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INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Dr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year’s clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: integraldeeplistening.com
Financial, Social, and Intrasocial Capital in an Integral Context
In order to generate a worldcentric, self-regenerating world society, one that is less likely to collapse due to its own internal contradictions, an integral approach requires a combination of three different varieties of capital: financial, social, and intrasocial. While financial capital is best represented by the Western-based but global “market economy,” social capital is presently best represented by China, and particularly by Xi's recent turn away from financial speculation and the unlimited accumulation of private capital toward “common prosperity,” defined by Xi as
a society in which no one is poor and everyone receives an education, has paid employment, more than enough food and clothing, access to medical services, old-age support, a home, and a comfortable life.
Intrasocial capital involves the wealth, creativity, and problem-solving accruing from accessing one's unique life compass, which is not to be confused with conscience, intuition, “knowingness,” or “super consciousness, and which requires a specific methodology, yoga, or integral life practice to identify and utilize. I shall differentiate these, explain their importance for an Integral worldview, and explain how and why all three interdependently support the creation and maintenance of a self-regenerating society.
Wealthworks.org has identified eight different varieties of capital:
Financial, social, and intrasocial capital are three primary or fundamental prisms that any and all of these forms of capital can be viewed through or from. Financial capital is meant to represent either a subjective (natural) or psychologically geocentric perspective, that is, one in which reality orbits around myself and my needs, particularly securing the most basic relational exchanges of security and safety. Clearly, any of the above eight forms of wealth can be thought of and pursued from such a perspective. To do so is neutral, in that there are circumstances in which doing so is healthy, positive, and necessary for growth and development while other circumstances exist in which doing so is destructive, negative, and lead to personal and collective collapse.
Social capital is meant to represent an ethnocentric and interpersonal perspective, one in which reality orbits around relationships and collectives. I am those groups with which I am affiliated. In Integral AQAL speak, this is an early personal level of self-development and an ethnocentric level of social development. It orbits around those who share my worldview and with whom I identify. If financial capital is metaphorically Earth with the sun, planets, and stars orbiting around it, social capital is metaphorically the solar system orbiting the sun. I indulge in groupthink because through identification with my groups I grow and gain security, safety, wealth, and status. Again, any of the above eight forms of wealth can be approached from the perspective of social capital. For example, financial, natural, built, or cultural capital can be approached from the interests of “we” or “us.”
Intrasocial capital is meant represent a polycentric and multi-perspectival perspective, one that is open to shifting among all these forms of wealth, any combination of them, or all of them together, depending on the circumstances. The important point is that an intrasocial perspective is not centered on what I need (a psychologically geocentric perspective) or what we need (an ethnocentric perspective) but on multi-perspectivalism itself. There is no one center of identity; it shifts according to the context, meaning that it is polycentric. If financial capital is metaphorically Earth with the sun, planets, and stars orbiting around it and social capital is metaphorically the solar system orbiting the sun, intrasocial capital is metaphorically space, in which every point is the center and there is no set standard by which to measure time. The multiple perspectives of intrasocial capital cannot be reduced to self-aspects or self perspectives, because to do so is reductionistic: we are taking a psychologically geocentric approach to capital. Clearly, multi-perspectivalism is not the "best" approach. For example, in self-development, a psychologically geocentric perspective is required for the development of identity and skill sets. If our priority is to protect and maintain some group identity, a sociocentric or ethnocentric perspective is superior. Therefore, multi-perspectivalism needs to be considered one more tool, but one without any fixed tool user - and that is a critical difference.
Financial and social capital compared and contrasted
We are all familiar with the concept of financial capital, but much less so with social capital, and not at all with intrasocial capital. Financial capital is any economic system that sets wealth accumulation as a priority. Social capital refers to relationship-based systems that set mutual reliance and interdependence as priorities. Intrasocial capital accesses subjective sources of objectivity via the interviewing of imagery-based emerging potentials, in order to integrate the priorities of one's own unique life compass.
