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P H I L O S O P H Y F O R B U S I N E S S ISSN 2043-0736
Issue number 73
24th April 2012
I. 'Friedrich Hayek: The Mont Pelerin Society and 'The Facts of the
Social Sciences'' by Pedro Blas Gonzalez
II. 'The German model, codetermination and Alexander Platz: Fusion or
Confusion?' by Angela Richards
III. 'Is Deep Ecology a Realistic Policy Goal?' by Dr Prabhu
Venkataraman and Devartha Morang
Editing this issue of Philosophy for Business has been a fascinating
exercise. All the main issues and fracture points relating to the
application of philosophy to the actual world are here: pragmatism
and ideology, individualism and social responsibility, the nature of
human knowledge and human values.
In his latest article, Professor Pedro Blas Gonzalez looks at the
implications of Hayek's critique of the social sciences, sketching a
portrait very different from the economic ideologue portrayed by his
opponents. What comes across is the strong vein of pragmatism, the
responsibility of each human individual in the process of seeking
knowledge, the emphasis on being prepared to learn from our practical
experience of the world rather than blindly imposing our theories on
The spirit of pragmatism has never been more evident than in the
remarkable accommodation achieved in Western Germany between
capitalist and socialist ideals. As Dr Angela Richard explains,
originally devised by the occupying Allied Powers as a means for
curbing the power of large corporations, the idea of codetermination
-- the full representation of workers on company boards and
participation in decision making at all levels -- has proven its
worth as a buffer against the worst effects of the current economic
crisis. Could it work in the UK or the USA? Are Germans fundamentally
different from us, or is it we who blinded by ideology have failed to
see that there are other measures to 'company performance' than
narrowly econometric ones?
An area which has generated heated ideological controversy is the
debate over ecology. Dr Prabhu Venkataraman and Devartha Morang look
at the concept of 'deep ecology' coined by the Norwegian philosopher
Arne Naess. The authors argue that there is ample scope within
Naess's view that all living beings have inherent value for adopting
a pragmatic approach to environmental issues, recognizing that it
is fully consistent with an ethics of feeling and respect for the
natural world that human beings take the necessary steps to promote
their own interests, where this is seen as being the best compromise
between conflicting claims.
I. 'FRIEDRICH HAYEK: THE MONT PELERIN SOCIETY AND 'THE FACTS OF THE
SOCIAL SCIENCES'' BY PEDRO BLAS GONZALEZ
The Significance of the Creation of the Mont Pelerin Society to the
History of Ideas
The greatest contribution that the study of the history of ideas can
make to human knowledge and liberty is to foster respect for the
power of ideas. Genuine Ideas, we ought to remember, are the product
and brainchild of individuals. Ideas do not originate in a
master-tree of collected knowledge. Of course, once nascent ideas
spread and take root through time they eventually become shared
cultural icons. Only then can ideas be utilized for the benefit of
all. This is one way in which ideas contribute to man's well being.
This is also the point when intellectuals and historians should be
most prescient and responsible in their assessment of the worth and
power of ideas to affect the course of human life.
In should go without saying in our advanced stage of human history
that the existence of a healthy culture and civilization is
predicated on our ability to remember that not all ideas are equal
regarding their truth-value. It is an elementary fact of human
reality to demonstrate -- especially while undertaking practical
tasks -- for instance, that the strength of our presuppositions
determines the extent of our success in any chosen endeavor. Without
having to split hairs about the validity and truth-value of what I am
stating, one can readily witness how bad ideas eventually lead us into
a practical or theoretical dead-end. Man has suffered and despaired
unnecessarily and has been murdered by the millions by fallacious and
morally vile ideas. Whether fixing household items, working on an
antique automobile, or placing an astronaut in space, sophistic
presuppositions always turn out to be devastating in our attempt to
decipher reality. In effect, bad ideas shield us from attaining a
proper and practical knowledge of human reality. Stated in more
colloquial terms, a tree that is allowed to grow crooked will
undoubtedly turn out crooked timber.
