Towards Social Change: A Socioeconomic Paradigm for Harnessing Human Potential

If there is one thing I’m passionate about, it’s pushing humanity to its highest potential. To this end I am a idealistic-realist. I say realistic for in my quest for solutions I have been blessed to discover many, none of which are more comprehensive than PROUT (Progressive Utilisation Theory). The PROUT model offers humanity a roadmap for attaining peace, prosperity and abundance for all. Yet first, one must accept that the current system has failed us leaving our minds wide open to be inspired by the new. Before moving onto the PROUT model, let us first examine our current social conditions, recognising them as changeable.

Understanding society and social progress

Society is a series of interconnected social institutions that influence human thought and behaviour. These social institutions such as media, education, economy, agriculture, science and technology ultimately determine the direction a society takes.

Social progress on the other hand is imperative to a healthy functioning society. Social progress refers to the continued betterment of humanity through meeting its basic needs, developing infrastructure to ensure further progress and the creation of opportunities that allow each individual to reach their highest potential. This differs markedly from today’s idea of social progress, which is viewed through a lens of profit. But there is another factor that influences our institutions and our subsequent worldview and that is the role philosophy plays in our society and is key to understanding humanity’s current trajectory.

Philosophy and its influence on society

The first philosophy active in today’s dominant Western societies responsible for much of human thought and behaviour is Individualism. Individualism is founded on the premise that individuals come to this world to serve their own self-interests with no responsibility to a higher social cause. This self-centered outlook discourages social responsibility and erodes our inherent inclination towards identifying as a community.

The second dominant philosophy is Materialism, which defines the nature of reality solely as the result of material or physical interaction, taking the divine out of the human experience. This limiting belief leaves the person unaware of their true nature, who may turn towards material gratification for satisfaction.

So what contribution do Individualism and Materialism make towards social progress? Or perhaps more accurately, how do they detract from it?

American philosopher, educational reformer and psychologist John Dewey criticised Individualism and Materialism in American society and the roles they played in the creation of a greedy and selfish corporate society.

“Instead of bringing freedom to those who lacked material possessions, [individualism] has imposed on them further subjection to the owners of the agencies of material production and distribution.”

In Dewey’s book Individualism Old and New, he speaks of how society is overrun with greed and self-interest stemming from individualism rather than, “…seriously asking how we are to employ the means at our disposal so as to form an equitable and stable society.”

Dewey goes on to criticise American materialist culture describing it as, “Quantification, mechanisation and standardisation… the marks and signs of this ‘impersonalisation’ of the human soul.”

Philosophies go on to express themselves in society through social institutions that reinforce and promote their worldview. Our approach towards social change must then be two-fold; both on the philosophical and socioeconomic level. Working on both levels simultaneously is crucial as philosophy acts as a blueprint for society, defining social progress. Let’s now examine the socioeconomic model of Progressive Utilisation Theory and its underlying philosophy of Neo-Humanism.

A new socioeconomic paradigm

PROUT is an alternative socioeconomic theory founded on universal spirituality. Philosopher, social revolutionary and spiritual master P.R. Sarkar developed the model in 1959. It offers humanity both a complete philosophy for social progress and a socioeconomic model to realise it. It is a comprehensive system that develops and utilises all spheres of the human’s physical, mental and spiritual potential. PROUT’s economic model ensures economic democracy whilst guarding against the exploitation of people and the environment.

Prout is based on a three-tiered economic system. The first tier is small privately owned businesses for non-essential items such as luxury goods, restaurants or creative endeavours. The second and most important tier is cooperatively owned and managed enterprises such as trade, media, industry, agriculture and banking. This tier is also the largest and is responsible for providing the basic necessities to all. The last tier is that of publicly owned utilities and consists of large-scale enterprises that are too large to be cooperatives. This includes transportation, energy, telecommunications and mining. This last tier is government managed on behalf of the people with natural resources being collectively owned by all.

Neo-Humanism: A philosophy of the future?