We can have financial capital but lack social and intrasocial capital. Financial capital is paradoxical, in that it is more tangible than both social and intrasocial capital and yet more abstract. It makes our lives easier but abstracts us from interdependence, the need to cooperate, build trust, and exercise empathy or mutual respect. Financial capital is important when expectations need to be made explicit and contractual. Byung-Chul Han, writing in ArtReview.com, “How Objects Lost their Magic,” explains how the digitization of money, information, and each other moves us from social capital ever farther into the pseudo-reality of financial capital:
Living matter and its history bestow on the object a presence, which activates its entire surroundings. Objectsespecially well-designed, historically charged objects, and which are not necessarily artworkscan develop almost magical properties. Undinge (“non-object”) is about the loss of this magic. 'The digital order deobjectifies the world by rendering it information,' he writes. 'It's not objects but information that rules the living world. We no longer inhabit heaven and earth, but the Cloud and Google Earth. The world is becoming progressively untouchable, foggy and ghostly.'
The world of financial capital is largely one of information, not objects. The economist Michael Hudson creates a useful distinction between financial and industrial capital, that serves to remind us that capital itself is not the problem but rather the ways in which it is employed. Financial capital, for Hudson, is mainly differentiated from industrial capital by the way profits are distributed. In the former, the majority of profit goes to owners who do not produce wealth, but build their economics around what the classical economists, from Smith to Marx, called rent-seeking and unearned income. In the latter, industrial capital, profit is divided among those who produce social value. Hudson argues that the advancement of industrial capital was the objective of classical economics and that it was only as financial capitalism gained political power in the 1800's that industrial capitalism became vilified as “socialism” and “communism.” Unlike financial capital, industrial capitalism is not only supportive of social capital; they generate each other.
Social capital is built on respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy. It is important when trust and interpersonal reliance or dependency is clear, obvious, and concrete, such as when the need for shelter, safety, and food are immediate and chronic. Therefore, social capital can be seen as foundational, essential to the lower relational exchanges before financial and social safety nets are created or at those times when they are unavailable or collapse. While financial capital involves structured, contractual exchanges of value, social capital involves the exchange of favors with an unstated but very real economic value. Examples include the giving of gifts, the preparing and sharing of food and meals, the provision of shelter, the giving of sex, childcare, giving directions, or help with a task. The key to social capital is generosity, meaning favors are not given with calculated returns in mind.
The concept of psychological “stamp collecting” from Transactional Analysis provides a good analogy. It is based on the practice of receiving “trading stamps” at a market and the quantity given is based on the value of goods purchased. These are pasted into books, and the number of books redeemed entitles one to free goods - a toaster or blinder, for example. The purpose of these trading stamps is to build customer loyalty. With psychological stamps, one collects good or bad feelings. For example, if a worker generates enough infractions they “earn” firing by their boss; the employer can “cash in” all those infractions for a justified firing. If I irritate you enough times you can “cash in” your annoyance by blasting me in a way that far exceeds that “last straw” annoyance that tipped you over the edge. Similarly, one can collect “gold” stamps, meaning respect or positive estimation in the eyes of others. Generosity and social capital are examples of positive stamp collecting. These processes generate good will, which the bearer can “cash in” as needed - in times of physical or emotional need.
While generosity in social capital is not based on its instrumentality or on a calculation of reciprocity, generosity as a driver of social capital does not work without personal benefit, since sooner or later every generous person will run out of resources or the motivation to give if there is no replenishment based on some sort of reciprocity. In Transactional Analysis this reinforcement is called “strokes,” or “stroking,” as in petting an animal or being hugged by a friend. Emotional strokes include compliments or generosity. When we get them, they replenish our reserves or resources so that we have the capability and motivation to reciprocate.
Social capital is a form of capital in that it is an investment and similar to a savings account that one can draw upon in times of need. An unreliable person isn't going to be valued as highly as a person who commits to a task and unfailingly gets it done on time and with minimal hassle. The trust that others have in us that we will do what we say we will do is like a savings account, or gold stamps that can be drawn on when and if they are needed.