Ideas have consequences. Because ideas lead to outwardly measurable
behavior, individuals and cultures alike must learn to respect the
intrinsic power of ideas. Instead of considering ideas as a staple of
fashionable and timely pursuits that will make a name for their
exponents, ideas ought to be viewed as the end result of the rigorous
and sincere pursuit of truth. This form of intellectual accountability
is what the Spanish philosopher, Julian Marias, has called 'a
responsible vision' in Metaphysical Anthropology.
Ideas originate with individuals. There is no way around this. As a
consequence, ideas eventually lead to human behavior. Invariably, it
is the value and impact of ideas on the lives of human beings that we
measure when we access human action. It is not very difficult to see
the effects that ideas -- both, good or destructive -- have on
culture and entire peoples. We should not forget that the main role
of reason in human life existence is to safeguard individuals and the
human species from danger and self-annihilation. A straightforward
search for truth, especially as this informs man's ability to live
free and productive lives, is a pre-requisite for anyone who feels
the need to dabble in ideas. Regrettably, this is not always the
case. Human history, which cannot be divorced from the history of
ideas, is riddled with moral, intellectual and cultural shipwrecks
that, on closer inspection, should have never enjoyed such blind,
fanatical allegiance by many who call themselves intellectuals. This
has resulted in untold human misery and the murder of millions of
Friedrich Hayek's conviction that 'a political philosophy can never
be based exclusively on economics or expressed mainly in economic
terms' is today a time-proven truism. This is also a stroke of
genius. The creation of the Mont Pelerin Society on April 10, 1947
came about because Hayek understood, much like Socrates' need for
definitions that many Western intellectuals, especially after WWII,
were vacillating with dangerously contradictory ideas. Hayek realized
that unless challenged totalitarianism would continue to expand and
flourish unabated. The twentieth century proved to be a time when the
intellectualized, theoretical foundations of totalitarianism where
first thrust upon a substantial, unsuspecting portion of the world's
population. Intellectualized terror made its initial foray into human
history in the twentieth century. The Mont Pelerin Society was an
attempt by a private organization to promote the common good without
relying on the incompetent monopoly exercised by government
The Mont Pelerin Society, which takes its name from its initial
meeting place in the Hotel du Parc in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland,
brought together 39 prominent intellectuals in order to discuss the
future of classical liberalism. The aim of the meeting was to promote
freedom of expression, create mechanisms to safeguard the values that
promote the rule of law in open and democratic societies, and to
exchange ideas regarding the pursuit of economic policies that did
not infringe on the dignity of differentiated, self-regulating
In his opening address to the conferees, Hayek explained his wish to
include as many intellectuals who were interested in the plight of
the West, as possible. Even though most of those that were present at
the initial meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society were economists, Hayek
was nonetheless interested in bringing together thinkers from diverse
disciplines. Some of the founding members of the society that were
present at the meeting included the economists, Milton Friedman and
Ludwig von Mises; Henry Hazlitt and Salvador de Madariaga, both
writers; and the philosophers Bertrand de Jouvenel, Karl Popper and
Hayek's list of concerns that, in his estimation warranted the
creation of the Mont Pelerin Society is instrumental and very telling
of the state of Western civilization and the open society in 1947.
Hayek's perspicuity as a thinker made him realize that, of the many
problems that Western civilization faced, economics only played a
limited role. Instead, at the very core of the social/ political
problems of that time, the main culprit was that of a moral/
spiritual malaise that urgently needed to be addressed. Left
unaddressed, the moral decay that Western civilization was being
subjected to, mostly through the introduction of corrosive doctrines,
Hayek argued, would eventually bring down the foundation of free and
Hayek was concerned that the social sciences had embarked on a
suicidal course in teaching indefensible, anti-liberal doctrines that
promoted terror and the collectivization of millions, which aided the
spread of totalitarianism. This form of dead-end, even though
fashionable relativism, he argued, created a fatalism that destroyed
the moral fabric and good will necessary for people to live as free
and self-sufficient moral persons. We ought not to forget that for
the ancient Greeks, the practice of autarkeia delivers man to a
virtuous and happy existence. The rise of relativism, Hayek stated in
his address, emphasized the rise of mass movements as countering the
achievements of individuals, and downplaying the latter's importance
as the source of beneficent societal values. In addition, Hayek
understood that relativism also pinned 'historical necessity,' what
Soviet ideologues call 'material necessity,' against the power of
ideas in shaping man's future.