PROUT is founded on a philosophy of Neo-Humanism as outlined by P.R. Sarkar in Liberation of Intellect: Neo-Humanism. Neo-Humanism is the process of expanding one’s allegiance and love outwardly from that of self-interest to an eventual identification with all of humanity and the universe at large. Destructive sentiments such as racism, prejudice and division are reconciled and in their place sentiments that foster love and connection become social convention.

Yet in order for Neo-Humanism to prosper it must be built on a foundation that ensures that the basic needs of all are met. P.R. Sarkar outlined this goal in his book, Liberation of Intellect: Neo-Humanism.

“We must grant them their right to remain in this world, their right to survive.”

“We must forever fulfill their needs so that they will not have to leave this world prematurely.”

“We must make arrangements for the food, clothes, education, shelter and medical treatment of each and every individual.”

“We must provide them with the inexhaustible resources for their forward movement towards their spiritual goal.”

So how can we achieve a society where the basic needs of all are met?

A society of cooperatives

One key aspect of a PROUT society lies within the importance and institutionalisation of cooperatives. The world’s largest non-governmental organisation called the International Cooperative Alliance defines a cooperative as “…an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common, social and economic needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”

The success of cooperatives around the world today is largely unknown. In author, activist and monk, Dada Maheshvaranda’s latest book After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action he speaks of the immense success cooperatives are having around the world.

“Cooperatives have been mostly invisible, ignored by the mass media and political leaders…Yet more than one billion people, a sixth of our global population, are members of cooperatives.”

Cooperatives provide over a 100 million jobs worldwide; that’s 20% more than multinationals. Cooperatives are also far more likely to succeed than private businesses. In the United States 60 – 80% of companies fail in their first year, while only 10% of cooperative fail in the same period. After five years, only 3 – 5% of companies are still in business while nearly 90% of all cooperatives remain viable.

A society lead by spiritual revolutionaries

Another important aspect of a PROUTt society is the role of moral leadership, termed Sadvipras by P.R. Sarkar. Empty rhetoric and unrealised promises dominate much of today’s politics yet this can be resolved with the institutionalisation of moral leadership. Under a PROUT system, moral leaders rise to power and possess qualities such as honesty, courage, dedication, morality, universal outlook and a sacrificing spirit for humanity. Sarkar described Sadvipras’ motivation as, “Due to their benevolent idealism and mental development they naturally look upon all with love and affection. They can never do any injustice in any particular area or to any particular individual.”

To ensure moral leadership rises to power, voting will be in the hands of all citizens who have studied and understand the political process and are in a position to make informed decisions. This educational check and balance will be the right of all and will ensure a basic understanding of the political process.

Furthermore, rather than focusing on party politics, leaders will run for positions independently and will be judged on personal merit, not their political persuasions. A demonstrated history of social service and suitability for the position will determine their success and not the amount of money that their campaign receives.

Media

The corporate run mainstream media is a powerful institution that manipulates public opinion and shapes many of our beliefs about the workings of the world. Much of its power stems from the information it keeps from us, therefor defining the parameters of how society perceives itself. In many cases, it serves those in power such as governments and corporations and does little to question or expose their wrongdoings. Under a PROUT system, journalists, educators and artists will run the mainstream media cooperatively. The journalists will determine news content based on public interest thereby eradicating negative corporate and government influence. Positive educational content designed to inform and inspire will become the norm through transmitting our highest values and aspirations as human beings to the audience.

Education

Today’s educational institutions are often criticised for failing to develop the questioning mind and critical thinking in students. PROUT advocates for an educational model based on Neo-Humanism principles, which are currently being practiced at over 1000 Neo-Humanism schools around the world. Neo-Humanism education develops all aspects of the human including physical health, intellectual knowledge and spiritual inquiry. Neo-humanism centered education is founded on principles such as value-orientated curriculum, an integrated learning approach both across the disciplines and individually, a blending of local culture and universal vision, environmental consciousness and instilling a spirit of justice and service in the student. These principles are taught in conjunction with subjects common in today’s system. Yoga and meditation are also practiced daily in the schools enhancing the child’s imaginative and intuitional capabilities.