While financial capital is subject to inflation and deflation - reductions in value - social capital doesn't necessarily decay over time. Long-dormant connections and favors can come alive in moments of necessity. Societies with low social capital, for example, with low trust in strangers or in the fairness and reach of the society's legal, financial and political institutions, are economically stagnant, as enterprises cannot expand beyond the trusted network of families and in-group members.
If social capital generates a more resilient, sustainable, and healthier future than a world orbiting mostly around financial capital, individual lives and social collectives become even more resilient, sustainable, and healthier when they are built and draw upon intrasocial capital. Intrasocial capital is even more foundational than social capital, yet we can have both financial and social capital but lack intrasocial capital. While social capital is based on mutual respect, reciprocity, trustworthiness, and empathy, intrasocial capital is based on respect for multiple perspectives that are subjective sources of objectivity.
Phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalisms (PEMs) are varieties of intrasocial capital while cognitive multi-perspectivalisms, such as Integral AQAL, provide their own varieties of capital. Cognitive multi-perspectivalisms emphasize the expansion of consciousness in the interior individual quadrant, mainly through meditation, but also through various integral life practices and the adoption of a multi-perspectival worldview. Worldviews are cognitive elements of the interior collective quadrant. In contrast, experiential multi-perspectivalisms emphasize the decentralization of the self and Self through disidentification and simultaneous identification with alternative perspectives. In childhood this is known as “role playing” and it is an essential component of the development of identity. However, accessing intrasocial capital involves a conscious practice or yoga that childhood identification does not.
Integral Deep Listening is one variety of phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalism (PEM). Although it is the only one I know of, there is no reason why others that are superior cannot be developed. In IDL, subjective sources of objectivity of indeterminate ontology are interviewed in order to access emerging potentials that point toward the priorities of one's own unique life compass. These perspectives cannot be reduced to self-aspects, as psychology tends to view mental imagery, and they also cannot be reduced to objective realities, as shamanism assumes. Experiential refers to the centrality of disidentification/identification to the process. Phenomenologically-based refers to the surfacing and tabling of underlying assumptions, interpretations, projections, expectations, and cognitive filters. The reason such objectification of assumptions is essential to intrasocial capital is that while assumptions and filters are unavoidable, we can only counteract or take into account their impact when they are first recognized and then temporarily set aside. Without doing so, we never see the other, but instead view the echo chamber of our own cognitive filters while firmly believing we are encountering the other, whether in waking life, dreams, or mystical experiences. Disidentification/identification with the other, subsequent to the objectification of assumptions, is done routinely in IDL interviews of elements from mystical or near-death experiences, or the “fire” of our anger at our partner or our fear of failure that pursues us like some monster or criminal.
Many people, probably most, associate interviewing dream characters and the personifications of life issues with either projection, shadow work, or profound subjectivity that leads nowhere. There are good reasons for such conclusions: most interactions with imagery, fantasy, and subjective constructs amount to exactly that. If that is all that one has known, with the exception of exceptionalistic shamanic and mystical claims to “true” revelations, why shouldn't one be skeptical of capital or value of an intrasocial sort based on interviewing ostrich eggs and unicorns? IDL invites such skepticism and provides a methodology by which both the methodology and its theoretical underpinnings can be empirically tested in one's life, looking for truth based on pragmatism, as well as by collectives determining truth on the basis of consensus. Any PEM that is authentic will follow the three strands of empiricism noted by Wilber: stated injunctions will be tested and then subjected to collective verification and validation. The trans-rational nature of many interviewed perspectives, in that they are based on a rational methodology and provide recommendations that include one's own rationality, yet transcend it by providing trans-rational perspectives and recommendations, are foundational to the claim of PEMs that they are transpersonal yogas.
In the accompanying table I have listed various characteristics of IDL, as one variety of PEM, as it relates to intrasocial capital. Intrasocial capital is intrasocial because it involves collectives of objective others, which are generally considered as exterior collective relationships that are interactive and interdependent, yet inhabiting the interior collective quadrant - the realm of multiple values, worldviews, cultures, interpretations, and perspectives which are interior to objective actions and others. Interviewed emerging potentials supply their own values, worldviews, culture, interpretations, and perspectives, as differentiated from those of objective others and our own entirely subjective interior scripting and preferences. Intrasocial perspectives are “intrapersonal,” “between psyches” or identities, pointing toward the interaction among elements of intrasocial collectives, and are not to be confused with interpersonal, which means “within the psyche.”
