Peter Pogany

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Peter Paul Pogany (1936-2014) = Heterodox Economist born in Hungary, worked in USA

Most content via Dave McLeod (integral permaculture blog).

Pogany links thermodynamic realities, socio-economic systems and human modes of apprehending reality, in one integrative scheme.


Bio 1

Extracts from Adam Topolansky's obituary in Hungary Today

"Born in Budapest, Hungary [...] his brilliance was manifested in his writings and studies that he completed as an international economist at the U.S. Government in Washington, D.C. He was a member of the International Gebser Society and The Alliance Francaise of Charlottesville. As an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University, Mr. Pogany taught International Economics. He was the author of two major books; “Rethinking the World” and the soon to be published, “Twenty-first Century, Thy Name is Havoc”.

According to PP’s theory, human history created three major global systems: global system 1 (GS1), global system 2 (GS2) and global system 3 (GS3). Modern 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. [...] This era is characterized by maximizing profit and pushing for the elimination of trade barriers, regional integration, multinational business ventures, as well as the promotion of prosperity and cross-border development. However, PP adds that we still have another step to complete. This new higher step, the GS3 period will be filled with the renewed importance of culture and socio-cultural thinking, which requires a higher level of commitment by humanity. PP reiterated that reaching this next step is a challenge similar to when the homo erectus began to walk on two legs instead of four. It will require a lot of effort, coordination and discipline.

The new global system will have to be based on ecology, sustainable development, environmental consciousness and the re-emphasizing of the importance of the nation state."

Bio 2

Extracts from the article In Praise of Peter Paul Pogany in the integral permaculture blog

Pogany’s thermodynamic view of history can be summarized as a pulsing pattern of steady state/chaotic transition/steady state, and was influenced by Ilya Prigogine, Nicholas Georgescu Roegen, Jean Gebser, Ervin Laszlo, and others.


Rethinking the World

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?”

From Peak Oil to Gebser

In 2007 he began writing articles about Peak Oil from his perspective as an Economist, published by Energy Bulletin (now

[F]rom 2009 to 2013, Pogany wrote a number of insightful articles and essays relating ideas from Gebser’s magnum opus, The Ever-Present Origin, to the predicament the world is now facing, and the ways in which Gebser’s ideas about stages of consciousness, especially the yet to come stage of the integral structure of consciousness (a universal “intensified awareness”), support Pogany’s own program of New Historical Materialism. Many of these essays were prepared for presentation to the International Gebser Society at their annual conference.

It is this period and these essays that I would like to highlight on this page. See below for links to each of these essays. Here’s how Wikipedia summarizes Gebser’s ideas about structures of consciousness:

“Each consciousness structure eventually becomes deficient, and is replaced by a following structure. The stress and chaos in Europe from 1914 to 1945 were the symptoms of a structure of consciousness that was at the end of its effectiveness, and which heralded the birth of a new form of consciousness. The first evidence he witnessed was in the novel use of language and literature. He modified this position in 1943 so as to include the changes which were occurring in the arts and sciences at that time.

His thesis of the failure of one structure of consciousness alongside the emergence of a new one led him to inquire as to whether such had not occurred before. His work, Ursprung und Gegenwart is the result of that inquiry. It was published in various editions from 1949 to 1953, and translated into English as The Ever-Present Origin.[7] Working from the historical evidence of almost every major field, (e.g., poetry, music, visual arts, architecture, philosophy, religion, physics and the other natural sciences, etc.) Gebser saw traces of the emergence (which he called “efficiency”) and collapse (“deficiency”) of various structures of consciousness throughout history.”


His final book, Havoc, Thy Name is Twenty-First Century! Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order was published posthumously in 2015. This work is a slight alteration and expansion of a paper published in 2013 (see below).

Here is the blurb for this book:

“Just to maintain our standard of living, we need to grow the worldwide economy at an unsustainable rate.

As we seek to hit such lofty targets, we’re bound to deplete our resources and cause environmental crises on a scale that we have never seen before. Revolutions, terrorism, and wars will follow.

Peter Pogany examines the problems we face and argues that human culture is governed by thermodynamic cycles of steady states interrupted by chaotic transitions. Specifically, he postulates that a steady state was interrupted by World War I, with a chaotic transition following World War II, which has led us to the current world order.

His theory predicts that global society is drifting toward a new form of self-organization that will recognize limits to demographic-economic expansion – but only after we go through a new chaotic transition that will start sometime between now and the 2030s.

Havoc, They Name is Twenty-First Century, delivers sobering thoughts on where the world is headed, but it also offers a glimpse of a bright future that we can embrace once we get through the darkness to come.”

With the two books above, and the essays linked below, you’ll obtain a good understanding of Peter Pogany’s ideas, which I believe are unique, timely, insightful, important, broadly considered, and with wide application. Even better if you can read this material alongside Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin, and other works and ideas presented on this website (see here and here).


Presentations to the International Gebser Society Conference

“Fifth Structure” – Emergence in Economics: Observations through the Thermodynamic Lens of World History

(presented October 2009)

(Download pdf)

“Gebser’s archeology of consciousness, augmented by its graciously nonpositivistic (open destiny) eschatology through archaic-originary projection, presumes the epiphenomenon of socioeconomic transformation. Since the history of consciousness is also a history of social consciousness, which is never without economic interpretations, it is mirrored by the history of economic thought.

