Home > Uncategorized > Crude economism took over our society

Crude economism took over our society

from Ikonoclast

Democracy is seen mainly as a hindrance to economics. Technology and science are funded (or not funded) mainly at the behest of economics. Production science which assists corporate capitalism gets massive subsidies. Impact science (ecology, climate science etc.) gets pitiful funding by comparison. It is not so much the unintended consequences of technology and science which are causing climate change (for example) but the ignored consequences of technology and science mustered at the behest of and in the manner specified by capital which are causing climate change. This is a crucial distinction.I think people are trying to correct a great distortion which has occurred. Speaking of babies and bathwater, what could we regard as the great advances of the modern era? I mean the era running from 1500 to the present day. I would take them to be the rise of technology, science, democracy and economics. What do we hear about most today? We hear about (conventional) economics ad nauseum. It’s almost as if technology, science and democracy have been treated as bathwater and thrown out.

We could have used technology, science and democracy in much better ways but crude economism took over our society and specified and controlled the ways we could and could not utilize technology, science and democracy. This is our central problem.


  1. July 17, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    I believe I coined the term ” economism” in my books dating from 1991 ! See http://www.hazelhenderson.com and http://www.ethicalmarkets.com where my ” Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age is subtitled “From Economism to Earth Systems Science”, co-published by ICAEW and Tomorrow’s Company, London, 2014 ( now a free download !)

  2. Craig
    July 17, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    Economism is increasingly enforced by the present monetary paradigm of Debt Only. If you’re involved in long and frothy debates regarding capitalism, socialism or economism….you’re being manipulated BIG TIME. Even if you’re in long and frothy debates regarding the money system you’re still being manipulated. People have criticized the money system for a long time and nothing has ever happened to significantly change it. The problem is the monetary PARADIGM. The CONCEPT of the monetary paradigm. A paradigm is a single concept that changes and creates an ENTIRELY NEW PATTERN. That’s the difference. A paradigm, a genuine paradigm, changes the entire pattern in the area of human endeavor it applies to. And if that pattern is as ever present, as powerfully significant and potentially beneficial in its effects on every individual and every enterprise as the economy and the money system is….then it will rank with if not surpass the greatest paradigm change in human history which was when we went from hunting and gathering to agriculture and homesteading.

    The present monetary paradigm of Debt Only is THE problem, and the concept of the new monetary paradigm which is Abundantly Direct and Reciprocal Monetary Gifting IS THE SOLUTION. The new monetary and financial paradigm will enable us to escape the domination and manipulation of the present paradigm. Debt will still be a part of economic and monetary reality, but rationally, intelligently and ethically integrating the new monetary and financial paradigm into the present economy and paradigm will make the new paradigm PRIMARY, and its beneficial effects will extend to all. It will also enable us to ACTUALLY begin to fast forward the numerous projects, policies and goals required to save humanity and the planet from ecological and entropy suicide. The present monetary paradigm actually stops the world from “going ’round”. The new monetary paradigm will make it flow gracefully and ethically for everyone, and, if we acculturate wisdom, save us all from ourselves as well.

  3. Ikonoclast
    July 18, 2019 at 2:32 am


    “A Talk With Defenders of Economism” – V. I. Lenin – Iskra, No. 12, December 6, 1901.


    Wikipedia notes:

    “Economism is a term in Marxist discourse. It was used by Vladimir Lenin in his attacks on a trend in the early Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party around the newspaper Rabochaya Mysl and the writer Tony Cliff…

    The charge of economism is frequently brought against revisionists by anti-revisionists when economics, instead of politics, is placed in command of society… ”

    Under “Other Uses”, Wikipedia notes:

    “The term is often used to criticize economics as an ideology in which supply and demand are the only important factors in decisions and outstrip or permit ignoring all other factors. It is believed to be a side effect of neoclassical economics and blind faith in an “invisible hand” or laissez-faire means of making decisions, extended far beyond controlled and regulated markets and used to make political and military decisions. Conventional ethics would play no role in decisions under pure economism, except insofar as supply would be withheld, demand curtailed, by moral choices of individuals. Thus, critics of economism insist on political and other cultural dimensions in society.

    Old Right social critic Albert Jay Nock used the term more broadly, denoting a moral and social philosophy “which interprets the whole sum of human life in terms of the production, acquisition, and distribution of wealth”…”

    This is not to criticize Hazel Henderson’s reviving of the term and even a possible refinement or redefinition. I don’t know the details as I haven’t read her linked paper yet.

    On a first view, economism is “when economics, instead of politics, is placed in command of society”. But this is only a first view and I probably did not make that clear in my originating post. Behind economism there is a still a political ideology in command but it hides behind its own legitimation theory (ideology) for its form of economics. The ideology is that of capitalism itself; not only of private ownership in theory but the concentrating of private ownership in practice into fewer and fewer hands in the oligopoly / monopoly stage of capitalism. Along with this go the myths of competition and free markets. In other words, economism is the doctrine that money and financial capital in their calculations and operations should wholly control social endeavors and outcomes and this theory and practice is put forward by people with a lot of money and financial capital and by their paid “intellectuals”, the neoclassical economists. The theory is operationalized by the calculation rituals of capital and the general obedience of people to the “language” of money.