The intrasocial realm remains invisible as long as no interviewing methodology exists by which imaginal preferences are disclosed. For example, instead of practicing integral deep listening to the road, car, or dead dog in a dream we typically project our assumptions as symbols onto a dream, mystical experience, or life event, ending up with an interpretation that merely reflects someone's associations. That is not integral, deep, or listening but is instead closer to “egocentric and superficial projection.”
Not any interviewing or questioning accesses the intrasocial or develops intrasocial capital. It not only has to be phenomenologically-based but ask questions that 1) establish and maintain identification with another perspective, 2) are relevant to the life and concerns of the subject, 3) solicit reframings, recommendations, and alternative perspectives, and 4) are of sufficient length to begin the process of the expansion and thinning of self and Self.
Intrasocial capital is abstract in the sense that no one attaches importance to the perspectives of dream toilet brushes or imaginal hurricanes. We typically discount any responses from such perspectives as projections by the interviewed subject, who is assumed to be putting their words into the mouth of the interviewed lightning bolt or beetle. But this is itself an assumption to be surfaced and tabled, since it discounts the very real autonomy of both the presence and what is stated by such perspectives. It is not unusual to discover that they disagree with our priorities while proposing appropriate but creative alternative ways of approaching seemingly intractable problems.
The abundance of these freely given alternative perspectives is extraordinary, limited only by our imagination, life dramas, and dream life. Creative and sensible alternative approaches to personal, interpersonal, business, and societal problem solving are there for the taking, the epitome of generosity from the wellsprings of bottomless entropy and luminosity. A great deal of the value of PEMs lies in their ability to provide triangulation as a superior approach to problem solving. Financial and social capital typically rely on two sources of guidance in problem solving: the input of others, such as experts, Google, friends, bosses, and various authorities, and our own common sense, supplemented by conscience, intuition, and knowingness. These are two of the three “legs” of triangulation. The third is only accessed by PEMs because it involves consulting subjective sources of objectivity through first the twin process of disidentification from self and identification with some other imaginal perspective, second, the following of a set interviewing protocol, third, the eliciting of recommendations, and fourth, the testing of the methodology and recommendations as a dream yoga and integral life practice.
Accessing the intrasocial differs from other integral life practices is that life priorities are chosen through triangulation rather than as they normally are - by oneself in consultation with trusted or respected others. The difference is problem solving informed by emerging potentials which, when they agree, point toward the priorities of one's own unique life compass. That input into problem-solving is generally not accessed when we use only the first two of these three aspects of triangulation. If we imagine a world in which the two-pronged approach to problem solving normally used by both financial and social capital is supplemented by the input of perspectives indigenous to intrasocial capital, we arrive at the event horizon of a highly creative synthesis awaiting the future of humanity.
The respect accorded both to interviewed elements and by them to each other and to us is impersonal rather than personal; these elements typically do not care much about us and our precious agendas. We typically have no initial emotional connection to them. Their reality does not orbit around our agendas but around their own, which is a major reason why PEMs generate polycentrism and break us out of our addiction to psychological geocentrism. What interviewed emerging potentials care about, as they say repeatedly, is that we wake up, which means that we broaden and thin our sense of self so that it is represented by their perspectives. This is a form of impersonalism and depersonalization that is quite different from that of financial capital, which doesn't care because it is egocentric and often behaviorally sociopathic. Interviewed emerging potentials have no permanent identity to protect and therefore are not egocentric. They are not alive and so cannot die and do not care whether or not we pay attention to them or show them respect. They are not limited by time or space and therefore are free of the relational exchanges that largely determine our values and priorities. These are characteristics normally associated with transpersonal states. These perspectives are quite willing to scare us awake and will manifest as nightmares and life crises to do so. The reduction of such unpleasant life interruptions provides a good enough reason for us to consider taking imaginal perspectives seriously instead of simply dismissing them as pre-rational self creations.
