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The Globalization of Spirit vs. The Globalization of Capital
In the world of serious intellectual life, in the media, and in policy circles there is widespread sentiment that the current interest in spirituality is a silly and flaky fad that has no lasting significance. I believe, to the contrary, that the growing interest in spirituality is the cutting edge of a fundamental transformation that will change every aspect of our lives in the coming millennium. We are entering a new period in world history which will witness the triumph of spirit over the ethos of selfishness, materialism and the kind of one-dimensional thinking that has brought our world to the edge of self-destruction.
The Left and progressive movements have been unable to mount a significant challenge to the ethos of the marketplace for one central reason: to a large extent, the Left and various progressive movements share the same values and are unable to articulate a vision that would empower people to transcend those values. What the Left cares about is redistributing the goodies of the market, and it fiercely fights for inclusion. Yet to the extent that it promotes the notion that the most important thing to fight for what the market already distributes, it necessarily fails to understand why so many people are deeply alienated from their own lives and the forms of social interaction the market produces. And it is unable produces. produces. and
Spirit matters. It matters in our daily lives, in the way we organize our economic and political lives, in the way we relate to each other, in the way we connect to the fundamental questions of living and dieing. We live in a society that has tried to hide the realm of spirit, to dismiss it as something purely "personal," to trivialize it, to ridicule it, to pretend that it doesn't exist. The mark of what is considered "a serious intellectual" in many context is often the degree to which s/he can manifest a cynicism or studied indifference to issues of the spirit. Yet the society that has attempted to repress or ignore the world of spirit is now suffering from the unintended consequences of this disdain for the spiritual dimension of reality.
The spiritual crisis of contemporary society manifests in a radical disconnect between the hopes and aspirations of most people in the advanced industrial societies, on the one hand, and those who seek to speak to and for them in the realm of politics, culture, and intellectual life. Increasingly, majorities are refusing to vote, cynical about what they are presented in the media, and disinterested in the ideas of those who have been dubbed by the universities and the media as our leading intellectual lights. Despite the cries of outrage and the attempts at ridicule and shame, growing numbers of people find themselves drawn to some form of spiritual life, whether in traditional religious, fundamentalist, New Age, or alternative forms. This groundswell of interest conveys a message that the owners of the means of communication and the shapers of public opinion refuse to hear: spirit matters.
The last decades of the twentieth century foreshadowed this development. The major authoritarian systems of the past have been put on the defensive. Patriarchal values and the domination of one group over another is no longer accepted as the norm.
Yet the twentieth century ended with an ambiguous legacy. In the name of extending human freedom, the competitive market system has spread throughout the world, accelerating the tendencies toward selfishness, narcissism, and materialism even as it weakens traditional family, community and religious ties.
For a small section of the world's population, this spread of market relations and market values was experienced as the an unequivocal victory for American capitalism and the ultimate triumph of rationality. Yet for many others, the increasing penetration of an ethos of selfishness and materialism into every corner of daily life has brought pain, alienation, disconnection, and a sense of being radically alone and cutoff from communities of meaning and from human relationships that would be sustaining.
For those who champion the current globalization of capital and the values that it brings, we are in a period in which the competitive market will ultimately liberate the world. Most of these people see the next millennium as "more of the same," an extension of the domination of the world by the increasingly rational, technocratic consciousness.
In its most banal form, this extension of the market society and its values leads to quite "pedestrian visionaries," namely those who think of the new millennium as little more than an acceleration of the scientific domination of the universe, creating new jobs, making communications quicker, more colorful, more dimensional, creating knowledge machines like the computer that will link people in cyberspace or in other mechanical ways, and the possibility of more products to satisfy previously unknown needs.
The technocrats and cyberspace worshippers may celebrate, while others will lament these developments and point to the ways that they increase the possibilities for the domination of consciousness by those with the greatest money and power. With the globalization of capital comes the possibility that all human life will be drawn into a seamless web of technological domination whose primary goal is to increase the power and wealth of a small international capital elite.
