our souls only now awakening …
“Our souls, which are only now beginning to awaken after the long reign of materialism, harbor seeds of desperation, unbelief, lack of purpose. The whole nightmare of the materialistic attitude, which has turned the life of the universe into a purposeless game, is not yet over. And yet, a weak light glimmers, like a tiny point in an enormous circle of blackness ….”
Vassily Kandinsky in 1912
Today I speak of soul, purpose, life and business and in doing so I am totally going to misuse this quote which was written about art. This quote spoke to me in a way that explained the sense of desperation I sometimes hear people speak of when speaking of today’s world. And how they speak about their belief that too many in society think that being materialistic and greed is the prevalent sense of ‘being’ throughout society, business and the world.
I don’t really believe people think that way. Or, maybe better said, is I do not believe people want to think that way. I believe the majority of people simply act in a materialistic mode because they sense there is there no other path available, i.e., if they don’t the other guy will and they will get left behind and not get their ‘fair share’ of whatever the prize appears to be.
Let’s call it materialism survival mode in a zero sum game world.
Therefore the desperation I am talking about is truly a derivative of knowing that there is actually something is better. An understanding that materialism is a path with no real destination, in other words, as soon as you have what you have you want more <sociology calls this “hedonistic adaptation“>.
We want better <most of us> than this. Better just doesn’t seem so attainable these days.
In addition. In this sense of desperation <I wrote “who will stop the madness?” I admit that I don’t hear people using words like ‘weak light glimmering.’ They just see darkness and madness in the world,
Me? I see it. I see the weak light glimmering.
I see it in people themselves <in how I described where I believe the desperation evolves from>.
I see it as a generational “thing” <as in ‘turnings’ described by Strauss & Howe and cyclical attitudes and behaviors over generations, i.e., we have been here before attitudinally>.
I see it, most importantly, as the evolution of capitalism <which is the basic economic model for materialism — although we should all note that ‘materialism ‘ is a human attitude & behavior wrought from within and not from without>.
Anyway. The capitalism evolution is neither good nor bad simply an evolution and what is occurring is the natural friction that occurs during evolution <please note: I do not see this as ‘revolution’>. I could also note that there is natural friction that occurs in any change just that when an entire economic model creates friction it has some larger repercussions.
My belief in this arc of Captalism evolution to grounded in Schumpeter thoughts. If you read Schumpeter it can possibly explain why there is a sense of desperation or maybe a sense of uneasiness and why it is natural to feel this way.
According to Schumpeter there is a natural process of creative destruction within capitalism based on the affect the “cultural contradictions of capitalism” have:
– The Process of Creative Destruction.
I) Capitalism cannot be stationary. It revolutionizes the economic structure “from within”, destroying what went before through a process of competition that affects costs as much as quality. Creativity in consumer goods, methods of transport, of production, systems of organization, search for markets and technology. It is a process that undermines traditional supports existing at a given moment, weakening its own system. Moreover, capitalism devitalizes the idea of “property” <the existence of great and small shareholders>.
*** He is simply saying that capitalism inevitably empowers anyone anywhere to build something … and as that is built something has to be destroyed <or replaced> to accommodate it. Capitalism encourages individual thinking and ideation and business building. Interestingly … it is actually anti-establishment and anti-‘maintaining the norm.’ There is no normal in capitalism beyond its ongoing self destruction and reincarnation.
– II) Rationality. Capitalism encourages rationality in behaviour. Rationality involves, on the one hand, the “maximization” of particular interests of individuals and groups, the use of the instrumental means in a coherent form, and in the same way a series of readaptations empirically controlled by a procedure of flawed -testing. On the other hand, rationalization rushes into both private life and cultural forms. Consumption wins against accumulation, diminishing the desireability of incomes above a certain level. At the same time, however, when the breaks of certain values associated with ethical or religious tradition fail (the sophrosyne), irrational components of behaviour that are critical for capitalism emerge and cannot be refuted with rational arguments, especially when based on long term considerations.
