland Model” involves an integrated array of worker-owned cooperative enterprises targeted at the $3 billion purchasing power of such large-scale “anchor institutions” as the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital, and Case Western Reserve University. The association of enterprises also includes a revolving fund, so that profits made by the businesses help establish new ventures. A worker-owned company, Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, is a state-of-the-art commercial laundry that provides clean linens for area hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels. It includes 50 worker-owners, pays above-market wages, provides health insurance, and is still able to compete successfully against other commercial laundries. Another enterprise, Ohio Cooperative Solar (OCS), provides weatherization services and installs, owns, and maintains solar panels. Each year, two to four new worker-owned ventures are planned for opening. A 20-acre land trust will own the land of the worker-owned businesses.ii A revitalization of the local economy does not mean isolation and a complete rejection of the global capitalist economy, but rather an integration of global and local economies.
Technological Patterns of the Transformative Worldview
Some people supporting a transformative worldview dispute the notion that scientific progress and our faith in technological fixes can solve all complex problems and make the world a better, safer place to live in. Instead, the transformative worldview has a tacit understanding that science, technology, and a consumer-materialistic way of life have certain limitations and repercussions for our human species, as well as for other life forms on Earth. However, most people in the transformative movement realize the importance of internet and computer technology in instantaneously linking and organizing people around the world, while also providing accurate and transparent information.
Even though technology cannot fix all problems, perhaps it can help us deal with some of the urgent issues. But instead of using technology as the latest consumer fad, we need the wisdom to direct the technology to positive ends. As we have found in world history, one thing that humans are good at is making tools. Sometimes the repercussions of our tool-making creations are not immediately apparent; the atomic and nuclear bombs come to mind as inventions that have had few, if any, redeeming qualities. But many inventions have been beneficial—the internet has certainly benefited me. Many new innovations are underway to help “clean up” the environment, bring more energy efficiency to our way of life, and treat medical issues. Perhaps technology will provide the tools we need to save ourselves—but we will need to know how to use it in ways that are beneficial rather than harmful.
Questions to Consider
- What economic changes (if any) do you think should be promoted by those holding a transformative worldview?
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.
i Wendell Berry, “Decolonizing Rural America,” Audubon 95, no. 2 (March-April 1993): 105.
ii Gar Alperovitz, “America Beyond Capitalism,” Dollars & Sense.