Economics and Work for People and Planet

In 1997 I wrote my Master’s thesis for the Centre for Human Ecology at Edinburgh University and entitled it Why Work?. Monitoring the news of the current situations in Greece, Portugal, Spain and other countries, I was reminded of my thesis. It was born out of a sense that there must be a better way of matching the potential of amazing human beings with real needs in the world while nurturing the ecology of our planet. The thesis was published as the 2nd Occasional Paper by the Centre for Human Ecology. Below I am sharing two sections of the thesis where I explore a deeper paradigm around work and economics, and then solutions at local and global levels. It feels relevant to what is happening at the moment in the world, as people gather in many countries motivated by a deep sense that something is wrong with the current system and that there must be a better way. Please do share where relevant. With thanks and love, Peter

Table of contents

Being And Working
Who Is In Control?
The Economics of Expropriation
Shadow Work
The People in Power
The Power in People
Why Work?
New Economics
Eco-tax Reform
A Basic Citizen’s Income
Future Work
Redistributing Work
Appropriate Work
The Parallel Economy
Theory into Practice
The Immediate Future

Being And Working

“Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself. Being true to anyone else or anything else is not only impossible, but the mark of a fake messiah.” (Bach 1992 , 47)


“The only question which matters is, ‘Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?’” (Rogers, 1961, 119)

These are questions that reach down to the heart of what it is to be human. Spiritual leaders, psychologists, philosophers, artists, all grapple with the existential issues of life. One thing so many of their reflections seem to have in common is the desire for a kind of unity within ourselves – a unity where our actions reflect our thoughts which reflect our deep human emotions – a desire for the ability to find who we really are, and then to act in accord with those discoveries (Sri Chinmoy 1974, The Bible, Hesse 1974, Dostoïevski 1950, Schumacher 1978).

What concerns me specifically here, is to what extent the present system of employment encourages “living” as opposed to “being lived”. Do most people spend their lives in “the pernicious devotion of habit” which “paralyses our attention, drugs those handmaidens of perception whose co-operation is not absolutely essential” (Beckett 1931)? To what extent do we need to be “virtually bludgeoned into detachment from our daily lives, our habits and mental laziness, which conceal from us the strangeness of the world” (Ionesco 1962)?

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