Honouring Capitalism

EnlightenNext magazine recently revived a 2005 article by Howard Bloom, which is even more topical now than it was then:
Reinventing Capitalism
In the midst of our current financial crisis, it may seem natural to cast doubt on the entire enterprise of Western capitalism and wonder if its basic tenets of progress and production have led humanity astray. But according to avant-garde cultural theorist Howard Bloom, writing in EnlightenNext back in 2005, such dismissals tend to overlook the true evolutionary significance of our economic system:   

  The problem does not lie in the turbines of the Western way of life—industrialism, capitalism, pluralism, free speech, and democracy. The problem lies in the lens through which we see. Capitalism works. It works clumsily, awkwardly, sometimes brilliantly, and sometimes savagely. So we need to dig down to find out why. We need to reveal the deeper meaning beneath what we’ve been told is crass materialism and see how profoundly our obsessive making and exchanging of goods and services has upgraded the nature of our species. This is not a mindless consumer culture destroying the planet in an orgy of greed. It is the most creative and potentially idealistic bio-engine this planet has ever seen. We desperately need a reinvention and a re-perception of the system that has given Western civilization its long-term strength and its recent weaknesses. We need to wake up capitalism to its mission—a set of moral imperatives and heroic demands that are implicit in the Western way of life. By reinventing capitalism and injecting our own souls into the machine, you and I can raise the bar of human possibility.

Read the full text of Bloom’s column “Reinventing Capitalism.”

I have to admit that my outlook on the achievements of our modern ‘western’ civilisation has tended to be a little negative. I’ve marvelled at the wonder of what we’ve achieved, but never fully honoured it, tainted as it is always by a flavour of sadness and anger at the exploitation that it has taken to get to this point. Surely this is calling the glass 5% empty though – overlooking the blindlingly obvious. There has never been a better time in known human history to be alive on so many levels, especially as a creative or a thinker.  So many people now enjoy a level of health and comfort exceeding even that of kings a few hundred years ago.
I think the ideas he’s hinting at here need developing and clarifying, but I like the gist of it – i.e. honouring our current model rather than condemning it.
I love this vision:

Imagine what it would be like to go to work each morning in a company that saw your passions as your greatest engines, your curiosities as your fuel, and your idealisms as the pistons of your labors and of your soul. Imagine what it would be like if your superiors told you that the ultimate challenge was to tune your empathic abilities so you could sense the needs of your firm’s customers even before those customers knew quite what they hankered after…

This is what I love about the potential of the current system too – that power of possibility that comes when a team is really working well on all levels to create something new and exciting – for the good of all levels of life.
Maybe all we really need is to wake up and realise just how amazingly lucky we are to be alive at this moment and to spread that excitement around.  After centuries of poineering toil, all it will take is for a few of us to look up from our feet at what we’ve collectively created and go ‘Wow!!! Look what we’ve done!’ and then nudge a few others and point it out to them.
Before we know it, we’ll be living the full expression of life on all levels.  It’s so close.
Let’s get this party started!

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