Article Index

Staying on track

Criteria can be developed for assessing each stage of development. This is necessary so we can know if we are making progress; how far have we come and what is the next step. Today in our pessimistic, no-alternative politics we don’t seem to have any sense of direction informed by any sort of vision and little clear idea of what to do.  With the increasing number of brains on the planet we need to match the exponential development of knowledge and stuff with a matching exponential development of collective wisdom.

We are all aware of unintended consequences. Changes that are made with the best of motives do not always work. We need to factor this into holistic political economy – we need to be able to halt, reflect, redesign and go again in much faster cycles than merely voting once every five years allows.

The change framework (maturity model) I suggest can cater for this. Here is how it helps. If we are trying to assess progress, we can zoom in on a Stage of Development for one Area of Activity.

For example, within the Stage of Normalisation and the Activity Economic Change and Business Development, what is that we will expect to have happened? Suppose we decide that Normalisation will have been reached when 50% of workforce is either employed in cooperative enterprises or works for businesses that have adopted an inclusive stakeholder model of governance (i.e. where there is board representation for workers, customers, suppliers, and civic stakeholders as well as shareholders and management) then we can measure. Have we reached normalisation or not? Do we need to review activity in other areas that help it come about? All routine in some businesses. In politics however its altogether different, our politicians are more likely to be plotting how they can win the next election and what needs to go in the manifesto (on the shopping list). 

This is a very different jumping off point for the development of practical politics than anything our current approaches can supply. If we have such a measure of progress then we need the policy and change activity to make it actually happen. That in turn means we must undertake work to get the idea accepted, create a climate of opinion that favour it. The change I force is one that accepts that civil society is above business and that business must accept direct inputs to its governance because of its externalities. It is one that sees (for example) enabling legislation around the details of public liability companies and an important topic which deserves to go to the top of the political agenda. How companies operate and what is expected from them is fundamental. A political economy that is moving towards holistic political economy will have a set of polices designed to move society from one Stage of Development to the next. Party manifestos, judged against this criteria, will look very different to the ones we are used to.

Political priorities and how to spend political capital on change will become a very different activity. We will see more persuasion, more compromise and more fundamental changes in things that currently languish at the bottom of the agenda (or are not even on it) such as; banning planned obsolescence and insisting on repairability, constitutional reform, open outsourcing contracts, corporate governance and more. The limit is our imagination, with a vision all sorts of possibilities open up (Note: A New Agenda)

We can summarise this discussion with a diagram as follows

We don't have a good track record with big top down changes, the point I want to make is that we can envisage small changes that would have a big impact and set more change in motion. There is an argument to be had and won over the freedom of business. There will be howls of protest (and immoderate hyperbolic rabble rousing) from those who conflate economic freedom with personal freedom (who want small government, a lazier faire free market, and believe in the invisible hand). We have to establish both, the sound evidential basis and pressing moral case, for holistic political economy and then insist on our collective right as citizens to oversee. Our right to oversee the executive should be obvious. The case for overseeing business is simple this - what you do effects us all.

There is a consensus building on the left the includes ideas such as The Green New Deal and Universal Basis Income. There is a newly emerging appetite for non violent direct action in the case of climate change. Both of these represent demands for change that do not include changes to the underlying power relations within society. They offer something that can be rallied round, but they do not provide silver bullets. If and when climate change begins to cause crises we need people to be habituated to collective action and to use cooperation by default, otherwise we'll end up with drastic top down measures that will be imposed - with all the entails for acceptance and social cohesion.