Reducing sociopathy and increasing empathy
The more that we demonstrate respect to interviewed emerging potentials by tabling our assumptions, listening to them in a deep and integral way, and applying their recommendations in our lives the more our identity thins and moves from psychological geocentrism to polycentrism, generating both adaptability and empathy. Sociopaths lack empathy and financial capital is a system that functions best when empathy is minimal. Therefore, those who are willing to behave like sociopaths tend to be, under systems of financial capital, the brown blobs that bob to the surface of the communal septic tank. Just as good sociopaths listen to the needs of others in order to manipulate them but are unable to occupy their perspective, so financial capital does marketing research to find out how best to manipulate the consumer base or to manage consent, as Chomsky has described.
Ghana, which is the biggest gold producing country in Africa and eighth overall globally, provides an example of how financial capital grift works. 98.3% of Ghana's gold is owned by foreign corporations, mainly American and Canadian. Ghanaians own less than 2% of all the gold in their land. They have to borrow money from the IMF and World Bank to buy their own gold and mined by Ghanaian workers, using Ghana's resources. The price of the gold is set in New York and can only be purchased with the American dollar. Financial capital is predatory; its priority is the maximization of capital, not human welfare, rights, respect, or reciprocity.
Intrasocial capital, on the other hand, shares with social capital a recognition that a cultivation of empathy is in its best interest. However, in the realm of social capital we often believe we are being empathetic without confirmation. We see someone crying, we assume we know why they are crying and therefore are sure we are empathetic. We make a transaction, financial or otherwise, and assume it is fair and equitable, but rarely check to see if the counter-party agrees. But unless we ask we don't know what the motivation is behind the behavior and preferences of the other. In PEMs one doesn't assume empathy. When we actually disidentify with our sense of self and identify with some other perspective we are practicing empathy rather than simply presuming that we are empathetic. This is a very important difference in that the practice of intrasocial capital actually builds and generates the capacity to be empathetic.
We live in a financial capital Disneyland, in which wealth and media insulate us from the interdependence fundamental to social capital, which, by comparison, is a financial and political desert. This desert is not barren a wasteland, however. It is more like the Sonoran, in the southern US and northern Mexico, or the Kalahari, in Southern Africa, both of which are teaming with wildlife and filled with an abundance of succulents and other plants. This life is generated by the richness of human interaction. By comparison, the “desert” of intrasocial capital is more like the Gobi, Arabian, or Sahara deserts, where only dunes of sand are to be seen, or the Antarctic, where only snow and ice is to be found. The analogy of intrasocial capital to truly barren deserts is both ironic and paradoxical. It is ironic in that intrasocial collectives are rich, creative, lively, and productive, while sand and ice deserts are harsh and devoid of life and sustaining value. However, the interviewing of imaginal elements seems to our waking perspective to be a desert, devoid of life-sustaining values: difficult, time consuming, and a waste of time. The intrasocial is in this sense paradoxical, in that when identifications and interviews are actually undertaken, generally in the face of considerable waking resistance, what is discovered is an unexpected oasis of life-giving water, rich life forms, and avenues of transport into unexpected life possibilities.
Supporting worldcentrism and the expansion of inner peace
Because interviewed emerging potentials are always partially self-aspects, PEMs integrate self and reduce interior conflict through processes that are similar to shadow work. However, PEMs differ considerably from shadow work in that interviewed elements are not assumed to be self-aspects and the resolution of interior conflict is not the predominant reason for interviewing. Instead, the intent is to develop intrasocial capital, which is a much broader and important priority than the resolution of interior conflict because it addresses worldcentrism and the welfare of the human collective. Self-development is an added bonus.
When members of a society experience inner peace they are much less susceptible to manipulation by either others or their own interior emotional states. PEMs cultivate inner peace by generating repeated deepening identification with perspectives that cannot die because they are not alive. Inner peace is also developed by accessing multiple perspectives that agree, that present a consensus on direction, worldview, and problem solving. What this does is point toward a stable central set of priorities that are not yours but rather belong to the entirety of your intrasocial collective, of which you are a member, and that personify the priorities of your life compass. Life compass is more of a process than a thing. It is not a noun but an experiential happening that exists perpetually on the other side of your current event horizon.