Yet the globalization of capital also sets the stage for another and quite opposite direction: the globalization of Spirit. By Spirit I mean all those aspects of reality that cannot be fit into the dominant paradigm of knowledge: the empiricist fantasy that all that is real is that which can be known through empirical observation, and all that is meaningful is that which is subject to empirical verification or falsification. In this sense, Spirit includes the realm of love, psychology, ethics, spirituality, artistic creativity, music, and humor. It is the realm of being in which we joyously affirm and celebrate the unity of all being, and the fundamental interconnectedness and mutual need and attraction of all things.
Spirit is the realm in which we can see that the universe is permeated by and sustained by love and solidarity. As contrasted with the empirical realm in which we exercise domination control, the realm of the Spirit is the realm in which our primary concern is not to manipulate phenomenon, but to respond to them, not to dominate, but to celebrate. It is the realm of awe, wonder and radical amazement.
For thousands of years, the world has been dominated by dynamics that forced the realm of spirit into the sidelines, turned into "religion" or into the cheerleader for various nationalistic concerns. Distorted in this way, the realm of spirit became the handmaiden to the established order, accommodating to its demands and becoming an assistor rather than an innovator. Religious and cultural traditions that had originally developed as challenges to a world of pain and suffering, and which still retained some of their revolutionary potential when practiced by the peoples of the world, were transformed by ruling elites into systems that seemed to justify the current distribution of wealth and power, and the current lack of pleasure in daily life.
No wonder, then, that many people began to be suspicious of all forms of spirituality and religion, and to gravitate to a a new scientific worldview that accompanied the development of the competitive market. If the older forms of spirituality could validate oppression, the new scientific worldview might undermine spiritual oppression and liberate us from the realm of God and spirit so that we could pursue our own aims, whatever they might be, without having to buckle under to the demands of some transcendent lawgiver, rule maker, or silent but powerful judge of the earth. Religion or spirituality could still have a place, but it would have to be in "private life" separated from our "public life" in the political sphere and in the economic marketplace.
What a shock, then, for people to begin to discover that the new freedom that they had purchased with the elimination of spirit was itself deeply flawed. The right to pursue our own interests "free" from any ethical or spiritual guidelines was to take place in a world that was already deeply flawed by inequalities of wealth and power, between men and women, between rich and poor, between white and nonwhite, between Northern and Western and Southern and Eastern. Moreover, the focus on individual success and power began to create a deep distortion in every aspect of human life, marginalizing love, making "solidarity" and "caring for each other" seem like utopian fantasies, and relegating to ethical and spiritual values to the weekends and the margins of society.
Yet for most people the pain of living in a society that marginalized ethical and spiritual concerns could not be avoided. In every aspect of daily life, the absence of meaning, the undermining of an ethos of solidarity, the decline in people's ability to experience themselves as being recognized and understood by those around them, the inability to count on friends and loved ones as a bedrock foundation on which one could build a sense of security and relative predictability about one's own life, the domination of public space by cynicism, the replacement of spiritual values with a crass and incessant validation of money and power in public space--all these contributed to a declining sense of security or hope on the part of tens of millions of people in the advanced industrial societies.
To be sure, these problems have been kept out of public view and relegated to the sphere of "the private," thus ensuring that most people experience them as "personal problems" that are reflective of their own inadequacies, their own failure to be more successful in the world, their own personal screw-ups or neuroses. The decline of meaning is taken to be a purely personal problem and the task is to find personal solutions. For the most part, these private solutions are stopgap measures that give moments of radiance and hope but are unable to sustain for most people an ongoing connection to others that would allow us to experience in an ongoing way the validation of others who have transcended the ethos of the marketplace.