  4. Ikonoclast
    July 18, 2019 at 4:05 am


    I have had a quick scan of Hazel Henderson’s paper. I think it is excellent. Here’s a direct link to a pdf.


    The level of scholarship is much higher than my “scholarship” in all fields covered. This is offered by way of an apology for being pedantic about the origin of the term “economism”. I will note here (not for the first time) that I am a dilettante amateur compared to true scholars and researchers in the fields referenced by writers on RWER. My scribblings (keyboard tappings) are all derivative of thinkers I have read. I don’t pretend to original research or original ideas. I simply get outraged, I guess, by ideologies (like conventional economics) that continue to win when they are demonstrably wrong both scientifically and morally. That leads to my syncretist and derivative rants.

    I guess history shows that moral wrongs can continue almost indefinitely. However, being empirically (provably scientifically wrong to a high degree of probability) is another beast altogether. Trends that can’t continue because they approach limits imposed by fundamental laws of nature, won’t continue. It’s as simple as that. We have to change our ways (patterns of production, consumption and attempted endless growth) or civilization will crash and burn, pretty much literally. The opposition of entrenched dominant capital to necessary changes and transitions has seriously delayed necessary change. The situation is now ultra critical. We have ten years, or maybe only five years (as per the old Bowie song).

  5. Helen Sakho
    July 19, 2019 at 1:41 am

    In history, all human history, lies the answer to most modern day problems if we dig deep enough. There was a time when specificity was important, when analysis had to relate to particular places and peoples, and when new phenomena had to be investigated accordingly.

    Right now though, the picture of undemocratic governance, ultra greed, pollution, polarisation, war and conflict, is so general that not much attention should be paid to detail. The Moto “the devil is in the detail” could easily turn into “consider the general picture” to see the state of a world in absolute chaos.

    Scholars of all inclinations (no disrespect to anyone here, as most make excellent contributions) have to acknowledge the issue of the arms deals in more detail. The Cold War is now past even the Hottest of Wars and weaponry that lies at the heart of so much conflict, threat and counter threat.

    Economics never addressed this properly and is unlikely to start now.

  6. Ken Zimmerman
    July 22, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Ikonoclast, the results you outline are not accidental. Reading Hayek, we see this is the formula he proposed. The Road to Serfdom is not an economics book. It is instead a work of political philosophy, and it marks Hayek’s turning away from writing exclusively about economics for professional economists, to writing about the nature of society for broader audiences. In other words, the book is propaganda. While at the University of Chicago Hayek wrote a second and more extensive book in defense of a free society: The Constitution of Liberty, which was published in 1960. The book is also more obviously prescriptive than descriptive. Again, a work of propaganda. In fact, Hayek spent the rest of his career as an “economist” propagandizing. With Law, Legislation, and Liberty (published in the 1970s) and his final book, The Fatal Conceit (published in 1988). In Law, Legislation, and Liberty Hayek reaches his peak as proselytizer. Volume I explains the differences between unplanned orders (such as languages and market economies) and planned organizations (such as business firms and centrally planned economies). Volume II explains why the popular idea of “social justice” is meaningless. In Volume III Hayek present in detail the legal and political structure of his ideal society.

    Three of Hayek’s “explanations” in Law, Legislation, and Liberty are particularly relevant to the points you make. First, the fundamental difference between law and legislation. Influenced by the Italian legal scholar Bruno Leoni, Hayek argues that law is sets of rules that emerge “spontaneously,” unplanned and undersigned from interactions of ordinary people in their daily lives. Legislation, in contrast, is a set of rules and commands that government consciously designs and imposes. It’s important the two not be confused, according to Hayek. In the Fatal Conceit Hayek makes his concern here concrete. He commends and advances the creative powers of a society governed by evolved rules rather than by the discretion of political officials or of democratic majorities. The latter are clearly an inferior kind of society.

    The laws and norms of Hayek’s “Great Society” are not designed (they’re not planned at all) to maneuver individuals into particular places to achieve some overall, grand, concrete social outcome. Nor are these laws and norms judged by how well they do any such maneuvering. Rather, the Great Society is one that gives each person maximum possible scope to formulate and pursue their own individual plans; it is not a society in which people are treated as the means to some higher ends. That the Great Society gives to each individual maximum possible scope to live as they see fit is, perhaps ironically, one reason that many people dislike it. The Great Society offers no higher purpose to which people can commit themselves. Nor does it ask individuals to consciously come together in any sort of collective endeavor. Such “higher purposes for individuals to pursue” can exist in the Great Society only as each individual chooses and pursues their own purposes—including perhaps high and noble ones, or perhaps low and unprincipled ones. What’s the result? For Hayek, by allowing the maximum possible freedom for each person to pursue their own chosen goals, the result is an overall social order that very much deserves to be described as “Great.”

