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Psycho-economy & Co-ops

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By Dada Jitendrananda

I arrived in Japan in 1984 at the height of Japan’s booming economy. Japan’s post-war project had been reconstruction, and development of a world-class economy. By the mid-‘80s, Japan was the manufacturing hub of the world. The gravy train of this economy was such that a street performer working for two months in Tokyo could live at a Thai resort for the rest of the year on the proceeds. There was a price, though, for this success. I visited a man in hospital who had just reached retirement age. His job had been in banking and required him to socialize with clients after hours. This involved drinking most nights. Reflecting on his life, he regretted the demands of his job denying him time with his family. He died soon after I met him from cirrhosis of the liver.

Japan’s boomtown economy crashed in 1990. By 1992, with the government struggling to manage the collapse of its once towering financial institutions, Japan’s thought leaders began casting around for new ideas. One they found was promoted by Dr. Ravi Batra, a maverick US based economist and Prout advocate with a knack for predicting economic trends. Along with his common sense economic advice, Batra spoke about the importance of inner wealth and resources. This struck a chord with a population that had become entirely regulated by economic priorities.

Japan presented a good example of a society reaching the limits of what a purely commercially-oriented economy can achieve. At some point, the economy develops a life of its own into which all other values subsume. This oppresses the human spirit and calls for a more developed understanding of economics. Prout treats economics as the regulation of resources for all-round welfare.

Prout’s model of a quadri-dimensional economy* offers the scope for this regulation. Here I will focus on the second sector: psycho-economy. Prout recognizes the economy as a support mechanism for life to fulfill its potential. Psycho-economy focuses on how the workings of the economy hinder or support the evolutionary impulse inherent in life. This might practically manifest as a government department or sub-department that acts to identify and eliminate exploitative trends in the economy and fosters the development of technology that frees time from mundane work for activities that better utilize the mind’s potential.

For its standing in regards to welfare, Prout draws on the notion of life as the embodiment of tireless benevolence, from an undivided state of consciousness. The signature of that consciousness within us is the evolutionary impulse that prompts us to realize our full potential. That potential is no less than the realization of the limitless dimension of our being.

Prout’s understanding of an evolutionary impetus to life informs Prout principles and policies. Prout favours the co-operative model of enterprise. Key features of co-ops include members creating them to co-operatively work for their individual and collective welfare. Workers decide salaries on a rational basis understood and accepted by all. Salaries are kept within a fixed ratio, e.g. 5:1, where the highest salary doesn’t exceed five times the lowest. Profits are shared equally amongst the members. Co-ops espouse social values and often seek to benefit their local community. Co-ops reflect evolution, whose style can be summed up as synergy.

The co-op ethos contrasts with the less-evolved survival-dominated connection that most people have with their work. Consider how ideas of work and life are so closely intertwined that we refer to work as ‘earning a living’. The ‘earning’ part of this equation often means working for a company whose purpose is to transform human energy into material gain for the owners in a quid pro quo exchange. The lack of recognition of anything more worthy of human life’s dedication, degrades the ‘living’ part to a material value. Furthermore, this reliance on employment misplaces the psychological traits of servitude and dependence. When we extend the understanding of our potential to spiritual realization as Prout does, the sense of dependence on a tirelessly benevolent source, and the inspiration to serve as its embodiment in this world, become positive traits. Servitude to and dependence on the pleasure of a company owner in today’s work culture subordinate the human being within material values and impede the evolutionary impulse. 

The dichotomy of interests between workers and owners in present-day labor relations gives rise to trade unions on one hand and the influence of money in politics on the other. Had trade unions been able to reject the identity of servitude in work culture rather than merely seeking to improve conditions within it, they might have seen the beckoning light of co-operatives. So much of the workers’ dilemma is resolved through co-ops. The worker / management tension inherent in  conflicting owner / employee interests, is eliminated with worker ownership. The alienation of workers from the means of production that Marx spoke of is also eliminated. The toxic culture of insecurity in the corporate work environment and the sociopathic values it gives rise to, are replaced in the co-op model with the values of cooperation for the wellbeing of one and all. 

Humans are  evolutionary beings and we are bound always to refine our organizing systems to better serve our developmental needs. Prout’s psycho-economy answers the need for economics to remain reactively and proactively focused on all round well-being. And just as electricity was an inevitable and transforming development of physical technology, co-ops are an inevitable and transforming advance-in-waiting in our psychic technology. Human foibles play a part in all human endeavors. Co-ops are no exception but the synergy that is evident in the complex and thriving community of cells that is our physical body, reflects that systems that incorporate synergy harness the powerful and irresistible force of evolution. 

*The four parts of Prout’s quadri-dimensional economy are: People’s Economy – focusing on basic necessities; Psycho-Economy – focusing on the psychological dimension; Commercial Economy – focusing on efficiency; and General Economy – dealing with macro-economics and economic theory. A full exposition can be found in ‘A Few Problems Solved, Part 7’, under Quadri-dimensional Economy.

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