Moreover, Hayek noticed the exuberant and dangerously politicized
role that Soviet Communism created for science. Science under
communism, he understood, demanded a consensus concerning the nature
of reality that would serve as a rallying cry for totalitarian
control of the masses -- the proletariat -- as communism refers to
anyone who is not a member of the elite intelligentsia. In contrast
to this specialized and overtly intellectualized barbarity, Hayek saw
Christianity as a stable source of responsible liberalism that is
based on individual responsibility and self-restraint which employs
personal duty. Hayek tied the latter concern to the need for
continued respect for the rule of law. Because Hayek and the founders
of the Mont Pelerin Society lacked funds for the initial meeting of
the society, they saw to it that the members of the society try to
appeal to others outside the society, and not waste their efforts
conversing among themselves.
The Mont Pelerin Society was to serve as a gathering of thinkers who
were forward-looking and free-spirited regarding the plight of
individual liberty in what was a world increasingly dominated by
communist totalitarianism. Let us not forget that institutionalized
Soviet Communism dates back to 1917. Quickly thereafter Soviet
communism began to spread, creating communist satellites throughout
Europe and the rest of the world. The Chinese communist Party was
established in 1921, and which took total control of China by 1949.
Hayek and other intellectuals were not surprised to witness the
signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact -- what is today better known
as the Nazi-Soviet Pact -- in August 1939. After the demise of German
National Socialism, at the end of World War II, the Soviet Union was
then in a position to continue to expand its communist imperialism
throughout Eastern Europe and beyond, unabated. Lamentably, history
has demonstrated that the spread of Soviet communism has become the
signature event of the twentieth century. Today there can be no doubt
that Hayek and other thinkers who shared his concern were correct in
their assessment of what was yet to come. A fine case in point, one
which was a major concern of Hayek's and the original founders of the
Mont Pelerin Society, was the creation of communist East Germany, in
what was then known as the 'Russian sector.' Undoubtedly, after the
fall of communism throughout most parts of the world by the 1990s,
Hayek's thought and that of like-minded intellectuals has been
After the physical and intellectual collapse of communism, the West
now has at its disposal a hitherto untold wealth of declassified
documents that shed ample light on the motivation and execution of
communist aggression. The availability of these documents effectively
dismantles the artistic license that many radical intellectuals have
taken concerning the truth behind the banner events of the
twentieth-century. Today responsible scholars understand the
wide-sweeping effect that Marxism and Soviet Communism have had on
all aspects of the lives of Western people. In other words, after the
opening of many formally classified documents in Eastern Europe,
thinkers of good-will who have a zest for truth and historical
accuracy can now piece together a much more coherent picture of human
social/ political reality in the twentieth century. Western man now
possesses an easily verifiable corrective for all the abuses of
reason and human freedom that have been the stable of communist
totalitarianism. Our penchant for ideologically motivated
hermeneutics has seemingly run its course.
Friedrich Hayek's immense contribution to the study of economics is
beyond doubt today. Yet his triumph as an intellectual has to do with
his refusal to be blinded by radical ideology, especially when the
latter proves to be both modish and devastating to man's ability to
enjoy a dignified, peaceful and autonomous existence.
'The Facts of the Social Sciences' and the Anthropological Foundation
of Knowledge and Human Freedom
It is truly astounding, if not altogether commendable, that the
onto-epistemological foundation of Hayek's ideas on economics has
effectively refuted the corrosive positivistic reductionism that
lesser thinkers have not been able to escape. The seduction and
temptation of the latter form of philosophical materialism, as a
pseudo-science that tries to convert the social-sciences into hard
science, has unfortunately been the dominant view of human reality
since the beginning of the twentieth-century.
What is it exactly that the social-sciences pretend to measure in
human behavior? Is it the outwardly manifested behavior itself? Or,
is it the motivations for any given behavior? These are fundamental
concerns that inform Hayek's thought, and which serve as the
foundation of his ideas on economics. These questions are instructive
for, lamentably, as Hayek demonstrates; social-scientists --
especially those who are steeped in the dead-end and myopic logic of
philosophical materialism -- grapple with human behavior solely in
Hayek's contention regarding the facts of the social sciences is very
instructive. He explains:
I believe that this view which regards social
collectivities such as 'society' or the 'state,' or any
particular social institution or phenomenon, as in any
sense more objective than the intelligible actions of the
individuals is sheer illusion.
