Shifts in Value Exchange and Human Development

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A contribution by Robin Wood, applying the Spiral Dynamics theory of human developmental phases to value exchange.



"I believe it is helpful to context how value is created, appropriated and exchanged at different levels of development. We need to answer the first question posed by this group: What are all the different types of value in our civilisation?

Today we are living in a modernist world where financial capital created by banks is the dominant means of exchange and unit of value. Complementary currencies enable us to create, allocate and exchange value outside of this global financial system when classic money limits what is possible. Yet we need to be clear about what we are creating, allocating and exchanging, and why, otherwise even the cleverest system will not work.

Below is an overview of what I believe are the dominant sources of “capital” (or “value”) on each of the levels of human development. (I've mapped these onto the Spiral Dynamics and integral models for convenience):

• Beige - food, clothing, housing= physical survival of the hunter gatherer clan. Primary exchanges are with nature and within the clan.

• Purple - land, territory, tribal power= ethnocentric wellbeing. Engages in barter and trade between tribes, including arranged marriages.

• Red – physical dominance, means of coercion incl weaponry= exchanging means of physical power and symbols of power. Engages in trade and wages war/uses threats for what it cannot get by peaceful means.

• Blue - being right, domination through rules and “the truth”= moral capital. Start of the first banking systems in the first Renaissance in Florence. Conservative with money and failure to repay debts carries a heavy social price.

• Orange – progress and accumulation of symbolic wealth = financial capital. Money now equals information and becomes the primary scorecard. Business failure is now acceptable provided the entrepreneur/borrower “did their best”. Risk becomes a statistical property and is depersonalised. Cause of our global economic crisis.

• Green- authentic human bonding, social justice and healing of pathologies in first tier = social capital. Green is egalitarian; driven by feelings; authentic; sharing and caring; focused on being part of and creating community. Where green gets stuck is in trying to create consensus where this is impossible, falling back into passive desiderata such as “peace” and “dialog”.

• At the Entering green/YELLOW range, other people's opinions still weigh heavily. Their input can sway decisions emotionally. But tempered individualism is also rising from the collective without confinement to ORANGE islands of independence or tough RED exploitiveness. This interdependence releases one to be as he or she chooses on personal terms, sometimes seeking inclusion and cooperating. If challenged or threatened, the same person becomes cold and ruthless as necessary.”

• Yellow – knowledge power = intellectual capital. YELLOW engages a number of unique problem- resolution and decision-making processes that are both highly complex in design and remarkably simple in execution . People who are centered elsewhere along the Spiral are befuddled by YELLOW. To PURPLE they are virtually invisible. To RED they are strange, but sometimes fun to hang out with. To BLUE they appear inconsistent, disrespectful, and out-of-focus. To ORANGE they seem unwilling to commit themselves fully to achieving objectives. From the GREEN standpoint, they seem cool and reserved, intellectualizing emotions without joining wholeheartedly into the group experience.

• Turquoise – Yet, as the Spiral zig zags once again between a focus on 'me' and 'us,' a new sense of community begins to replace individualism. TURQUOISE, the global collective of individuals, rises to enfold YELLOW, the information elites. It turns out that the great YELLOW questions cannot be answered - indeed, cannot even be adequately addressed - by lone human beings, no matter how much they know or how often they link up in cyberspace. Other shifts occur and trend lines begin to form at this transition: o The search for universal causality and the means necessary to reorder the chaos of the world are revived. o A sense of communitarian experiences resurfaces, but without the heavy emotional loadings of the GREEN group's grope. o Knowledge develops a life of its own, suggesting that a focus on particles and entities will be replaced by an understanding of groups, fields and waves o We develop collective social and spiritual capital, and collective intelligence." (