We live, as demonstrated by the World Health Organization, in an era of high anxiety and depression. Despite the unprecedented wealth of the world, there is widespread insecurity, unrest and dissatisfaction. In the US, for example, a large majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. Pessimism is at its height, and so is it in many other countries. In this context, the time has come to reconsider the basic sources of happiness in our economic life. The relentless pursuit of more income is leading to unprecedented inequality and anxiety, rather than greater happiness and satisfaction with life.
Economic progress is important and can indeed greatly improve the quality of life, but only if it is carried out in line with other goals. The question that needs to be examined is how to achieve happiness in a world that is characterized by rapid urbanization, mass media, global capitalism and environmental degradation. How can economic life be reordered to recreate a sense of community, trust and environmental sustainability? First, the value of economic progress must not be denigrated. When people are hungry, deprived of their basic needs such as clean water, health care and education, and without meaningful employment, they suffer. Economic development that alleviates poverty is a vital step in promoting happiness.
Second, the relentless pursuit of increasing GDP to the exclusion of other goals is not the path to happiness either. In the US, GDP has risen sharply over the past 40 years, but happiness has not. Instead, the obsessive quest to increase GDP has generated greater inequalities in wealth and power, spurred the growth of a vast underclass, trapped millions of children in poverty, and caused serious environmental degradation. Third, happiness is achieved through a balanced approach to life by both individuals and societies.
As individuals, we are unhappy if we are denied basic material needs, but we are also unhappy if the pursuit of higher incomes replaces our focus on family, friends, community, compassion, and maintaining an inner balance. As a society, it is one thing to organize public policies to maintain rising living standards, but quite another to subordinate all of society’s values in the pursuit of profit. Yet politics in so-called developed countries has increasingly allowed corporate profits to dominate all other aspirations: justice, trust, physical and mental health, and environmental sustainability.
Donations made by corporations in elections increasingly erode the democratic process, with the blessings of the courts. Fourth, global capitalism poses many direct threats to happiness. It is destroying the natural environment through climate change and other types of pollution, while the incessant torrent of propaganda from industry keeps many people ignorant of it. It is undermining social confidence and mental stability, with the prevalence of clinical depression apparently on the rise. Mass media have become mere selling points for corporate messages, and populations suffer from a growing range of consumer addictions.
Fifth, to promote happiness, it is necessary to identify the many factors besides GDP that can raise or lower the welfare of society. Most countries invest to measure GDP, but spend little to identify the sources of poor health (such as fast foods and smartphone excess), declining social confidence and environmental degradation. Once we understand these factors, we can act accordingly. The insane pursuit of corporate profits is threatening everyone. Indeed, economic growth and development must be supported, but only in a broader context: one that promotes environmental sustainability and the values of compassion and honesty that are required for social trust.
The search for happiness should not be confined to that beautiful mountain kingdom of Bhutan. On the environmental issue reported in the fifth section of this article, it was noted that developed countries, such as the USA, are an example of what not to do, because they produce in such a way totally unsustainable. Therefore, what, for example, the green economy and sustainable development teach is that it is not necessary to go through the entire process that these developed countries have gone through, on the contrary, steps may be skipped using cleaner technology, cleaner methods, less resources and thus generate less pollution.
Psychopolitical Economics alerts to the epistemic incapacity, especially of hegemonic cultural theory, as well as political economies with their developmental goal, to deal with other epistemes, such as the indigenous ones, as they often speak of the place of Nature as alive and , therefore, of the truth, understood as that of the mental states coherent with the communicational condition of the subject.
In other words, a psychopolitical perspective epistemically open to the sedimentation of traditions allows the effective overcoming of the epistemic privilege that moves theories of progress and the irresponsibility of their psychic, social and environmental results, supported by their replication in the Academy. Looking in the mirror is seeing the other. But, how to generate the encounter of the other with oneself? The only way is communicational, in the encounter, in the relationship, without duality, bringing to light the human condition that engenders meaning, ultimately happiness.
The way to obtain ontological and epistemological reconciliation with the other is dialogue, it is the singularity interacting with the universal, an experience. It is this that allows the human being, in his mental state, to return to the mother’s womb, the security and protection that the mother’s voice assures, so that, from this psychic conversation, the favorable speech of the world, the approbatio, perfect emerges. communion between you and the other. In sparse lines, this is Evandro Ouriques’ position. This argument opens the way to deepen the convergence of so many attempts in the world to renew social theory so that it presents other economic configurations of living as an alternative to the so-called developed pattern, which is the exploitation of the other’s natural resources, of accumulation through the dispossession of the other.
This other that can never reach such a standard simply because there are no natural resources for it. This requires the revaluation of all existing non-capitalist economies, such as peasant economies, indigenous economies and solidarity economies built on gratitude, reciprocity and respect for Nature. Therefore, as Ouriques underlines, there is an epistemological resistance of the social sciences in facing the limits of what one day in Greece he called Nature, in opposition to what he named Culture, the face of Janus.
The so-called Nature is not dead and it needs to be accepted that we have long since passed from the contradiction between capital and labor to the contradiction between culture and nature, since such confrontation necessarily implies reviewing the epistemic foundation of the West, based on which freedom would be guaranteed by a culture that would not be limited by nature in any way. Aware of these facts, and many others related to it, Psychopolitical Economics, with its non-dualistic epistemic foundation (insofar as it is the dualism that prevailed in the West, the origin of fragmentation at all levels and fields) is attentive to how manipulation occurs, with the aim of reversing it.
Therefore, it focuses on the subject’s capacity, as an agency, to be a living example in a network of a new way of thinking, of being affected, of affecting, of perceiving and, therefore, of directing his volition in the way he acts, in a network, with family, friends, at work, on the streets and in the world. Thus, building, rebuilding and strengthening institutions that actually help the subjects to deal with their lives and mentalities directly depends on the subjects – agency psychopolitically overcoming the Hobbesian axiom in a network.
In this sense, orthodox economic theory, in turn, offers a dualist methodological position where, for example, Happiness Economics does not find acceptance. In order to allow the study of a highly complex and dynamic social reality, the dualist way of thinking is poor and incomplete given the existence of infinite shades of colors between the ends of the spectrum formed by the facts.
Orthodox economics, clearly accustomed to employing the dualist way of thinking – which can also be classified as Cartesian/Euclidean – to study economic phenomena, reveals itself under an intense crisis in its methodological matrix. In this perspective, both in the canons of the Economy of Happiness and in those of the Psychopolitical Economy are of great value for the construction of a new episteme related to the treatment of consumption, income concentration, and the devastation of the environment, which will allow us to propose contributions through the transdisciplinary way.
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