Hayek's poignant refutation of Count Henri de Saint-Simon and Auguste
Comte's positivism and philosophical materialism serves as the
rational cornerstone of his thought concerning the value of the
social-sciences. However, when Hayek concerns himself with facts, he
does not mean 'facts' in the same sense that positivists conceive of
these as 'physical facts.' The facts of history, then, Hayek argues,
rely on man's ability to connect individual activities and experience
through intelligible relations. He explains: 'We never observe states
or governments, battles or commercial activities, or a people as a
whole...It does not alter the position that the theorizing is usually
done for us by our informant or source who, in reporting the fact,
will use terms like 'state' or 'town' which cannot be defined in
physical terms but which refer to a complex of relationships which,
made explicit, constitute a 'theory' of the subject.'
According to Hayek, the social sciences are not equipped to make
sense of whole classes of human phenomena. They instead create
theoretical social models that seek to understand patterns that may
or may not inform the cohesion of the whole. In The
Counter-Revolution of Science Hayek refers to Saint-Simon and Comte's
project of creating a science of life as being a utopian form of
How perfectly this describes the beautiful illusions that
ever since Saint-Simon's times have seduced scientifically
trained minds! And yet how obvious it is to us now, even in
this first formulation, that it is a delusion; that the idea
is based on an extension of the scientific and engineering
technique far beyond the field to which they are
appropriate. Saint-Simon is fully conscious of the
significance of his ambitions; he knows that his way of
treating the problem of social organization 'exactly in the
same manner as one treats other scientific questions' is
Of course, the impossibility of such an undertaking has proven to be
disastrous to human liberty. Hayek's point is that the 'facts' of the
social sciences are not first principles, like those that one
encounters in mathematics and the hard sciences. In the hard sciences
facts are discovered and retain their objectivity regardless of the
will of the subject that discovers them. The facts that the sciences
uncover are objective and thus enduring. However, in the social
sciences, Hayek contends, facts merely serve the subject, much as
particulars do universals in inductive reasoning. In Hayek's
estimation, the facts that social scientists make use of are not laws
that accurately describe the empirical world. This is apparent, Hayek
informs us, in the doctrine of historical relativism. For instance,
he argues that there should be no historical discrepancy or
hermeneutical confusion over the events, say, of Germany between
'1618 and 1648,' if historians indeed possess the same information.
The major problem that Hayek finds in relativism is not that
historians can come to possess objective data, but rather in the
infinite number of questions that one can bring up regarding any
given historical period. He explains:
I beg you to remember that these disciplines deal with a
world at which from our position we necessarily look in a
different manner from that in which we look at the world of
nature. To employ a useful metaphor: while at the world of
nature we look from the outside, we look at the world of
society from the inside; while, as far as nature is
concerned, our concepts are about the facts and have to be
adapted to the facts, in the world of society at least some
of the most familiar concepts are the stuff from which that
world is made.
Hayek's understanding of the principles of economics is an
indispensable contribution to the history of ideas in the
twentieth-century and beyond. His ability to articulate the aims of
economics as being yet another of man's varied expressions of freedom
makes him one of the most original thinkers of the twentieth-century.
It is simplistic to view Hayek's contributions to Western culture and
thought as solely being that of an economist. To assert that point of
view would be naive. The fact remains that Hayek was much more of a
systematic thinker than his critics care to admit. The principles of
economics that Hayek demonstrates are never treated in isolation from
his vast philosophical/ anthropological knowledge. This marks a
tremendous difference between economists that belong to the Austrian
School of Economics and other economists. While many economists are
interested in pushing forth a utopian, collective vision of man
through central planning, Hayek, like the tortoise in the ancient
Greek fable, patiently collects and searches through the best
available objective data concerning man in the cosmos.
Let us consider Hayek's contention that economics is founded in man's
ability to respect our limited range of knowledge. Epistemology,
according to Hayek, is never on solid ground, as far as the social
sciences are concerned. This is the case because life, he tells us,
is intuitive in nature and thus cannot be converted into a science.