Why accord imaginal elements the same degree of respect that you wish others to extend to you? This concept is not based on deontological ethical concerns but on the pragmatism that underlies reciprocity. Intrasocial capital is worldcentric in a sense that includes and then transcends the Buddhist Bodhisattva vow of compassion toward all sentient beings. PEMs include non-sentient beings, such as screwdrivers and bottle caps. They don't care if an element is a holon or a heap. What does the flat tire have to say? What is its perspective regarding life issues important to the subject or some dream?
Worldcentrism is based on respect and reciprocity. We see that in the various formulations of the Golden Rule found in all world religions, which point humanity toward worldcentrism. PEMs recognize that as we treat dream imagery and fantasy we are so treating those aspects of ourselves which they represent - an application of the Golden Rule. If we treat them as self-aspects we are limiting our own development beyond our sense of self. If we treat them as of indeterminate ontology, we are opening ourselves to unlimited creative possibilities while affording them a degree of autonomy that we reserve and demand for ourselves. Such respect is a fundamental, underlying value of intrasocial capital.
Integral and Varieties of Capital
Wilber's Integral AQAL discusses the development of societies through stages that parallel self-development, from egocentrism through ethnocentrism to worldcentrism, while adding a fourth stage, theocentrism. Just as many individuals stall out in their development at egocentrism or ethnocentrism and never make it to worldcentrism, so most societies become fixated in some combination of dysfunctional and functional ethnocentrism. As an approach, model, worldview, and set of values, financial capital ensures fixation at dysfunctional ethnocentrism because it prioritizes profit over relationships, short-term gain over the consequences for future generations, and equitable trade over generosity. Israel, which practices apartheid, and the US, which violates international law based on the exceptionalism of its “rules-based order,” are examples of dysfunctionally ethnocentric states. Moving into worldcentrism is not easy, and requires a balancing and tetra-mesh of all four quadrants around humanistic intent, worldview, economic, military, protective behaviors, and justice.
Integral AQAL also emphasizes the concept of relational exchange, which is not so different from Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Both systems recognize that the fulfilling of fundamental exchanges of safety and security provide necessary foundations for the time and energy to pursue higher relational exchanges. Although Wilber does an excellent job of describing both the nature of the lower developmental steps, the pathologies that are associated with each, and the appropriate forms of remediation for each, Integral AQAL does little to move the needle from financial to social capital in society or relationships. I suspect this is due to the predominant emphasis on self rather than interpersonal development. Integral AQAL focuses predominantly on high relational exchanges, such as formal and post-formal cognitive and transpersonal self-development. While self-development is a matter for the interior and exterior individual, as well as the interior collective quadrants, interpersonal development is largely the domain of the exterior collective quadrant. This is also the domain of social capital, and it is the weakest of the four quadrants in Integral AQAL. However, there is no reason why Integral cannot or will not strengthen in this quadrant.
Integral AQAL, by not speaking out strongly against injustice and dysfunctional ethnocentrism, tends to sustain the system in which it is largely embedded, that of Western financial capital. Personal access of transpersonal states and even of transpersonal levels of individual lines, such as the cognitive or line of spiritual intelligence, does not appear to translate into advances in social capital. We can see this in the long histories of Buddhism and Hinduism, in which social structures remained extremely stable regardless of how much meditation was done or how much the collective valued samadhi, nirvana or the acquiring of merit. This implies that expansions of individual consciousness or the internalization of a multi-perspectival worldview are unlikely to translate to a social shift from a financial to a social capital grounding of human relationships. More is needed, and in that respect both Integral and the West in general has a great deal to learn from China.
Western Civilization, China, and Integral Deep Listening
While it is admittedly a preposterous and grandiose over-simplification to compare western civilization, China, and Integral Deep Listening to financial capital, social capital, and intrasocial capital, for introductory purposes it will do. Western civilization has perfected financial capital; China, particularly in its integration of Confucian humanism, Taoist naturalism, and Marxist communism, is the most successful representation of social capital in the world today. Integral Deep Listening, because it is the only representative of a phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalism that I know of, is the best available representation of intrasocial capital. That does not mean it is the best, because hopefully much better forms will be created in the future. It does, however, provide both an example and an approximation of the concept of intrasocial capital and its relationships to financial and social capital.