The thermodynamic conceptualization of the human journey provides further warrant to Gebser’s caveat that the mutation of the prevalent mental-rational structure of consciousness into the integral-arational (“fifth”) constellation is a sine qua non for dignified survival. This crucial moment in collective psychohistory is inseparable from a change in the global socioeconomic system, which cannot occur without transcending mainstream orthodoxy in economic sciences.”

New Scientific Evidence Confirms Gebser’s Concerns about Technological Overreach

(presented October 2010)

(Download pdf)

“The first part of this presentation details the evidence promised in the title and the second explores why he [Gebser] was so right.

Part I: Big push plus blind faith equals predicament

Perhaps no other thinker besides Gebser has a better record in anticipating the nascent conviction that growing technical prowess entails a cumulative downside. With sober poignancy, and much against the beliefs inculcated in the generations of modernity, Gebser warned that technology cannot possibly bestow on man the omnipotence that he imagines himself to possess. What collective thinking has come to consider progress is indeed turning out to be a progression away from equilibrium between the individual and society, between humanity and nature.

But it is eminently important to underscore that despite all the negatively charged contradictions Gebser attributed to the rationalistic overflow inherent in what he termed “technologization,” he was not against the practical application of the fruits of scientific advancement. Abandoning technology, he stated, is dissolution not a solution (Ever-Present Origin, p. 132).”

Gebser’s Relevance to the Global Crisis (presented October 2011) (Download pdf)

Reprinted as chapter 6 in “Filling the Credibility Gap” edited by Algis Mickunas and John Murphy

“More than half a century ago Gebser foretold the coming of a global crisis.1 Now it is here. The robust sense of continuity that had characterized the postwar era is gone.

Rationalistically-rooted voluntarism keeps spinning scenarios about future developments without respite, but we can probably agree that only a clairvoyant or someone as lucky as a jackpot winner could hit upon the consensus narrative that will satisfy latter-day macro-historians, poring over the first half of the 21st century.

Nonetheless, for a Gebserian, one thing appears to be certain: If the chaos that has grabbed the world by its throat were to lead to a new, more sustainable world, it would entail an intense, mass-scale transformation into integral consciousness.

But we are very far from any collective understanding that current reality will have to make space for another one that is potentially fuller, clearer, and more satisfying for the individual. Few see or are willing to admit that the fundamental material cause of the current convulsive state of affairs is that the interwoven demographic and economic growth has run into constraints. Simple as this process may sound in this reduced, abstract formulation, its phenomenology is stochastic and complex.

At present, global society confronts environmental, energy and other resource problems along with those that an outdated, growth-dependent monetary-financial system represents. While solutions are sought in each of these domains through new policies, reforms, and plans, the most important circumstance is being overlooked. A cluster of inextricably interrelated problems outside the range of familiar experience constitutes a predicament. Whereas a problem or a series of relatively independent problems may be solved through rational maneuvering, a predicament must be lived through; it has to be endured.

This is the case per force because the hallmark of a comprehensive crisis is that the solutions offered to end it correspond to interests so divergent that they cannot be synthesized through negotiated compromise.”

An Aperspectival Opinion on the Future of “Smart Money”

(presented October 2012) (Download pdf)

“Right off the bat let me tell you what I mean by “smart money,” “aperspectival opinion,” and “the future.”

Keynes, one of the most brilliant and clear-eyed economists the world has ever seen, used the word “enterprise” to designate financial investments that are based on forecasting prospective yields of productive activities. (“I think that this household gadget has a great future; therefore I will be rich by buying stocks in its maker, Shiny Gadgets International, Inc.” That’s “enterprise.”) In contrast, he called “speculation” all moves on investment markets that are based on guessing what everybody else expects, what others have forecast.

Since the mid-1930s when Keynes published these thoughts, his worst fears came true. “Speculation” has come to dominate over “enterprise.” It has multiplied to mind-boggling proportions. The world economy has become a gigantic casino. To mark off the current situation, which is both quantitatively and qualitatively different from the one that prevailed three-quarters of a century ago, I have appropriated the meme “smart money” to represent the spectrum of all financial transactions that lack a palpable intention to provide a useful good or service for society. A wager-like derivate on certain mortgage-backed securities is an example. One player bets on default and another on no-default; neither of them has any interest other than possessing more money.”

Tributaries to Gebser’s Social Thought

(presented October 2013)

(Download pdf)

“Gebser’s archeology of consciousness with its unstoppable gravitation toward its natural immanence contains a vital core of social philosophy.

He despised both Nazism and Communism without becoming an ideological spokesman of Western-style consumer capitalism. He saw crisis coming “big time,” ushering in renewal.

Mutation toward universally “intensified awareness” (Gebser, 1984 — henceforth EPO — p. 335) means the liberation of the individual from anxiety (EPO, pp. 360 and 361) and alienation manifest in “isolation and collectivism” (EPO, p. 358). How could such a portentous transformation occur without a change in the substance and form and politics, without new, hitherto unseen social and economic institutions, without a new statecraft, without a new form of global self-organization? Despite his occasional beatific overtones and his generally theoretic-aesthetic disposition, Gebser was not a pessimistic quietist.”

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