The sciences are now very much defined into their specialized functions. Economics, for example, belongs to the group called “behavioral sciences” or “social sciences,” which also includes psychology, anthropology, sociology, and political science. In the past few decades, however, something is stirring in the way the sciences are ordered and divided; new interdisciplinary methodologies and tools have emerged that make it possible to link two or more disciplines into one coherent field of subject. A growing number of economists, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists are now addressing each other, with a few crossing the borders of their respective disciplines and treading the path of arts and humanities, the field populated by philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, and even esotericists. Very recently, a few social scientists are consulting with the physical scientists---biologists, chemists, physicists, neuro-scientists, and computer scientists. And this is happening in both directions. The overall result of all these inter-disciplinary exchanges is the emergence of new theories that give a new understanding and much broader picture of reality, a new vista that would not have been realized had these few individual scientists continued to isolate themselves within the confines of their narrow compartments.
This is how I will approach my courses on “Sustainable Development,” “Mediated Economics,” “Mediated Culture,” “The Informal Sector Economy,” “Cooperativism,” and “Harmonizing Technology and Ecology.” I will attempt to relate these subjects first within the different branches of the social sciences---anthropology (anthro-economics), to sociology (socio-economics), to psychology (psycho-economics), and to politics and governance (political economy, which is already well-treated today). Then, I will dare jump into what seems to be an unlikely territory---the field of the natural sciences, specifically, biology (bio-economics), physics (physico-economics) and to cosmology (cosmic economics). Much has already been done by economists in branching out to arts and humanities; after all economists like Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, and John Locke, besides themselves also political and social scientists were also philosophers. The social sciences and humanities consider human nature as their province and there should be no serious difficulty in bridging all these sciences together; there could be boundaries that could limit economics from passing through the domain of anthropology, physics, or biology. But maybe it’s high time to reassess these boundaries, for after all, the common subject is Man himself.
As used in this course, “mediated economy” is a term given to an economy facilitated or mediated by some means of exchange for transactions to take place. Over the millennia, these means of exchange between and among concerned parties have taken forms that are cultural (e.g. value), religious (spiritual beliefs), economic (money), political (power, military), and social (prestige, belongingness) in nature. Historically, it could be theorized that economic transactions were first mediated by the value system or social relations that prevailed during the period. Then, as transactions became broader and diverse, this ancient value-based mode gave way to the barter system, which was marked by direct exchanges of goods and services between peoples and nations. As the economy grew and became more complex, the barter system became very inconvenient, giving rise to paper money and coinage which prevailed to this day.
The “informal-sector economy” is the objective reality, where the value-based, barter, and money-based modes of economic transactions are happening all the time and everywhere. In most developing economies, we see all these modes of exchange carried out daily in the open streets and sidewalks, even in enclosed and controlled surroundings like offices and the factories; they are also happening over the Internet. Just open any search engine and you will find thousands of individuals ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week to exchange their products with another product; value-based transactions over the Internet are expressed in varying forms, from free usage of the product for three months or more to returning the product after 30 or more days for no reason at all. In many remote areas, products are given freely to neighbors and even passers by. The “informal-sector economy” may eventually serve as the model and vehicle that will shape the structures and systems of our future economy.
In the past, “sustainability” has not really been expressed as an explicit goal of development. Over time, however, as industrialization progresses, humanity’s very own survival and existence has been severely threatened because of several factors: limitations and constraints of the physical environment to grow, rapid population growth, climatic change, natural disasters, scarcity and depletion of the world’s resources. All these factors have in turn contributed to the deterioration of our social conditions that give rise to such global problems as poverty, ecological degradation, inequity, social divisiveness, cultural disintegration, and disenfranchisement. To ensure and maintain humanity’s existence, global attention to development has, since the early 1990s, focused on sustainability as an explicit goal. The concern for “sustainable development,” however, begun as a largely economic concept gradually expanding to include the social, political, and ecological dimensions of development. We will try to deepen the expanse and depth of our discussion on sustainable development knowing fully well that the subject transcends economic issues.
As a concept, the term “cooperativism” comes from the Latin word “co-operare,” which means “to work together.” It connotes people working together in solidarity to achieve common objectives or to promote their common interests. Traditionally, cooperativism is most popularly expressed in the form of cooperative organizations whose interests are focused towards achieving the welfare of their individual members. Towards the end of the 20th century, as a reaction to the negative effects of globalization, the concern of any cooperative endeavors has shifted from a purely economic focus to a much broader perspective that touches on ecological, social, political, cultural, and religious concerns. This shift in focus away from pure economics has given new meanings to, and has revived the use of other related concepts like: communalism, to distinguish it from communism or Marxism; communitarianism, in reaction to the rugged individualism of classical liberalism or laissez-faire capitalism; collectivism, to highlight the importance of human interdependence, interrelatedness, multi-dimensionality, and holism; as well as solidarity, to emphasize the importance of cooperation, integrity, oneness, or unity in purpose and action. These latter concepts led proponents to advocate new organizing principles or phenomena like civil society and sustainable development. The emergence of civil society organizations (CSOs) brought together various sectoral and peoples’ organizations, including coops, together under one national or global umbrella, much broader than the traditional concept of cooperativism. Under this one big umbrella organization, people work together to achieve one common objective, which is subsumed under the overriding concept of sustainable development.
This course views “cooperativism” as a generic term and is understood as a law or principle that operates in the world of the physical sciences (physics, biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, cosmology), the social sciences (economics, psychology, sociology, political science, psychology, anthropology), as well as arts and humanities (philosophy, theology, arts, literature, etc). Cooperativism is expressed in different forms in the social sciences: credit unions in economics; political parties in political science; people’s organization or civil society in sociology; and mind-body relations in psychology. In the physical sciences as well as arts and humanities, cooperativism is likewise variously manifested. But these divergences share a common theme that points to the etymology of the word “cooperate.” All these different manifestations are the main subject of discussion in this course “Cooperativism and Sustainable Development.”
Finally, "Technology" is viewed here as a tool or means employed by humanity for intervening the reality or ecology we live in. It can mean the hardware, software, gadgets and the systems or methods that go with its use. Meanwhile, "ecology" is taken to mean our surroundings or environment; this includes the biosphere which we find interacting with us in the form of air, fire, water, earth or soil, aether, including all the living species. In this course, the focus is on how technology can be harmonized with our ecological concerns. "Harmonization" is an integral part of the cosmic evolutionary process. It is one basic law and principle of the Cosmos. It is when humanity deviates from this inherent law and principle that disharmony and disorder emerge. But left to its own devices, the Cosmos works for the the order and harmony of its entire constituents. It is assumed in this course that it is technology that will have to do a lot of harmonizing. But harmonizing to what? ... to the forces, energy, principles that regulate the behavior of everything in the Cosmos.