Rethinking the World

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

* 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)."


Peter Pogany on the New Historical Materialism

page 3:

"The 'old' (Marxist) historical materialism cannot fill the need, not only because it flunked history (and economics), but also because its 'materialism' became superannuated. Its 'matter' vanished into warps of space-time; gutless assemblages of shuffling, trembling particles that behave like waves if they so please; probability clouds caught up in a cosmic sequel to the Big Bang. Nineteenth century science believed that matter was knowable through the accumulation of experimental knowledge. There was Darwin, organic chemistry, the never ceasing succession of miracles produced by the emerging technical civilization. "Poor Aristotle," the scientists of the era thought, with his intertwined form and substance; earth, air, water, and fire. (Excuse me?) And now there is "poor Marx" with his querulous and, in retrospect, pathetic berating of Hegel, who dared to consider "the life processes of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking" the central issue of historical evolution, when it should have been clear to anyone with an iota of modern analytical common sense that thoughts were external to the objective reality of matter. Contemporary "brain science" could not disagree more. Thoughts and emotions, and hence, convictions, have become perceivable in terms of biology, chemistry, and physics...

We shall demonstrate that the emerging conflict between the expanding human empire - a hyper-cyborg Leviathan-and the Earth's material limitations may yet lead to a new beginning on a higher plateau. The socioeconomic evolution of the past two centuries revealed steady direction and the ability to reorganize on the global scale. The genes, the physical carriers of biological heredity, evidently have emergent properties. They have proven to be capable of going through stages of supra-individual, planet-wide arrangements, while preserving the germ of the next, more complex one. If the species' self-organization succeeds in renewing itself in a superior edition, the generations living in those times might look back at the currently expiring age of petroleum and self-hypnosis about the possibility of infinite growth in a closed space with dismayed comprehension....

In new historical materialism, a theory that we shall introduce in the ensuing pages, only the new remains unchanged. Rethinking the world and its future is a recurring necessity, fraught as it may be with inadvertent subjectivity or manipulative bias. Humanity's impending violent argument with itself is of momentous concern. If the race has further significant evolutionary potential, it will have to equip itself with a shared mega-perspective on its past and future that is physically relevant and has a high moral content. For that, the global society will have to absorb the postmodern era's lessons on pluralism and equality, but will also have to abandon its epistemic defeatism and its craving for the acid bath of nihilistic disunity.

...Could the mind's keen awareness and huge information-processing capability - the individual's virtually unlimited reservoir of behavioral alternatives - make a difference? Could it reduce the extent and duration of the suffering? There is no clear answer. The observer is entangled with the observed, putting a limit on the externality and independence of the observation. This means some rancor or enthusiasm here and there, according to the context. Our solace for theis unavoidable shortcoming is that these biases are neurophysiological entities. They are alive in many with the potential to survive and evolve into pro-active convictions."