    Finally, without freedom, says Hayek individuals are confined to behave only in ways permitted by government authorities. Unfree people, therefore, have less scope and ability than do free people to search for and to act upon knowledge and creativity. Hayek doesn’t object to useful laws enforced justly. In other works, enforced in a non-discriminatory manner. Equality before the law does not guarantee equality of outcomes. But it does mean that no person’s or group’s interests are given extra weight or are singled out to be discounted. The result is that no person’s or group’s interests are sacrificed so that other persons or groups might enjoy special privileges. In this way a society is truly one of law and not of humans. Which, of course it is not, since humans make the laws and the rules, often bringing their multiple prejudices into the process. For Hayek, liberty is the essential value of Western civilization without which other values cannot be realized. But what is liberty, freedom for Hayek? “The conception of freedom under the law … rests on the contention that when we obey laws, in the sense of general abstract rules laid down irrespective of their application to us, we are not subject to another person’s will and are therefore free.” Which is, as anyone who’s ever had to hold a job knows nonsense. The system that best ensures that resources are used as efficiently as possible is free-market capitalism—an economic system based on transferrable private property rights, freedom of contract, the rule of law, and consumer sovereignty. Such markets allow each consumer to spend their money as they choose. And to change their spending choices whenever they wish. Hayek so entangles free-markets and freedom in general that soon the two are the same. Society can only be free if it has free markets. Isn’t that what Reagan and Thatcher proclaimed back in the 1980s? Has that worked? No, but Hayek has an answer for that also. Change the ideas that dominate society so that freedom/free markets are always in control. Isn’t this what’s been happening in the western world for at least the last 60 years? And how’s that working out?

    Hayek was a visionary, a utopian visionary. The last utopian vision to be used to shape society was Marxist-Leninism in the USSR. It produced horrifying consequences for human culture and human survival, and for the Earth. Hayek’s vision backed by the muscle, guns, and bombs of the US and UK is producing the same results, but much worse. Creating culture and living in societies is a messy, uneven, complex, and often unfathomable process. Certainly, in no way utopian. But that’s what we have. That’s what humans can do. Or, humans can choose to follow one utopian vision after another till one of them kills the species, the planet, or both. It’s time to place Hayek back on the fiction shelves at the library. And get his followers out of those cool and comfortable think-tank, university, and governmental offices and into jobs that help rather than harm society.

    By the way, Hayek is critical of the efforts to make economics a science. Calling it “scientism,” not science.

  7. Robert Locke
    July 22, 2019 at 10:59 am

    I know Hayek is popular in the U.S. but ordo-economists like Wilhelm Roepke, opposed his views, since they argued that no society flourishes without a large middle class. Hayek might hate the Marxist-Leninist, but that was not the only alternative ballgame in town. I once attended a conference where the theme, “social justice in a free market economy” was up for debate. I said in my keynote address that social justice in a free market economy was possibly only if the free markets operated in a society with a large middle class. I followed Roepke’s line and that of the ordo-economics who ran the German economy under Ludwig Erhard after WWII. If we frame the problem as you have, we leave out healthy responses to Hayek.

    • Ken Zimmerman
      July 22, 2019 at 1:54 pm

      Robert, how different would the world be today if Reagan and Thatcher had been hooked on Roepke? But Roepke had no influential think tank (Mont-Pélèrin Society) spreading the word on the god Hayek to every person of influence in the US and UK. Hayek has become a cult for many on the extreme right. Now they have the opportunity to turn the US and the UK into the “Great Society” envisioned by Hayek. Even though it’s not likely to play out as they want, their efforts will inevitability lead to societal chaos and misery for millions of ordinary Americans and Brits. And to top it off a madman’s in charge of the whole process.

  8. Helen Sakho
    July 26, 2019 at 12:17 am

    The subject matter of history itself as a taught subject has been eroded.

    Boris Johnson, an egotist maniac will now make sure that he can kick the biggest blow to so many lives and laugh it all off without a second thought. And that is just one example. His cousin Trump is exactly the same.

    It really is laughable that all this was perfectly predictable many decades ago, but “crude economism” was and remains as misleading as ever.

    • Ken Zimmerman
      July 26, 2019 at 9:45 am

      Helen, that’s an old story. Several old stories, actually. The contest to control history, backwards and forwards is not new. All nation-states attempt to control what their own history is presented as. The US certainly did. You think George Washington became the “father of America” by accident? He didn’t! Similarly, autocrats want a beautiful history that glorifies their autocracy. Trump yearns for this. Shaping future history is even more important for these players. 20th and 21st century US Presidents want history to depict them as American heroes. How many will get that is hard to say. Professional historians have the duty to hold the line on all of this. Some do better than others. Eurocentric historians were till the 1970s quite common. Standing next to them up to the present time, and more numerous are United States-centric historians. For example, the problems the US faces today are partly the result of American historians who were in their writings and public statements sympathetic to the Confederacy.

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