Beyond Western Economics

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"How did we reach the point of accepting western economics as central to our understanding of human nature, history, culture and social policy formation? Answering this question systematically exposes the fallacy of economism and releases many social economic alternatives now eclipsed by market fundamentalism.

This fascinating book remembers the 'other west' as rooted in common sense and love of community, and shows how it became buried underneath modern idealizations of certainty and wealth creation, revealing that co-operative economies always accompanied, as counter currents, historical tides of capitalism. Combining intellectual history with contemporary events, Trent Schroyer offers a critique of mainstream economic thought and its neoliberal policy incarnation in global capitalism. The critique operates theoretically, at the level the philosophy of science, and through case studies of globalization and world events.

The book reconstructs two critical traditionalist visions that go far beyond critiques of western economism and conceive the human condition very differently. The practices and insights of Ivan Illich and Mahatma Gandhi are used to define limits of 'development' that differ substantially from the dominant economic logics for the westernization of the world.

Beyond Western Economics surveys sustainable alternatives that regenerate ecological assets, provide models for community and regional capacity building, innovate ways to deepen local economies, protect public assets to secure the poor and organize grass-roots-up financial autonomy. The end of market fundamentalism means taking seriously the many existing and viable alternatives; this is a beginning for other human futures. The book focuses on alternative economic cultures as sources for empowerment; an imperative after the implosion of neo-liberal economics in 2008.

Cutting across a wide variety of disciplines, the book is likely to appeal to the general reader, researchers and students in Environmental Studies, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Sustainability Studies, Comparative Development, Ecological Economics and Religious Studies."

Table of Contents

Introduction: Western Certitudes about Economic Freedom

  • 1. The Fallacy of Economism
  • 2. Fallacies of Western Economistic World View
  • 3. Paths Beyond Western Individualism
  • 4. Multiple Economic Cultures - Survey of Contents
  • 5. Origins of this Inquiry.

Part I: Critical Histories of Western Economics

Chapter 1 Idealization of the Self Regulating Market

  • 1.1 The Emergence of the Economic Culture of Commercial Civil Society
  • 1.2 The Watershed of the Scottish Enlightenment
  • 1.3 Idealizations of Self-Preservation versus Dedication
  • 1.4 Idealization of Civilizing Mission of Wealth Creating Market Society
  • 1.5 Evolutionary Empiricism: Economic Culture as Spontaneous Co-ordination
  • 1.6 Internal Colonization's of Spontaneous Orders and the Problem of Social Freedom

Chapter 2 Substantive Economics and the Abstractions of Economism

  • 2.1 Disembedding of the Market and the Utopian Liberal Creed
  • 2.2 Polanyi's Socio-Cultural Account of the Source of Human Misery
  • 2.3 Economism Versus Substantive Social Economics
  • 2.4 Substantive Economics and Western Market Industrial Formations
  • 2.5 Economic Cultures Beyond Developmentalism
  • 2.6 On Scarcity: The Charter Myth of Modernity

Chapter 3 Idealizations of Utopian Capitalism

  • 3.1 Idealizations of Utopian Capitalism and the Contemporary World
  • 3.2 Idealization of Maximizing Rationality and Entrepreneurial Freedom
  • 3.3 Idealization of Financial De-regulation
  • 3.4 Idealization of Scientific Certitudes & Risk Assessments as the Basis of Economic Decisions
  • 3.5 Idealization of Economic Development as Means of Poverty Eradication
  • 3.6 Idealization of Globalizing Capitalism as Civilizing and 'Peace Keeping"

Part II Critical Traditionalist Cultural Visions

Chapter 4 Illich's Genealogy of Modern Certitudes

  • 4.1 Who Was ivan Illich ?
  • 4.2 Illich's Regenerative Methodologies
  • 4.3 Ecclesiology as Critical Regeneration Theory
  • 4.4 Origins of Modernity in Perversions of Roman Church 'Reforms'
  • 4.5 From Mother Church to Mother State
  • 4.6 Cultural Colonization of Vernacular Speech
  • 4.7 Perversions of the Contingency Axiom that 'Reformed' the Church
  • 4. 8 New Fears and New Psycho-Spiritual Pathologies
  • 4.9 Disembodiments of Modern Sensibility
  • 4.10 Creating Vernacular Free Spaces
  • 4.11 Convivial Living as Post-Industrial Society Practice
  • 4.12 Loss of Vernacular Gender as Condition for Economism
  • 4.13 Truth-Seeking Presupposes Friendship: Illich and Gandhi

Chapter 5 Gandhi's Truth Testing and India Today

  • 5.1 From Illich to Gandhi
  • 5.2 Ongoing Internal Colonization of Indian Governance
  • 5.3 Diverse Perspectives on Indian Culture
  • 5.4 Gandhi's Truth Experiments and the Harmony of Human Pursuits
  • 5.5. Swaraj, or Self Rule: The Key to the Regeneration of India?
  • 5.6 Testing Gandhianism: Romantic Idealism or Seminal Vision?
  • 5.7 Spiritualizing Wealth & Economics : On Gandhian Economics
  • 5.8 Realities of the Indian Informal Sector
  • 5.9 An Alternative Strategy to Transform Rural Communities

