Rethinking the World

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* Book: Rethinking the World. By Peter Pogany. iUniverse, 2006



Integral Permaculture:

“In 2006 Pogany’s major work was published: Rethinking the World, “the result of several years of full-time, independent, transdisciplinary research.”

In Rethinking the World, Pogany delved deep into his understanding of history as a thermodynamic process, and named his approach New Historical Materialism, informed by Hegel and Marx, but quite distinctly different, and heavily influenced also by Nicholas Georgescu Roegen‘s ideas about the relationship between thermodynamics and economics, as outlined in his classic treatise on “The Entropy Law and the Economic Process,” and by Ilya Prigogine’s theories about dissipative structures, order out of chaos, and the irreversability of time (i.e. Order Out of Chaos and The End of Certainty).

From the blurb about Pogany’s book:

“The still expanding human biomass and mindlessly pursued economic expansion are straining against the planet’s physical limits. Oil! Energy! Ecology! Growing vulnerabilities in hyperlinked national economies! The transformation of the current global system, “mixed economy/weak multilateralism,” into a radically new one, “two-level economy/strong multilateralism,” looks like the only way to avoid drifting toward extinction…

History has recorded two distinct global systems thus far: “laissez faire/metal money,” which spanned most of the 19th century and lasted until the outbreak of World War I, and “mixed economy/weak multilateralism,” which began after 1945 and exists today. The period between the two systems, 1914-1945, was a chaotic transition. This evolutionary pulsation is well known to students of thermodynamics. It corresponds to the behavior of expanding and complexifying material systems. The exhaustion of oil and other natural resources is pushing the world toward a third global system that may be called “two-level economy/strong multilateralism.” It will be impossible to get there without a new chaotic transition. No repeated warnings, academic advice, moral advocacy, inspired reforms, or political leadership can provide a shortcut around it. But if it took “1914-1945″ to make a relatively minor adjustment in the global order, what will it take to make a major one?” (


Chapter 6

Dave McLeod:

"This past week I've been re-reading the very long chapter 6 from his 2006 book, Rethinking the World, on "The Brain's Central Role in Cultural Evolution." "Each global system creates its characteristic behavior, connected with a lexicon, a socioeconomically induced emotional profile, an ethic, a Weltanschauung, and a mentality. These are physically 'imprinted' in brains and endure roughly as long as the global system does." [a number of these words found in the Glossary in the back of the book - a very helpful guide in defining about 80 terms that Pogany uses in unique ways]

One way Pogany describes cultural evolution and world history is as a "neuropsychiatric healing process" (p. 153). But this healing process is thrown into doubt during chaotic transitions when the collective mind begins searching for the blueprint for the next stable condition.

That we are in such a chaotic transition right now is evidenced by what is being called "the meaning crisis" or "the epistemic crisis," or "the post-truth era." We are floundering in trying to find common ground with one another. As a result, we see more conflicts between in-groups and out-groups; more conflicts within in-groups; more disarray as previously aligned groups split apart and what we consider to be "left" or "right" becomes confused and switched. And hence increased conflict and finger pointing and muddled thinking, as we can see around these issues of CRT, cancel culture, conspiracy theory, generational conflicts, etc.


- "Socioeconomic evolution is unthinkable without 'experimental behavior' that fails miserably at the beginning. In addition to the individually chosen 'voluntarily experimental behavior,' there is 'involuntary, group experimental behavior.' Some alternatives to the defunct world order (GS1) made it into statehood during the global transformation, coaxing out or forcing accommodative responses. What seemed normal and permanent in the species-wide self-destructive search phase turned out to be failed historical experiments, to personal disadvantage on a massive scale" (p. 155).

In regards to the title of the book, "Rethinking the World":

- "From the point of view of the world as a whole, the multiple, simultaneous efforts to determine meanings produced confusion. The world was thinking amidst its self-destructive systemlessness; it was rethinking itself... The establishment of the lexicon begins before its presence is universally recognized. Some of its remnants linger after it is gone... Through the nested layers of adaptations of the global system, the lexicon becomes diffused and concealed in the practice of daily life... But on the whole, the global system's text tends to make people forget about the historical nature and the mortality of the global system. Radical, effective reality clouds the underlying absolute reality of transcience. ... Of course, lexicons have never been assembled. But there is no need for a fully completed and bound handbook. (We know that we live by 'social contracts' even if none of us remembers signing one.)" (p. 169-170)

Wrapping up chapter 6:

- "Macrohistory suggests that only a new global transformation will be able to clear the road for a future that does not roll out the red carpet to cultural devolution. What gives us pause is that, if it took "1914-1945" (circa 70 million dead, many millions maimed, and the hardships of the Great Depression) to move the world from the most primitive form of socioeconmic self-organization to a more ordered one (a relatively minor qualitative adjustment), it staggers the imagination to contemplate what it might entail to go from 'here' to the 'world-as-self.' (p. 182-183)."