Homepage for Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition


 

 

Welcome to the on-line version of Sacred Economics. This is a book that explores, on a social, political, and personal level, the transition in money and economy that is upon us today. With the agreement of the publisher, EVOLVER EDITIONS/North Atlantic Books, I am making the full text available on line one chapter at a time over a period of about six months. By the end of 2011, the complete book will be on this website.

I am doing so, first, in order that this information can spread as widely as possible in a time of mounting crisis; secondly, to align the book with the spirit of the gift that lies at the heart of a sacred economy; and third, because it no longer feels right to attempt to profit through creating an artificial scarcity of things, like digital content, that are fundamentally abundant.

Of course, the book is also available in print, through your local bookstore or online, and in ebook versions at online booksellers. I also intend, again with the bold agreement of the publisher, to make a you-choose-the-price ebook available on my website.

Why serialize the book rather than putting the whole text up at once? First, I wrote the book to be read linearly - it is very much a book, not a website. Secondly, I would like to use this serialized version of the book as a way to deepen the conversation around it by responding to readers' comments, chapter by chapter. It will be as if we are reading it together. Over time, the sum of the text plus the comments and responses will constitute a larger, cocreated, book.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Humanity is only beginning to awaken to the true magnitude of the crisis at hand. If the economic transformation I describe seems miraculous, that is because nothing less than a miracle is needed to heal our world. 

 

Chapter 1. The Gift World

My intention is that by identifying the core features of the economics of Separation, we may be empowered to envision an economics of Reunion, an economics that restores to wholeness our fractured communities, relationships, cultures, ecosystems, and planet.

 

Chapter 2. The Illusion of Scarcity

It is said that money, or at least the love of it, is the root of all evil. But why should it be? After all, the purpose of money is, at its most basic, simply to facilitate exchange—in other words, to connect human gifts with human needs. What power, what monstrous perversion,has turned money into the opposite: an agent of scarcity?

 

Chapter 3. Money and the Mind

Money is woven into our minds, our perceptions, our identities. That is why, when a crisis of money strikes, it seems that the fabric of reality is unraveling, too—that the very world is falling apart. Yet this is also cause for great optimism, because money is a social construction that we have the power to change. What new kinds of perceptions, and what new kinds of collective actions, would accompany a new kind of money? 

 

Chapter 4. The Trouble with Property

The realization that property is theft usually incites a rage and desire for vengeance against the thieves. Matters are not so simple. The owners of wealth play a role that is created and necessitated by the great invisible stories of our civilization that compel us to turn the world into property and money whether we are aware of doing so or not. 

 

Chapter 5. The Corpse of the Commons

When I ask people what is missing most from their lives, the most common answer is "community." But how can we build community when its building blocks- -- the things we do for each other-have all been converted into money? 

 

Chapter 6. The Economics of Usury

The imperative of perpetual growth implicit in interest-based money drives the relentless conversion of life, world, and spirit into money. The more of life we convert into money, the more we need money to live. Usury, not money, is the proverbial root of all evil. 

 

Chapter 7. The Crisis of Civilization 

The impasse in our ability to convert nature into commodities and relationships into services is not temporary. There is no more room for the conversion of life into money. Postponing the collapse will only make it worse. We need to shift our perspective toward what we can give. What can we each contribute to a more beautiful world? That is our only responsibility and our only security. 

 

Chapter 8. The Turning of the Age

The lie of separation in the age of usury is now complete. We have explored its farthest extremes, and have seen the deserts and the prisons, the concentration camps and the wars, the wastage of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Now, the capacities we have developed through our long journey will serve us well in the imminent Age of Reunion.

 

Chapter 9. The Story of Value

As our sojourn of separation comes to an end and we reunite with nature, our attitude of human exceptionalism from the laws of nature is ending as well. A new economic system is emerging that embodies the new human identity of the connected self living in cocreative partnership with Earth. 

 

Chapter 10. The Law of Return

The personal and planetary mirror each other. The connection is more than mere analogy: the kind of work that we force ourselves to do is precisely the kind of work that despoils the planet. We don't really want to do it to our bodies; we don't really want to do it to the world.

 

Chapter 11. The Currency of the Commons

The metamorphosis of human economy that is underway in our time will go more deeply than the Marxist revolution because the Story of the People that it weaves won’t be just a new fiction of ownership, but a recognition of its fictive, conventional nature.


Chapter 12. Negative-Interest Economics

The deep link between money and being is good news because human identity today is undergoing a profound metamorphosis. What kind of money will be consistent with the new self, the connected self, and a world in which we increasingly realize the truth of interconnectedness: that more for you is more for me?


Chapter 13. Steady-State and Degrowth Economics

I have long been impatient with “sustainability,” as if that were an end in itself. Isn’t it more important to think about what we want to sustain, and therefore what we want to create?

 

Chapter 14. The Social Dividend

Sacred Economics envisions a world where people do things for love, not money. What would you do, freed from slavery to money? What does your own life, your true life, look like? Underneath the substitute lives we are paid to live, there is a real life, your life. 

 

Chapter 15. Local and Complementary Currencies

Local currency is often proposed as a way to revitalize local economies, insulate them from global market forces, and re-create community. There are at present thousands of them around the world. So what's the catch? 

 

Chapter 16. Transition to Gift Economy

The new exchange systems blur the boundary between the monetary and nonmonetary realms and therefore the standard definition of the "economy." How would we measure it in the absence of a common unit of account? Ultimately, underneath money, is the totality of what human beings do for each other.

 

Chapter 17. Summary and Roadmap

The transition I map out is evolutionary. It does not involve confiscation of property or the wholesale destruction of present institutions, but their transformation. As the following summaries describe, this transformation is under way already, or incipient in existing institutions. 

 

Chapter 18. Relearning Gift Culture

The transition to sacred economy is part of a larger shift in our ways of thinking, relating, and being. Economic logic alone is not enough to sustain it. As we heal the spirit-matter rupture, we discover that economics and spirituality are inseparable. On the personal level, economics is about how to give our gifts and meet our needs.

 

Chapter 19. Nonaccumulation

It is true that accumulation adds at least some measure to our security, but not for long. The mentality of accumulation is coincident with the ascent of separation, and it is ending in tandem with the Age of Separation as well. Accumulation makes no sense for the expanded self of the gift economy. 

 

Chapter 20. Right Livelihood and Sacred Investing

Etymologically speaking, to invest means to clothe, as in to take naked money and put it into new vestments, something material, something real in the physical or social realm. Money is naked human potential -- creative energy that has not yet been "clothed" with material or social constructions. Right investment is to array money in sacred vestments.

 

Chapter 21. Working in the Gift

As you step into a gift mentality, the first steps will be small ones. Perhaps if you run a business, you will convert a small part of it to a gift model. Whatever steps you take, know that you are preparing for the economy of the future. 

 

Chapter 22. Community and the Unquantifiable

Despite being able to pay for everything we need, we do not feel like all our needs have actually been met. We feel empty, hungry. Perhaps the things we need the most are absent from the products of mass production, cannot be quantified or commoditized, and are therefore inherently outside the money realm.

 

Chapter 23. A New Materialism

Most of this book has been about money, which is the usual subject of “economics” today. On a deeper level, though, economics should be about things, specifically the things that human beings create, why they create them, who gets to use them, and how they circulate.