Part III: Alternative Economies

Chapter 6 Foundations of Economic Cultures

  • 6.1 Secularization and Remembrance of 'the Other West'
  • 6.2 Economist Reductions of Reciprocity and Gifting
  • 6.3 The Logic of Gifts Beyond Economism
  • 6.4 From Moral Economy to a more Reflexive Individualism
  • 6.5 Social Sharing and Commons Based Peer Production
  • 6.6 Co-Operative Economies: Yesterday and Today
  • 6.7 Sustaining Traditional Art-Craft-Body Knowledge Systems

Chapter 7 Substantive Economic Cultures

  • 7.1 Better Indicators to the Inseparability of Ecology and Equity
  • 7.2 Customs in Common and the Wisdom of Commons
  • 7.3 Localizing Cultural Affirmations in a Globalizing World
  • 7.4 The Superiority of Peasant, or Local Agriculture :An Ongoing Truth
  • 7.5 Capacity Building in Active Communities

Chapter 8 Social Learning for People's Economies

  • 8.1 Participatory Learning for People's Economies: The Grameen Bank and Hernando de Soto's Solution
  • 8.2 City Regions and Going Local
  • 8.3 Strengthening Local Economies via Alternative Financial Institutions
  • 8. 4 Grass Roots Up Participatory Financial Forms
  • 8.5 Globalizing Anti-Globalization Economies: Solidarity Economics, Economic Democracy and Fair Trade
  • 8.6 Geonomics with Earth Rights and Tax Shift

Appendix #1 The Medieval Origins of Instrumental Reason



David Bollier on Trent Schroyer's genealogy of Ivan Illich

David Bollier:

"Every so months I find myself circling back to writings by Ivan Illich, the iconoclastic Catholic priest who decried the institutionalization of life and the great promise of “vernacular domains” as a source of regeneration.

I came back to Illich this time via a chapter about him in a book by Trent Schroyer, Beyond Western Economics: Remembering Other Economic Cultures (Routledge, 2009). The chapter is easily one of the most illuminating things I’ve read about Illich and his critiques of modernity.

The vernacular domain, as Illich calls it, is the realm of everyday life in which people create and negotiate their own sense of things – how they should educate themselves, how they should embrace their spirituality, how they should manage the resources they need and love. Vernacular culture consists of those spaces that exist for self-determination in the broadest sense of the term. As Schroyer puts it:

The vernacular space is the sensibility and rootedness that emerges from shaping one’s own space within the commons associations of local-regional reciprocity. It is the way in which local life has been conducted throughout most of history and even today in a significant proportion of subsistence- and communitarian-oriented communities. It is also central to those places and spaces where people are struggling to achieve regeneration and social restorations against the forces of economic globalization.

Unfortunately, the primary enterprise of modern life, as Illich sees it, is for institutions and credentialed experts to appropriate such spaces and impose their own logic on them. Although Illich did not usually use the term “enclosure,” that was exactly what he meant.

Schroyer elaborates a history of Illich and his thought that is quite revealing, even surprising. As he writes, Illich saw the very origins of modernity in the Roman Catholic Church’s enclosure of spirituality. The Church (writes Schroyer) “empowered its spiritual ‘professionals’ to dominate the cure of souls and the pastoral services, which were heretofore defined within the vernacular world itself.” In an Illich essay called “The War Against Subsistence,” Schroyer continues, “Illich shows that the fundamental ideologies of the industrial age are derived from the monastic reforms from the ninth to the thirteen century, where the personal pastoral services of the professional priests were more and more asserted to be essential for salvation.”

The Catholic Church proceeded to monopolize, regiment and institutionalize the realm of the spiritual – a dynamic that has been replicated in all sorts of professions, disciplines and institutions in the 19th and 20th Centuries (and continuing today, of course). The state soon began to see the advantages of colonizing vernacular life. Thus “Spain became the first European state to develop a formal grammar – or a taught mother tongue,” in the late 15th century. Writes Schroyer:

"Dependence on formal teaching of the mother tongue is the paradigm for all other dependencies created in an age of commodity-defined existence. The general framework implied here is that every attempt to substitute a universal commodity for a vernacular activity ‘has led, not to equality, but to a hierarchical modernization of poverty’….Step by step the war against subsistence has defined as commodities what was essential for living communities, and in each case has resulted in new hierarchies and new forms of domination.”

Illich was no reactionary. He wrote: “I do not oppose growth oriented societies to others in which traditional subsistence is structured by immemorial cultural transmissions of patterns. Such a choice does not exist. Aspirations of this kind would be sentimental and destructive.” The point, however, as Schroyer elucidates, is that Illich wanted “to secure political or participatory space for forms of governance that enable exceptions to national-international forced development…. and the totalities of the left and right ideology.”

Schroyer’s chapter on Illich is a remarkable “excavation” and interpretation of Illich’s thought and the psycho-spiritual-social dimensions of the commons, or vernacular domains. Schroyer’s book, Beyond Western Economics, is well worth the read as well – but that’s a longer story." (