Confucian humanism prioritizes human relationships while both Confucianism and Taoism prioritize well-being in the interpersonal and natural realms. Confucian relationships, which are highly ritualized, require sustained investments of time, energy, and caring. Because traditional Chinese society was rural and poor, personally created goods and services were the coin of the realm for thousands of years, manifesting organically in the culture. While that is no longer the case today, the value of individual and personal labor is a fundamental assertion of Marxism and the importance of reciprocity in value transactions is emphasized by both Confucianism and Marxism. For Confucianism this is expressed by the duties, obligations, and privileges associated with various personal and social roles: son, daughter, mother, father, grandparent, subject, ruler. For Marxism this is reflected in the demand that rentier income be abolished and that workers instead receive full compensation for the wealth created by their labor.
Both Confucianism and Marxism promote social capital that is relatively independent of financial capital. We see this in the subservience of markets and private capital to central planning and the huge state owned enterprise sector in Chinese society. The donation of millions of doses of vaccine against covid-19 to second and third world countries by China, as well as masks, ventilators, and teams of medical personnel, is an example of the generosity of social capital at work. In comparison, the US and UK in particular, kept vaccines first for their own populations and worked to secure market share for privately-owned vaccines that had to be paid for, for export.
Trust, reciprocity, and generosity are fundamental to Confucianism. The much greater social interdependence of Chinese society is illustrated by a comparison of its response to the covid epidemic to that of Western societies. While the West debated the costs of shutting down the economy, China immediately put the welfare of the population before financial considerations. While the West protested the abridgment of individual freedoms, the Chinese went into lockdown, wore masks, and practiced social distancing. Everyone got tested as needed and vaccinated without protest. This is also an example of how social capital builds strong relationships and institutions within a society. A Harvard study of over 35,000 Chinese over a seven year period showed a very high trust in the central government and much higher overall levels of trust in government than in the United States, a stand-out example of a society with values built around financial capital.
That China is a much better exemplar of social capital than the US and the West provides a fundamental explanation for why the West is in decline while the fortunes of China are in ascendency by almost every metric available. Financial capital is not a self-sustaining model. Short-term financial gain destroys the foundation of social capital on which human relationships, health, and growth are largely based.
While there is no doubt that both time pressure, social mobility, and the movement of interaction onto the internet erode social capital in China just as they do elsewhere, the anchoring of Chinese society in social capital appears more likely to provide a reasonable compensation for these socially fracturing elements, since it builds strong relationships and social institutions. Confucianism also values the collection of personal merit over the collection of wealth or profit. Personal merit has traditionally generated societal status in China while in the West status is generated to a greater extent by wealth, power, and popularity. China views its investments in the development of infrastructure in other countries, as part of its Belt-Road Initiative, as a form of social investment and social savings account, in that roads, ports, and railroads provide means for the export of Chinese goods as well as access to raw materials, goods and services in other countries. By comparison, the IMF and World Bank, both Western financial institutions controlled by the US, do not typically make investments in infrastructure because these are not in themselves profitable, while infrastructure development supports the independence of states that the West has traditionally kept dependent, exporting their raw materials to Western factories and importing back into lesser-developed states cost-added furnished goods that increase profits in the West.
China is a test bed for multiple ongoing social experiments locally and in the various states. Those that succeed are duplicated elsewhere and if successful, nationally. Consider one pilot experiment with Xi's notion of Common Prosperity that is currently being conducted in Zhejiang province, with a population of 65 million, as reported in an article in Bloomberg. It forces capital to flow into areas previously starved of it while bringing down costs of living. It directly targets inequality of per capita GDP, attempts to increase the share of GDP that is received by labor, that is, those who actually produce wealth rather than rentiers, to over 50%, emphasizes urbanization, because that's where most jobs are and income is to be made, increases property taxes on private housing to generate income from passive rentier capitalism, increases access to state services for those who lack official residence permits, increases spending on social services, compels “donations” from local billionaires (worth 236 billion), and lowers the cost of business loans for sectors like manufacturing and tourism that create jobs and therefore move wealth into the hands of service providers, not rentiers. Finally, state, not privately owned enterprises, are incentivized to build more infrastructure because it creates jobs, even if it is not economically lucrative to do so.