Agriculture

Agriculture is essential to our survival and has been for the last 10,000 years. Yet at present, monoculture and corporate farming has commoditised food, destroyed diversity and left millions starving. Its destructive practices are leaving the land barren and wiping out entire species through the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Corporate farming is also destroying the lives of small farmers; a key factor contributing to urbanisation.

Under a PROUT model, agriculture and farming will be run by cooperatives with a focus on farming practices that encourage plant diversity, self-sustainability and meeting the basic needs of the local region. Farming cooperatives will share equipment, machinery and other farming techniques, which will greatly assist farmers to better utilise their land where they were previously unable to do so. PROUT places a large emphasis on sustainable farming techniques such as biological farming, permaculture, natural pest control, composting, crop rotation schemes, inter-cropping and other organic farming practices. The agricultural aspect of PROUT is an important one as its primary focus will be on meeting the basic needs of the community and creating 40% of the job market.

Economy

Through the globalisation of the market and the dominance of multinational corporations, we have a created an economy that is unequal. Inequitable distribution of wealth and poverty are reinforced through free market economics and global capitalism. This differs markedly from P.R. Sarkar’s view that states, “Economic Liberation is the birthright of every individual. To achieve it, economic power must be vested in the local people.”

Economic democracy empowers the people to make decisions that directly affect their lives. Intellectual Noam Chomsky recognised the importance of economic democracy when he said, “You can’t have a meaningful political democracy without a functioning economic democracy”. But what would economic democracy look like in the real world?

Under a PROUT model, local communities would have full control over their economies. This will be achieved through decentralising the economy and transferring power back to the local community from where the wealth, resources or labor were originally derived. According to P.R. Sarkar, “Economic decentralisation means production for consumption, not production for profit.” This decentralisation will in turn allow the people to make economic decisions about their futures through their cooperatively owned enterprises and small privately owned businesses.

Strong local economies will be developed with the help of cooperatively run banks whose loans will reinvigorate the economy and facilitate the start up of cooperatives and other small private businesses. Regional economic units made up of 100,000 to 200,000 people who share common interests such as language, geography and culture, will be responsible for democratically managing their economic affairs. Each economic region will be self-sustainable in meeting its inhabitants’ basic needs of food, clothing, medical, education and housing.

Science and Technology

Much of today’s science and technological developments are focused on profiting or otherwise serving the interests of governments and corporations. There is little incentive in society for scientists or inventors to conduct research or develop products that truly benefit humanity because funding largely comes from private corporations seeking to maximise profits. As long as we live in a profit driven society, the potential of our science and technology will largely remain untapped.

P.R. Sarkar recognised this when he said, “If science remains completely in the hands of the materialists, the consequences will be hopelessness and despair. The majority of individual as well as social problems can be solved by Sadvipras [moral leadership] through the proper cultivation of science.”

Once full employment is reached through PROUT’s economic system based on cooperatives, technology will facilitate ever-decreasing working hours. According to P.R. Sarkar, “One day, we may only work five minutes a week. Being not always engrossed in the anxiety about grains and clothes, there will be no misuse of mental and spiritual wealth. [We] will be able to devote more time to sports, literary discourses and spiritual pursuits.”

What next?

Knowledge and awareness empowers us towards social change. PROUT’s definition of social progress and its mechanisms to achieve it have the potential to transform the lives of every individual on earth. In Noam Chomsky’s preface to Dada Maheshvaranda’s first book, After Capitalism: Prout’s Vision for a New World, he writes, “Alternative visions are crucial at this time in history. PROUT’s cooperative model of economic democracy based on cardinal human values and sharing the resources of the planet for the welfare of everyone, deserves our serious consideration.” I couldn’t agree more.