While the positivists attempt to create a science of man, Hayek
recognizes such a planned existence to be an impossibility. Again,
Hayek's exercise of common sense seems like a re-invention of the
Adam Smith's question 'How is it possible that institutions which
serve the common welfare can arise without a common will aiming at
their creation?' serves as Hayek's rallying point to establish
individual creative effort and the goods that this generates, as the
starting point of economics. The establishment of institutions that
serve the good of all, Hayek explains, do not come about as the
result of central planning, but as the unintended consequences of
human ingenuity. In essence, this aspect of Hayek's thought can be
compared with Kant's idea of an intrinsic good-will. The central
tenet behind Hayek's respect for personal liberty invites individuals
to act morally as if our actions were indeed good for all. This
requires a tremendous desire by responsible individuals to understand
the consequences of our actions and the limitation of our knowledge.
Hayek's argument for coherent and responsible action places great
strain on man's ability for self-regulation. Only then can the common
good be observed to become 'institutionalized.'
It is very difficult to offer a sincere refutation of Hayek's
argument that human civilization is not the result of conscious
design on the part of human beings. What we encounter in this
argument is essentially a systematic glance into the anthropological
question 'What is man?' One encounters very little pretense in
Hayek's answer to this question:
We flatter ourselves undeservedly if we represent human
civilization as entirely the product of conscious reason or
as the product of human design, or when we assume that it is
necessarily in our power deliberately to re-create or to
maintain what we have built without knowing what we are
doing. Though our civilization is the result of a
cumulation of individual knowledge, it is not by the
explicit or conscious combination of all this knowledge in
any individual brain, but by its embodiment in symbols
which we use without understanding them, in habits and
institutions, tools and concepts, that man in society is
constantly able to profit from a body of knowledge neither
he nor any other man completely possesses.
Hayek's onto-epistemological view of human reality equates to a form
of realism that is far from being naive in make-up. On the contrary,
human reality according Hayek should make us take a guarded, cautious
stance that places the burden of knowledge on the individual. This is
a cautious form of realism given the recognition that only
individuals can attain and spread knowledge. This is also a
courageous stance that man takes against the ravages of time, death,
alienable human freedom and other pressing human contingencies.
In addition, Hayek's onto-epistemological view of human reality can
be considered courageous because, while other epistemological views
release man from the existential responsibility of attaining
knowledge, for Hayek, individuals always remain the source of
knowledge. In other words, Hayek can be said to pay respect to the
Parmenidean notion that man and objective reality display a
one-to-one correlation, whereby reality, at a conceptual level, is
viewed as something that requires pro-active engagement in order to
reveal its inner secrets. At a societal level, such a personal
commitment to truth, which accepts reality while making few claims
about it, can take a profound toll on some people.
Following this same line of thinking in the social-sciences, Hayek
convincingly argues that, as a rational entity, man has no choice but
to make coherent sense of his surroundings. Yet this does not equate
to the view that man must plan his life around a collective center.
This also means that at least in the social-sciences, knowledge is
used by intellectuals to create theories to explain human reality.
This is an Aristotelian understanding that 'one cannot see the forest
for the trees.' Hayek points out that the tragic mistake that many
social scientists make is to confuse the cause with the effect.
Causality is the appropriate starting point of scientific research,
one that actually garners objective findings. The question of
knowledge is a crucial point of reference in Hayek's understanding of
economics. Because man cannot possess absolute knowledge when making
decisions, this does not preclude the fact that man is no longer
responsible for his actions. Hayek argues that planned economic
calculation on behalf of the state has caused man immeasurable pain
and suffering. The history of totalitarianism in the twentieth
century easily bears this out.
The incessant desire to gain total control of all aspects of human
life by those inclined to totalitarianism can be seen as a
fundamental component of the moral/ spiritual/ existential malaise
that has afflicted man since the start of the twentieth century. This
malaise originates in man's desire to expand reason into areas of
human life that are best left to the domain of individual
perspicuity. This mind-set is what the philosophers, Karl Popper and
Jean-Francois Revel, refer to as the totalitarian impulse. Hayek
argues that life-lived-by-committee is not only a crime against
personal self-reliance and integrity, but that it is also a laughable
delusion. One of the footnotes that Hayek makes use of in The
Counter-Revolution of Science seems very fitting in illustrating this
Committees and other devices for facilitating
communications are excellent means to assist the individual
in learning as much as possible; but they do not extend the
capacity of the individual mind. The knowledge that can be
consciously coordinated in this manner is still limited to
what the individual mind can effectively absorb and digest.
