An excerpt from Richard’s essay:
Having studied the history of global capitalism, I can confirm that it has imposed unacknowledged costs on human development and distorted our psychological and spiritual growth. As the world evolved toward an industrialized global trade system over the past several centuries, our inner world changed radically, and not necessarily for the better.
The key change was that egoism—the sense of being a small, separate “me”—intensified. Symptoms of this shift emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in northwest Europe, and rippled outward. People began to exhibit heightened cravings for personal possessions, entertaining diversions, and addictive substances like sugar, alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco, which became dominant goods in world trade. They innovated and worked harder (or found ways to make others work harder) so they could buy these things, which they falsely imagined would assuage their cravings.
Heightened consumer craving stimulated further production, providing a major impetus for the North Atlantic slave trade and for slave plantations growing coffee in Brazil, tobacco in Virginia and North Carolina, and sugar throughout the Caribbean. As this spiral ascended, intensified egoism and consumer insatiability became fully embedded in our culture, consciousness, and institutions.
This is a contrarian view, because it suggests that instead of allaying consumers’ hunger, capitalism actually causes our inexhaustible craving. Indeed, it argues that capitalism is rooted in its secret capacity to intensify egoism, which augments consumer demand, driving ever more economic growth. So the more the economy grows, the more we become constrained from developing and flourishing.
Read the entire essay here.
I dive into “Escaping Maya’s Palace” with my wife Marcie (the brilliant host of “Going Deeper Interviews”). Afterwards, we have a lively session of audience questions and comments. Watch it here:
Please join me on Tuesday, June 14th for a book-launch webinar at 8 pm US eastern time. I’ll be discussing the book and afterwards there’ll be some Q&A. Use this Zoom link to join the webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83386006228. If you miss the webinar, a recording will go up here on the book’s website soon after.
Past event: Richard Sclove @ McGill University 2018