If the problem was in part a reflection of the way that market values had come to dominate the world, reasoned people on the political Left, then wouldn't the solution be simple: Why not just eliminate the capitalist marketplace itself? Yet the 20th century Left itself was so filled with a blind enthusiasm for technocratic and materialist vision that when it actually got the power to rebuild a different society, it actually tended to create societies that reflected the same technocratic consciousness and the same materialist reductionism. Critics of Soviet repression were told that the Soviets had created the quickest way to industrialize a backward society and that concerns about human relationships must be secondary to the development of technological progress. Those who detected alienation and spiritual despair in Western European social democratic societies were silenced with the response that more people were receiving social welfare benefits, health care, unemployment insurance, and education than in any other society in the world. The Left judged itself successful when it could provide economic benefits and political rights to a wide number of people--and hence was unable to notice that those people were experiencing these material and "rights" benefits as secondary to their more pressing needs for recognition, love, caring, solidarity and ethical/spiritual purpose. Though the social democrats, progressives every stripe, and Lefties could dismiss these other needs as merely subjective, or relegate them to the personal sphere (as in "go to therapy or go to church, but don't bother us with these issues which have no place in the public arena," the masses of people in advanced industrial societies were increasingly unwilling to support such a spiritually obtuse Left (which in turn became increasingly unable to "deliver the materialist goods" to its own electorate).
Indeed, the declining fortunes of liberals, progressive and the Left are directly tied to their inability to recognize as legitimate the growing interest in spirit. Progressive and liberal politics have increasingly bought into the logic of the marketplace, challenging not its fundamental values but its success at providing equal access to the means for achieving wealth and power. Their solution was to fight for political and economic equality. Yet the movements that fought for these goals were too shallow. The distortions of the market society could not be overcome by allowing some women or African Americans into positions of power. The powerful impact of a materialist worldview made it easy for the existing worldview to include sectors of those who had previously been excluded and to integrate them into a world system of selfishness and me-firstism. In the name of "progress" every aspect of life became transformed into a frenetic attempt to extend power and control over that which had not yet been totally dominated.
Indeed, the progressives were as much part of the problem as those who knew themselves to be champions of market values. Liberals and progressives could challenge the inequalities of the system, but their highest goal seemed to be little more than to include everyone on an equal basis in the frenetic struggle to extend domination and control over every aspect of reality, and to demand an equal share for all of the benefits. Far from providing an alternative to the dominant values, progressives seemed to be champions of the same notion of "progress" that the champions of market rationality espoused, only differing by insisting that the wonderful opportunity to compete for wealth and power should be equally available to everyone.
Yet in the 21st century increasing numbers of people are questioning the values that would describe market rationality as "progress," and hence question the central assumptions both of the market and of the progressives who sought to redistribute its benefits. Growing numbers of people are recognizing that the market society has been emptying life of values and meaning almost as quickly as it has been filling the world with consumer goods.
There are some who respond to this crisis of meaning by seeking a return to feudal spiritual and religious traditions. Certain that the world of getting and spending could no longer provide them with a life worth living, some people are willing to buy back into patriarchal and hierarchical communities of meaning that provide them with access to transcendent vision in return for the subordination of their minds. I call this Fundamentalist Spirituality.
Fundamentalist spirituality recognizes that the world has another dimension besides the materialism and selfishness of the dominant society. But it sees no model for an alternative spirituality outside the forms of spiritual life that developed in rural agrarian societies. Quite correctly, the advocates of fundamentalist spirituality recognize that in these societies there was a higher level of caring and sense of mutual responsibility than exists in much of the contemporary market societies. However, they romanticize that caring, because they fail to acknowledge how limited and qualified the caring was in those societies, and how much brutality existed in those societies, particularly directed toward women and children, but also violence against many of the male serfs or peasants by those higher in the social structure. Yet, the fundamentalists are correct in noting that there were community religious institutions which gave every individual the sense that s/he belonged, had a place, was part of some larger whole that would give them support in moments of extreme need.
It is the absence of having such a community in which one is ultimately welcome, a kind of larger communal family, that is what is sorely missed by many who now turn to fundamentalist forms of spirituality. Nor is their desire for this kind of community a sign of moral or psychological deficiency. On the contrary, the desire to be valued for who one is and not for what one has accomplished in the world is fundamentally sound and reasonable. The meta-message of the competitive market is this: you will only be valued if you are "worth it," and to be worth it means to be economically successful, or beautiful, or incredibly charming, or to have something which makes you "outstanding." Of course, most people will not fit these categories, so they end up feeling bad about themselves--and blaming themselves for not having received more goodies in the economic marketplace and for not having received more recognition as being valuable by others in the society.