As every person with experience of committee work knows, its
fertility is limited to what the best mind among the members
can master; if the results of the discussion are not
ultimately turned into a coherent whole by an individual
mind, they are likely to be inferior to what would have
been produced unaided by a single mind.
Hayek's prescience concerning the contradictions that those who argue
that man can possess absolute knowledge, and that we are able to plan
and coordinate human events, is instrumental in many ways: Either we
possess absolute knowledge of human affairs, or we do not. 1) If
intellectuals in any given cultural epoch attempt to plan human
existence, this means that at least some individuals are capable of
attaining such knowledge (the planners). 2) If this is the case, then
such individuals -- the 'free-floating intelligentsia' -- as Hayek
refers to this group of ideologues, must explain why they, and only
they have enough acumen to possess absolute knowledge.
One simple corrective measure to the arrogance of the collectivist
vision that views man as being the beneficiary of human history,
Hayek suggests, is to confront ourselves with the leveling humility
that thinkers face in light of time and the demands that human
reality makes on us all. Partial knowledge, argues Hayek, is what
independent thinkers bring to the social-sciences. The
'interindividual' process that serves as the foundational reality of
man-in-the-cosmos necessarily force individuals to confront reality.
This requires a great deal of patience and respect for the logos of
human reality, though. This bald orientation toward human reality --
what is essentially a sincere form of onto-epistemological
perspective -- necessitates a Socratic irony. The importance of the
latter is that sincere, independent thinkers pay allegiance to what
we know, but only because we respect our lack of knowledge of the
whole. Resistance to this basic truism of human reality leads to
collectivism in one way or another.
Because collectivists do not have the necessary patience or good will
to allow individuals to decipher reality on their own terms, they deem
it necessary to make knowledge a commodity that is centralized, and
consequently distributed by the state. The collectivist method of
organizing society is indeed a form of radical politicization of
human reality, one which eventually comes to demand that everyone
become a slave to planned knowledge. This form of state-mandated
diffidence is totalitarian in orientation and execution. Hayek
It leads thus directly to political collectivism; though,
logically, methodological collectivism and political
collectivism and political collectivism are distinct, it is
not difficult to see how the former leads to the latter and
how, indeed, without methodological collectivism political
collectivism would be deprived of its intellectual basis:
without the pretension that conscious individual reason can
grasp all the aims and all the knowledge of 'society' or
'humanity,' the belief that these aims are best achieved by
conscious central direction loses its foundation.
The failure of the social-sciences to create a cure-all science of
life is hardly commensurate with anything remotely having to do with
vital life. On the contrary, the attempt to coerce the
social-sciences into becoming hard sciences that quantify existence
instead of merely remaining instruments that gage vital life, has
done tremendous damage to human liberty
'The facts of the social sciences,' as Hayek refers to this, confront
us today with the difficulty of understanding the contradictions
inherent in ascribing to the social sciences a pseudo-scientific
role. On the one hand, there are facts about human reality that human
subjects can extract from the human condition. However, these are
arrived at by meticulous and frank reflection that never politicizes
its findings with dubious social-political ulterior motives. For
independent thinkers, it is enough to recognize that they are
fortunate to be able to make sense of only some principles of human
reality, where other people fall prey to the destructive illusions
and lure of irrational whims. Yet any knowledge that individuals can
come to possess is the result of a broader understanding of the
limitations of their finite minds. This realization is supremely
important to Hayek's thought. Even though Hayek is primarily known as
an economist of the Austrian School of Economics, it is the latter
understanding that has allowed his rather systematic thought to tap
into some of the objective principles that rule over human existence.
This recognition alone makes Hayek a forward-thinking thinker.
