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.