Coordinated Cooperation vs Subordinated Cooperation

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Ronald Logan [1]:

"P.R. Sarkar was a twentieth-century philosopher and spiritual teacher who was as concerned with social justice as he was with spiritual liberation. Sarkar, like others who espouse the perennial philosophy, believed that the B-cognition, or intuitional mode of knowing, is inherently synthetic. In contrast to reductionism and the rationalist approach to knowledge, which is analytical in nature, intuitional faculty of mind tends toward wholeness--its ultimate reach being a state of unitary consciousness in which individuals directly identify with the cosmic whole, rather than with a limited ego state.

Those who acquire synthetic knowledge inevitably develop a growing sense of the unity and interconnectedness of life. Based on this universal spiritual perception, Sarkar believed it possible for humanity to recognize its integrated, interdependent existence, and move collectively to achieve its material, psychic and spiritual aspirations. He termed this ideal "universalism."

Sarkar rejected competition and upheld cooperation: "In every field of collective life there should be cooperation amongst the members of society." In this respect, his thinking is not novel; it has been espoused by many people of wisdom. But he went beyond other spiritual philosophers in his use of perennial philosophy values to formulate socio-economic theory.

Sarkar insisted that collective efforts should take the form of "coordinated cooperation," not subordinated cooperation. Subordinated cooperation occurs "where people do something individually or collectively, but keep themselves under other peoples' supervision." Coordinated cooperation occurs "between free human beings, each with equal rights and mutual respect for each other, and each working for the welfare of the other." In relation to this ideal form of social relationships, he observed that none of the present socio-economic systems are based on coordinated cooperation, but on subordinated cooperation, and that this "results in the degeneration of society's moral fabric." Sarkar formulated a spiritual perspective on wealth: "This universe is created in the imagination of the Supreme Entity, so the ownership of this universe . . . does not belong to any particular individual; everything is the patrimony of us all. Every living being can utilize their rightful share of this property. . . . [T]his whole animate world is a large joint family in which nature has not assigned any property to any particular individual."

Sarkar termed this conception of wealth "cosmic inheritance," and made clear its implications for economic theory: "According to genuine spiritual ideology, the system of individual ownership cannot be accepted as absolute and final, hence capitalism, too, cannot be supported." Cosmic ownership also undermines "state capitalism"--communism's command economy system in which there is state ownership of wealth.

Based on his premises of universalism, coordinated cooperation, and cosmic inheritence, Sarkar formulated an alternative economics which he called "cooperative economics." Cooperative economics is an aspect of his comprehensive socio-economic philosophy, called PROUT.

While Sarkar rejected the rigidities of rationalism and reductionism, he did not reject rationality and empiricism. Though he relied on spiritually derived truth to provide the premises and basic value structure of PROUT, he emphasized that fleshing out this economic theory requires close observation of human nature, and of social and economic dynamics. By insisting that social theory follow from social experience, Sarkar avoided many utopian errors.

For example, while Sarkar agreed with Kropotkin in rejecting capitalism, his economic theory takes a much different position on production incentives. Kropotkin, like Marx, advocated "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs." In Sarkar's view, this high sounding ideal "will reap no harvest in the hard soil of the world." Without suitable motivation, productivity declines, and society as a whole suffers. In PROUT, therefore, "Meritorious people should certainly receive greater amenities"--though PROUT does not sanction material incentives beyond what is needed to promote the common welfare." (