It was to counter this kind of thinking that the Torah explicitly teaches that all people derive from one original family, and that that family was created "in the image of God," hence deserving of love and caring not for what they would accomplish but solely for being the mirrors of God's presence in the world.
As recognition and economic reward get concentrated in a smaller percent of the world's population, the hunger for some other way to be given the feeling that one is worthwhile escalates. As more and more people feel alone, under recognized and under confirmed, they are attracted to any place where that recognition will not be contingent on accomplishment. What religious and nationalist communities have to offer is precisely that message: "you are valuable because you are a......(fill in the blank: born-again, a Disciple of Christ, a Mormon, a Catholic, a Baptist, a Moslem, a Hindu, a Jew, an American, a Russian, a Serb, a Hutu, a German, etc.)." When these definitions are then tied to an injunction that to be in good standing in this category one must follow the path of the authoritative leader or sacred text, we get people jumping at the chance, since they are not being judged at how well they do the task, but just at their willingness to subordinate their ego and their independent judgment and thinking to that of some leader or textual interpreter.
For many people the choice is a no-brainer: if all they have to do to escape the loneliness, alienation, and "dissing" of the marketplace is to join one of these patriarchal communities and be told what to think and how to act, that still feels better than "trying their best" only to fail time and time again in the eyes of others around them and in their own eyes. No wonder, then, that they are eager to join a community of this sort, thereby escaping the self-blaming and poor sense of self generated by the market. Whether the community offered is that of a religious/spiritual community or that of a spiritualized nationalist community, the attraction is obvious. The cost--suspending one's critical intellect, rejecting science and rational thinking as fundamentally irrelevant and misguided, and giving their power over to an authoritative religious text or a powerful nationalist leader--seems little cost to those whose critical mind has previously been working fulltime to invalidate their own worth as human beings. And the rewards--obtaining a community of meaning that validates one's own worth and simultaneously acknowledges the very real spiritual hungers that have been invalidated by the market and by the progressive intellectuals--are powerful.
In the last part of the 20th century another form of spirituality has emerged which does not validate authoritative religious texts nor does it spiritualize the nationalist mythology of its society. New Age spirituality has gained popularity because it validates the individual and makes no particular communal demands on its participants except those that feel good in the moment. Most forms of New Age spirituality share with fundamentalist spirituality a deep suspicion of science and rational thinking, in this case based on an understanding of the ways that science has often been used for evil or as a justification for technocratic rationality that invalidates the experience and feelings of the individual and facilitates the kind of progress that serves the most powerful forces of the society while ignoring the ethical and spiritual needs of everyone else. From the correct perception that science and technology have been harnessed to the interests of ruling elites and have been manipulated to justify a society that ignores or represses important parts of human experience the New-Agers unfortunately conclude that science and rational thinking are themselves fundamentally tainted. Frequently abdicating their own critical capacities as necessarily flawed, many strands of New Age spirituality adhere to variants of non-theological belief systems in which feelings are sanctified and given the ultimate status and bodily sensations are supposed to teach us more than rational thinking. Correctly noting that it has often been white men who have had the greatest power in appropriating rational thinking and scientific technology for the purpose of using the earth's resources to benefit a small sector of the society while ignoring the disastrous ecological consequences that the dominant system of production has yielded, and correctly noting that the feeling and intuitive wisdom of women has often been suppressed and ignored, New Age theorists mistakenly conclude that the salvation of the planet lies entirely in abandoning rational thinking and scientific technology for the higher intuitive and feeling wisdom that might be achieved through a return to the feminine. Instead of seeking a reintegration and revalidation of feminine experience and intuition with what is positive and compelling in rational thinking and scientific enquiry, many strands of New Age spirituality romanticize the earth, the body, intuition, feeling and a refusal to make rational or ethical judgments. The result is an elevation of whatever feels good to oneself as the highest good. Yet this form of spirituality, far from successfully challenging the ethos of selfishness and materialism, actually helps generate a new consumer market. The dominant societal ethos frequently manages to accommodate itself to New Age spirituality, providing gimmicks and consumer goods that will help people feel good, and providing books, movies, music and other forms of entertainment that are now sanctified with the higher purpose of escaping male rationality and allowing oneself to be fully intuitive and feeling-oriented.