Unlike financial capital, which prefers lower growth and higher returns, less mass-market and more “premiumization,” and less regulation, what the Chinese are attempting to do, by emphasizing social capital, prefers potentially higher growth but lower returns, less luxury and more mass-market, and far more regulation. If this pilot in Zhejiang is successful, it will be duplicated elsewhere and finally become policy throughout China, meaning that the transition of the Chinese economy from a mixed social/financial capital structure to a much more strongly social capital economy will become a genuine and historical achievement. This will be unprecedented in the history of the world and may spark a world-wide transition to social capital based economies.
A commentary published widely in Chinese state-run media described President Xi Jinping's regulatory crackdown as a “profound revolution” sweeping the country and warned that anyone who resisted would face punishment:
This is a return from the capital group to the masses of the people, and this is a transformation from capital-centered to people-centered, (marking a return to the original intention of the Communist Party.) Therefore, this is a political change, and the people are becoming the main body of this change again, and all those who block this people-centered change will be discarded.
“People centered” is defined as,
a society in which no one is poor and everyone receives an education, has paid employment, more than enough food and clothing, access to medical services, old-age support, a home, and a comfortable life.
The author, Li, then goes on to set the 'profound transformation' into a wider, geopolitical context:
China is currently facing an increasingly severe and complex international environment. The US has implemented military threats, economic and technological blockades, financial strikes and political and diplomatic siege against China. The US has also launched biological warfare, cyber warfare and public opinion against China. If we still have to rely on big capitalists as the main force of anti-imperialist and anti-hegemonism, or still cooperate to the US' 'tittytainment' strategy, our young people will lose their strong and masculine vibes and we will collapse like the Soviet Union before we are attacked...
There will always be a place for financial capital, and that place is subordinate to social capital, because the emotional and ethical grounding that healthy human interaction provides is our real wealth, something financial capital exists to create and promote. Greed is not going to magically disappear from human nature, and neither are the human impulses to better oneself, compete, or gamble. The West is only now awakening to the importance of prioritizing social capital; humanity remains far from recognizing the importance of accessing and utilizing intrasocial capital, largely because it lacks worldviews that recognize its relevance and utility. Human consciousness remains largely psychologically geocentric: reality revolves around our sense of self. Mystical experience shifts us into psychological heliocentrism, where reality revolves around our sense of self as Self, unified with All. This is not multi-perspectivalism of an experiential sort, which is polycentric rather than either self or Self-centric.
For integral to assist the world in its transformation from a financial to a socially-centered approach to capital it needs to place greater emphasis on justice, human rights, and adherence to international law in the exterior collective quadrant. For integral to awaken the world to the nature and importance of intrasocial capital it needs to recognize that interviewed emerging potentials possess multiple transpersonal characteristics: they are not psychologically geocentric or heliocentric; they lack investment in a stable identity; they are free of the need to pursue this or that relational exchange; they are interdependent; they lack the limitations of time and space. All of these are transpersonal characteristics, and repeated identification with interviewed emerging potentials of multiple varieties awakens and strengthens access to life compass, polycentrism, and worldcentrism, all of which represent the future of humanity and a self-regenerating world society.
This essay is based on Smith, C.H., “Do You Live In A Social Capital Desert?” OfTwoMinds.blogspot.com / charleshughsmith.blogspot.com
“Xi Tests ‘Common Prosperity’ Policies in Alibaba’s Home Province.” Bloomberg. www.bloomberg.com
China News Service, aug 30, 2021. A WeChat blogger originally made the post, but it was then reposted by major state-run media outlets such as the People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, PLA Daily, CCTV, China Youth Daily, and China News Service.