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No revolution but ‘ecolution’: Marx in modern disguise?

Rudy van Stratum discusses JES! Towards a Joint Effort Society on Amazon.com:

General

This book is both old style and refreshing. The notion old style has to do with the vocabulary, the many quotes, and ancient writers and sources the authors turned to.
It is refreshing and new because it describes a course for humanity towards a different and a better world. The pages show deep engagement and passion. The authors believe in their cause and practice this faith.
The book advocates a better world in a way that goes beyond – the worn out – terms of sustainability. Instead it comes up with two new concepts: ecolution and the Joint Effort Society (JES).

Problem and cause

A short summary: There is too much economic disparity, injustice, and too much pollution going on. The battlefields of the 20th and early 21st century have been stages of war. The causes can be traced back through history and are linked to the names of persons, leaders who wanted power. The battlefields of the future will root in systems and will be hard to prevent. They have no faces, no persons to blame in particular, but each individual, every organization or government has to power to change the system from within. We have to learn how to dance with systems. We can do so when we act according to certain principles.
Many of the world’s problems have to do with the dominant position of the economy; supply-side economics, the free market definition the world embraces, the winner-takes-all principle and the narrow vision (tunnel vision) of many, not in the least of those in power.

JES!

The authors campaign on behalf of a new societal order. They call this order JES, which is short for Joint Effort Society. The road towards such a society is ecolution. This new JES world is, according to the authors, more just. People consider themselves and others people again, not just consumers, products or money machines. Growth is being interpreted as growth of quality and wellbeing. There is room for intuition, mutual respect and the economy is being shifted to another, lesser, level of dominance. It is about economy. For the people this time.

The book considers a long-term shift of the whole societal system, all societal systems, not just the economical part of it. This may sound as sustainable development, but …

Ecolution (comes in)

The authors move beyond sustainable development. Ecolution contains the writers’ conceptual framework on how to reach that longed-for (ideal) new world. In order to get there they distinguish three solutionfinding clusters: behaviour, institutionalization and decisionmaking.

By doing so they add new dimensions to the worn-out concept of sustainable development. JES speaks of individual behaviour rooted in awareness and self-confidence. It advocates justice and diversity – instead of protocols or procedures – as the base of (collective) institutions and, the book discusses new democratic models for decisionmaking.

Reflection

I already mentioned it before: this book has a paradoxical edge to it. There is the content with a new approach and refreshing engagement on one side. On the other hand – the form – it consists mainly of words with few to none images. It takes an effort to read (for the Dutch reader? Maybe so, but make no mistake, you have to think while reading!).

I would describe the book as a pamphlet, a manifest or a call for action, whether this is back to old days or again contemporary and new, I can’t say. It is a little bit Karl Marx, without the revolution, but with ecolution added to it. In that sense the book is more prescriptive – it talks about how things should be – than researching how we got to the point where we are and which powers keep us in this situation. In other words, I have the feeling that the solution was set out from the beginning.

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March 2014

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