Yet New Age spirituality teaches important truths. Our society has not adequately validated the wisdom of the body and the wisdom of feelings and all that can be learned by developing one's own intuitive capacities. The wisdom of women has been systematically ignored or repressed, and could play an important and libratory role if taken seriously and allowed to reshape the way we think about the world.
Both fundamentalist spirituality and New Age spirituality have important insights contained within them which are powerfully useful correctives to the distortions of the dominant societal ethos. For that reason, they will play an important role in mobilizing support in the struggle against the ethos of selfishness and materialism which are embedded in the market ethos purveyed by the globalization of capital. Both of these forms of spirituality can make important contributions to giving visibility and credibility to the coming globalization of spirit as the primary alternative to the globalization of capital. They will make it easier to legitimate the notion of a new bottom line of love and caring, not only because many variants of these fundamentalist and New Age spiritualities already embrace some variant of that idea, but also and most importantly because their growing strength as social phenomena will help undermine the notion that contemporary forms of technocratic rationality cannot possibly be challenged because they have such a powerful hold on everyone that to think of any alternative is merely an unrealistic waste of time and energy. As people begin to experience the emergence of spiritual challenges to the dominant order, many who have felt that it would be impossible to fight for a new bottom line of love and caring will feel emboldened to publicly claim what they had privately believed (namely, that the public world should value something other than money and power).
Yet fundamentalist and New Age forms of spirituality will be problematic allies for another reason: insofar as they are deeply rooted in an anti-science and anti-rational-thinking approach to the world, they allow the cheerleaders of the dominant social order to dismiss all forms of spirituality as nothing more than a resurgence of irrationality that might lead to a new Dark Age in which fundamentalist religious thinking imprisons everyone in a world that denies individual freedom and rational thought, subverts all the freedoms we have achieved in the name of community, and abandons the progress we have made toward curing disease and improving our means of communication and produciton of goods in order to accommodate to the essentially mindless glorification of nature untainted by human intervention. If the dominant forms of market rationality are able to portray themselves as the only bulwark against these forms of irrationality that threaten to bring us back to a new Dark Ages, they can revalidate their forms of domination as the best alternative.
Yet there is another development that has begin to emerge which I call Renewal or Emancipatory Spirituality. This form of spirituality seeks to reclaim the libratory elements in existing religious or spiritual traditions, acknowledging that they have often been associated with forms of oppression and limited consciousness in the past, but insisting that they could be part of a very different kind of spiritual vision that provides for the fullest advance of human consciousness and freedom. Emancipatory Spirituality embraces the advances in science and rational thinking as potentially positive while insisting that science and rationality be liberated from their subordination to the existing forms of societal organization and systems of power and control. Rather than counter spiritualist to intellectual or to scientific enquiry, Emancipatory Spirituality seeks to absorb and transcend the contributions of the scientific and rational mind, to acknowledge their continuing relevance while insisting that their contributions be separated from the systems of domination and technological rationality in which they have been currently embedded.
Emancipatory Spirituality allows us to embrace forms of spiritual life that have developed in the pre-rational and pre-conceptual stage of human development without requiring that we remain stuck at that level of conceptual development. Emancipatory Spirituality allows itself to absorb and integrate the wisdom of the past, but to simultaneously embrace and transcend the contributions of modernist and postmodernist thought without attributing to them any more ultimacy than it attributes to pre-rational spiritual forms. Embracing the importance of the evolution of consciousness beyond the forms that it has taken in pre-rational and technological-rationality dominated societies, an Emancipatory Spirituality seeks not a subordination but an integration of spiritual and rational and emotional aspect of our lives.