1. Julian Marias. Metaphysical Anthropology: The Empirical Structure
of Human Life. Translated by Frances M. Lopez-Morillas (University
Park: The Pennsylvania State University, 1971), p. 8. Marias argues
that philosophical reflection should never be conceived as an
intellectual game that is intent on demonstrating the cognitive
prowess of thinkers. He writes: 'And the most important thing is that
philosophy consists in the fact that that painful birth does not occur
only at the beginning. It must keep on renewing itself moment after
moment and that is what 'accounting for' means. To philosophize means
being continually reborn into truth; it is constant wakefulness.
2. Friedrich Hayek. The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek. Volume IV.
(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), p. 239.
3. F. A. Hayek. Individualism and Economic Order. (Auburn, Alabama:
The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009), p. 69.
4. Ibid., p. 71.
5. Friedrich Hayek. The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the
Abuse of Reason. (Indianapolis: Liberty Press,1979), p. 247.
6. Ibid., Individualism and economic Order, p. 76.
7. The counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuses of
Reason, p. 149.
8. Ibid., p. 154.
9. Ibid., p. 158.
10. Ibid., p. 161.
(c) Blas Pedro Gonzalez 2012
II. 'THE GERMAN MODEL, CODETERMINATION AND ALEXANDER PLATZ: FUSION OR
CONFUSION?' BY ANGELA RICHARDS
Last week in a Berlin bar I struck up a conversation with a fellow
customer who was closely tracking the development of her home city,
where capitalism had bordered on communism for 40 years -- and where,
in her words, 'the West had won'. There is little doubt that many felt
that way following the collapse of the Berlin wall. East Germans
rushed to embrace the bright lights and coffee bars so absent during
the days of the GDR -- and who could blame them. Indeed, standing in
the centre of Alexander Platz today, with its stark and monumental
modernist architecture adorned with consumerist glitziness, one is
momentarily full of admiration. Following the dissolution of
non-consumerist communist austerity, Alexander Platz has become a
public space whose vastness and starkness -- mixed with a large dose
of neon lights and shopping malls -- is eerily stunning. Stark though
the buildings may be, any large scale bulldozing of the Platz would
surely mean the loss of architecture that is so significant in terms
of recent Cold War history.
Not so, said a Berlin journalist in my next cafe stop, sniggering at
my admiration for 'Alex'. The point about Berlin, he maintained, was
that it was in constant change -- had been since 1990 and would be
for the next couple of decades at least and any nostalgia (especially
Ostalgie) just constituted an inability to let go of the past.
Better to accept whatever the investors were going to do as it had
taken so long to get their interest at all. So does this simply mean
that the free-market will (and should) simply swallow up the square
and decide its fate, by virtue of the fact that it is able to provide
a future at all? Is it not better to be rid of the 'socialist
architecture' once and for all because 'socialism' had after all,
failed? Conversely, I would argue that Alexander Platz actually
represents the future. It is a microcosm (as far as Alexander Platz
can ever be micro) of what is happening to capitalism in general. It
is a hybrid -- as is the German variety of capitalism and just like
Alexander Platz, Germany continues to function rather well. The
pressure that globalisation has exerted on Germany to adhere more to
the neo-liberal, Anglo-Saxon way of running the economy -- post
banking crisis -- is beginning to wane. Perhaps the time is right for
the Anglo-Saxon world -- especially post the credit crunch -- to
consider hybridizing its own version of capitalism by taking another
long look at Germany's social market economy.
Indeed, Germany's recent growth figures suggest that it is continuing
to flourish despite the 2007 world banking crisis (from which it did
not emerge totally unscathed), the Euro crisis and the considerable
burden it bears in ensuring the Euro's success. Furthermore,
Germany has managed to decrease its unemployment rate during one of
the worst world recessions since the 1930s whilst even maintaining
a very low increase in its unit labour costs. A 2010 report by the
Hans Boeckler Foundation's Institute for Macroeconomic Research
revealed they had risen by a mere 0.6% whereas the EU average was
Furthermore, Heise points out that the burden of the cost of
unification was something that only Germany could have dealt with.
