A New Paradigm for our Society and Economy and our Relationship with Nature?

By John BristowNo Comments

What is a Paradigm and a Transformation or Shift of a Paradigm?

A paradigm is a system of beliefs and assumptions that operate together to produce a seemingly integrated and unified view of the world or part of it, together with an all-encompassing narrative that is so compelling and convincing that it appears to represent reality and reflect the natural order of things.

Once problems or issues arise that cannot be explained or resolved well enough within the current paradigm and system, inconsistencies build up and fester until there comes a point at which there is a strong felt need for change and people see that the fundamentals of the current system need to be questioned and changed. As Einstein put it, we cannot solve such problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. This is similar to what Gregory Bateson and later Chris Argyris called learning at a level where the way we are thinking and acting becomes an object of attention and thought, or double loop learning. Donella Meadows writes extensively about this too when she describes the leverage points in a system and the mindset in which systems arise in our relations with each other and the world and about “transcending the paradigm”.This heralds a period of transformative change, a transition across from one form to another. Gregory Bateson’s classic on mind and nature is relevant here too.

Double Loop Learning

Double Loop Learning

With the economy in mind this means examining the assumptions, values, priorities and culturally formed patterns of thinking and behavior that shape the way we assess our needs, acquire and use the energy and materials we need for living, and how we ensure that the resources and environment are there for future needs to be met: ours, those of future generations and those of all life and the living systems on which we depend.

It means setting and testing out the needs, principles, values, and criteria to have in mind when trying out different ways of doing things, our technologies, forms of production, distribution and consumption, our use of energy and materials, how we measure costs and benefits, our policies, institutions and ways of organizing – the design principles for the system as a whole.

How this will work out in practice will vary in each context: in those countries that are richer or poorer, that have more or less developed technologies and institutions, and liberal or non-liberal economies and that are in different climates, habitats and natural resources.

 

Economics
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