Similarly, Emancipatory Spirituality does not see the individual as irrelevant or as a threat to community, but insists on building community in ways that preserve and honor the intellectual autonomy of the individual, honors the process of intellectual development and rational thinking, and sees the spiritual dimensions of life as capable of being validated through intellect and yet not reducable to intellect. Similarly, an Emancipatory Spirituality validates the importance being in touch with our feeling and our bodies, vigilantly opposes forms of spirituality and forms of intellectual life that would deny or cut us off from the wisdom of the body or feelings or intuition, and yet would simultaneously oppose any attempts to give feelings or intuition a mystical ultimacy that they have in various forms of contemporary New Age spirituality. In this form of spirituality, wisdom emerges from the integration and balancing of a variety of sources that include aesthetic, intuitive, rational, ethical, psychological and scientific enquiry.
Emancipatory Spirituality includes the following elements:
1. Celebration of the wonder of the universe--and the cultivating of our capacities for awe and radical amazement at all that is
2. Cultivating our capacities to see each other as created in the image of God (in religious language( or as ultimately valuable and deserving of love, respect and solidarity (in secular language)
3. Cultivating our capacities to transcend our individual egos and connect to the Oneness of all Being
4. Developing mindfulness, a form of alert attention to each act and experience, so that we are alive to everything that we encounter in ourselves and in each other and in the world, and so that we are able to experience the potential sanctity of every aspect of our lives
5. Enhancing our capacity to play, to experience joy and pleasure, to honor our emotions and the emotions of others.
6. Encouraging an overwhelming feeling of love toward others that manifests in respectful caring for their needs without abdicating an awareness of our own preciousness and our own needs.
7. Promoting a respect for the history of the human race, of other life forms, and of the entire universe.
8. Supporting the deepening of our intellectual tools and capacities so that they can best be directed toward the fulfillment of our highest spiritual goals and the highest spiritual goals of humanity and, to the extent that we can receive and understand them, God's goals for us--thereby broadening the goal of intellectual life beyond a narrow serving of ego or power needs
9. A deep integration of our various capacities and strengths, both on the individual and planetary level, without abdicating the importance of each particular strand and without insisting that the healthy parts of our particularistic traditions be subservient to some new universal (and potentially totalitarian) view of "the single right way."
So, the integration of the different forms of wisdom that we have acquired both as individuals and as part of the human race is not a call to abandon particularity, but to maintain and hold that while sharing and integrating what we each have to contribute with the wisdom emerging from all others. The forms such integration will take are part of the task facing the human race in this new millennium.
Integration is not possible, however, apart from a process of transformation and healing of the way we live our lives each day--and that means not only how we treat each other in the few waking hours we call "private life," but also in what we do and how we act all day in our pubic life. In short, there can be no spiritual integration that does not include a spiritual transformation of our social world, our economic institutions, our political practices, and our forms of communication and entertainment. Yet it is really an illusion to imagine that transformation of our public lives can take place first and that later we can worry about developing our spiritual coherence. Our public life cannot be transformed without a simultaneous transformation in the inner life of each of us on the planet.
The globalization of spirit becomes the central task facing the human race in this millennium. Our task is to reshape every aspect of our daily lives and of our larger economic and political world.
The spiritual transformation of the world will not be a smooth or seamless process. It will involve stops and starts, and rough edges. Its first step will be the overcoming of the various partial and narrowly particularistic ways that spiritual life has developed so far. To date, each spiritual tradition has tended to see itself as the exclusive way to truth, and those who were outside that particular tradition have been "other," seen as threats, sometimes even as enemies.
The first step in the globalization of Spirit will be the overcoming of chauvinist variants of spirituality and the development of a universal awareness that all human beings, and indeed, all Being, is unified and shares a common value and worth. This will not be accomplished by eliminating particular spiritual traditions and mooshing them together into one universal spiritual form, but rather by the renewal of existing spiritual traditions in ways that recapture and reemphasize the original insight of all these traditions: that all are connected to God or to the universal Spirit, and hence that all are too be valued.
The second step in the globalization of Spirit will be the energizing of a variety of spiritually-oriented activities in which a new set of human relations and new ways of orienting to the universe challenge the dominant materialist and technocratic assumptions. This prefiguring of a new order inside the old order blurs the lines between evolution and revolution, and will allow people to develop spiritual resources before they are fully ready to claim a fully spiritual life for themselves.