*** Capitalism is a constant struggle between the rational <let’s say ‘profit & dollars & cents’ in this case> and the irrational <let’s call this the human Maslow ‘feel good’ intangible in this case> within people. It is interesting to note he suggests that money is a means to an end. In other words … you could earn a dollar a year and save only a dollar a year and be okay with that if you could consume <buy, eat, live to what you desire> whatever you wanted and needed. Regardless. This constant struggle occurs and when it is perceived to be out of balance there will be friction as compromise is debated <and neither side wants to let go of what they have or what they think – which are often inevitably linked>.
III) The Obsolescence of the Entrepreneurial Function. Increasing difficulties for the classical function of management. Increasing importance of specialized groups. The context, moreover, has been accustomed to change and each time a greater number of factors are calculable. The success of business ends up in removing the owners.
*** He is not suggesting that entrepreneurship or small business becomes obsolete in capitalism. What he is saying is that capitalism inherently makes good small businesses into big businesses and as that happens they lose the ‘entrepreneurial function.’ In other words …. Capitalism encourages small to become big and in doing so they destroy what made them successful in the first place <and inevitably they are ‘destructed’ either from within or from without – by small business that destroys them>.
– IV) Protecting Strata. In the modern era there was a symbiosis between the nobility and the productive sectors. The former occupied the State organization, guided political decisions and supplied officials for the army (the bourgeoisie was only sometimes in charge of local administration). It was a sector that survived the social and technical conditions that produced it. In conclusion: the bourgeoisie is politically defenseless without the protection of non-bourgeoisie sectors, but capitalism, however, encourages the breaking up of the precapitalist framework of society.
*** Capitalism is most effective with a strong middle class and not a massive gap between the haves and have nots. Effective capitalistic societies will strive to reset when the gap is to large and there will be inevitable conflict/friction when this occurs.
– V) Intellectuals. Characterized as those who exercise the power of the spoken and written word, they are used to not having any direct responsibility in practical matters and thus, they lack a direct knowledge of experience. They encourage self-conceived attitudes as “critical”, more from a logic of opposition, we could say, than from a logic of government. There exists a parallel between education and the scale of moral values in the intellectual sectors and the administrative or bureaucratic sectors against the values and technical criteria of the economic system as it operates.
*** I find it interesting that while Schumpeter is NOT discussing governmental structures <democracy, republic, socialism, communism> he gets right to the core of the issue in that inevitably officials who make decisions for the everyday person are most often not the everyday person nor do they think like the everyday person. Therefore the economic system may be operating at odds to what they believe is the right thing to do.
There you go. Schumpeter uses these five arguments to discuss the process of what he calls ‘the self-destruction of capitalism.’ Now. Self-destruction is not suggesting capitalism destructs as in ‘ends’ … but rather that in its ongoing self destruction <or crisis in Hegelian terms> it recreates itself <synthesis> into something new.
Heck. Now that I have written all this I can see why there is so much angst in the world today. I can even see why the business world is talking about “intrapreneurship” <having large companies seek small company attitudes & innovations>, distributed leadership models and, most importantly, Purpose & meaning into work.
Regardless of whether this is evolution or it is a ‘natural conflict’ or not. Conflict is conflict. It is friction. And in this time and place it is friction upon friction.
Not only is the entire system being reshaped <as it is cracked and put back together again> but the generational attitude infrastructure is also in conflict <of which Capitalism has been a catalyst for attitudes & beliefs>.
In the end.
Why are so many of us feeling uneasy, maybe even harboring some thread of desperation in what we see in the world today?
‘Our souls, which are only now beginning to awaken after the long reign of materialism, harbor seeds of desperation, unbelief, lack of purpose …’
Maybe our souls are simply awakening. Gee. That may feel like desperation but, well, who wouldn’t see a glimmer of light in that thinking?