The third step will be a fuller flowering of Spirit as the spiritual consciousness finds it increasingly difficult to live with institutions that employ a narrowly materialist and technocratic focus. As people increasingly insist on a new bottom line of love, caring, awe and wonder they will be forced to find ways to overcome the attempts by the old order to use the language of love and caring while subordinating them in practice to the bottom line of money and power.
In the economic sphere, the demand for a new bottom line will be bolstered by the adoption of constitutional amendments or master-laws and treaties between nations that put the following requirements on multinational corporations (what I call the Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Social Responsibility Global Treaty to be adopted multilaterally): Every corporation must receive a new corporate charter every twenty years and to receive that charter it must prove a history of social responsibility as measured by an Ethical Impact Report. The Ethical Impact Report will have three parts, one filled out by the corporation itself, another by its employees, and a third by community groups in all the communities in which that corporation or its advertising operates. The Ethical Impact Report will assess the way that the corporation has impacted on the ethical life of .its employees and.the communities in which it functions. If a corporation can be demonstrated to have a poor record of social responsibility as measured by the Ethical Impact Report, its corporate assets may be turned over to another group (first, offered to its employees, then to a group with capital assets) who can demonstrate a capacity to run the corporation with a higher level of social responsibility.
The Social Responsibility Amendments and Treaties are only one of the many dimensions in which the struggle for a new bottom line will be fought. In every social and economic institution people will begin to rethink what they are doing in terms of how their institution, profession or social practice might better embody a new bottom line.
Theese will not primarily be struggles using the weapons of political struggle, though occasionally they will. The best model is the struggle for women's liberation in the past thirty years. Though there were legal and legislative battles, the primary arena was the struggle in the realm of consciousness. As more and more women and men began to understand the insights of the women's movement, they began to think differently about how to act in all of their various institutions, and the institutions made some significant changes in their behavior. This is, of course, a process that will take many decades more, yet it has already shown how powerful transformations can be made through shifting of consciousness, aided by specific pieces of legislation and the appointment of people who share the new consciousness into critical administrative and judicial positions.
So, similarly, the struggle for a new bottom line will not be a struggle with armies or power blocs, and though it will need constitutional amendments, treaties, and other legislative acts, its primary arena of struggle for the first many decades will be an stream of consciousness. It is a struggle to be waged between the continuing legacy of cynicism, despair, powerlessness and a resigned and depressive attachment to the vision of rationality and power over others that has provided us with a certain form of security, comfort and certainty even as it has denied us the possibility of deeper connection, on the one hand, and on the other the subversive power of love and wonder and awe. Nor will this struggle be fought only in the realm of ideas of the realm of politics--it will go on as well in the unconscious lives of each individual and in the process of bringing to consciousness the unconscious assumptions embedded in all our social institutions and practices. In this sense, the globalization of spirit will resemble the development of feminist consciousness with its slow unraveling of a long history of patriarchal assumptions that are often deeply embedded and unconscious and which exist not only in those who hold the old system but also in those who seek to make change. This struggle has already begun, and like the rise of capitalism in the struggle against feudalism, it is likely to last for several centuries. Yet its most decisive battles have already begun.
We live at the moment in which we are witness to the first stages of this major transformation in the history of humanity, and have the good fortune to be able to celebrate the reemergence of Spirit as a central fact in human life. But we are not merely passive spectators. The choices that we personally make will impact on the speed and direction of this process. The downside is that as the old order flails around and tries to protect itself, it may temporarily succeed in reducing the loving and caring energies that get expressed in the public sphere, intensifying the levels of cynicism, and accelerating the levels of ecological destruction. The upside is that we live at a moment in which the burgeoning spiritual energies on the macro level can give new support to each of us as we develop our own inner spiritual life and as we allow ourselves to imagine what the institutions and social practices of our society might look like were they reshaped in accord with the requisites of an Emancipatory Spirituality.
What is beyond dispute is that Spirit Matters. It is the central new factor in the development of personal and social life in the coming centuries. It can no longer be ignored by policy makers, city planners, health professionals, lawyers, intellectuals, teachers, psychotherapists or anyone concerned with healing or assisting others. It is on the terrain of spirit that the new social order is being built.