By 2002, cash flows from west to east Germany amounted to more than
the gross domestic products of both Hungary and the Czech Republic,
with the gross figure totalling 1250 billion euros (or 950 billion
euros net). In fact, for more than a decade, Germany was 'obliged to
carry an annual burden of 70 to 80 billion Euros relating to
The German model (Modell Deutschland) with its social market economy
(soziale Marktwirtschaft -- a free market system but with significant
state regulation and intervention) has succeeded in providing relative
affluence and security for most West Germans since the early 1950s.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the end of the Cold War and
globalisation heralded the introduction of a much less regulated form
of capitalism generally and Germany was often criticized by the
Anglo-Saxon world for not taking up the neo-liberal,
non-state-interventionist challenge. Dubbed the 'sick man of Europe'
as recently as 2003, Germany was especially criticized for failing to
introduce reform -- especially regarding its highly regulated labour
markets. Its soziale Marktwirtschaft was considered outdated in the
new globalised economy and many considered it would only be a matter
of time before Germany went the way of the rest of the world if its
export markets were to compete successfully with those of the US and
China. Some reforms were introduced by Chancellor Kohl during the
1990s whilst he presided over the unification of Germany after 40
years of Cold War division but these were limited. However, despite
Germany's failure to really swap the German model (Modal Deutschland)
for the Anglo-Saxon model of deregulated labour markets and a much
trimmed down welfare state, it has continued to grow, ride out
recessions and even find reserves for its failing European partners.
Despite international pressure, the German rejection of the
turbo-capitalist dream promoted and adopted by Reagan in the US and
Thatcher in the UK and later steadfastly adhered to by Blair, the
bright lights of Alexander Platz would suggest Germany's own form of
capitalism has been the most sustainable of all. Interestingly, in
2005 Van der Pijl pointed out that, 'the ability of different
societies to submit to capitalist discipline varies, and the very
pressure to do so tends paradoxically to reactivate the specific
heritage of each separate society in new combinations, in a process
...[that has been referred to as]... 'hybridization'.
One of Germany's institutions underpinning her hybrid variety of
capitalism is codetermination. Germany has a dual system of
industrial relations. Trade unions conduct collective bargaining
primarily at sector or industrial level with employers' associations
while works councils deal with job regulation at workplace level.
The latter (and legally regulated) process of codetermination
(Mitbestimmung) also often extends to entrepreneurial level allowing
participation of employees in the decisions of the supervisory board
(Aufsichtsrat). Thus a channel for consultation on issues ranging
from working hours or holiday arrangements to the strategic planning
and corporate policy-making of a company exists, if the workforce so
Codetermination had its early roots in nineteenth century ideas of
economic democracy, but developed primarily in the post-war Keynesian
era when emphasis was placed on the notion that a contented workforce
and business success were not possible without each other. It has
flourished for more than five decades and forms part of the context
in which Germany is now globalizing but grew out of a very different
set of circumstances than those confronting European states today.
The political needs of the US during the Cold War took centre stage
in Germany from 1945 onwards with the US primarily concerned with
containing communism, even if that meant embracing a distinctly
moderate form of capitalism. This paved the way for a German-style
Keynesianism, based on a social partnership (soziale Partnerschaft)
between trade unions, the state and workers, with virtual full
employment, backed up by a welfare state. Importantly, this social
market economy -- with a distinct element of state intervention --
served to banish US fears of possible worker unrest in a state which
had borders with a socialist regime with the same language and a
common history, and from which it had only recently been severed. The
end of the Cold War, however, did not mean the end of the institutions
that secured workers' allegiance during the former geo-political era.
It did mean however, that the institution of codetermination came
under considerable pressure to reform.
The concept of members of a workforce sitting on a board discussing
company strategy during an era of globalised financial markets has,
not surprisingly, exasperated those embracing the necessity to free
up markets and shake off state interference. Due to codetermination,
board level decision making can, of course be slower and appear less
predictable for the markets. Proposed workforce reductions, more
frequent in times of recession, are perceived to be harder and slower
to implement. For the free marketeer -- who is aware of how share
prices respond positively to speedy board decisions on future company
strategy -- such an institution is at best irritating and at worst
disastrous. Indeed, as far back as 1970 a German Government
Commission on Co-determination recognised occasional damaging delays
in decision-making on the supervisory boards of codetermined
companies. Criticism of the legally regulated institution of
codetermination reached an all-time high when a former President of
Germany's Employer Association (Bundesverband der Deutschen
Industrie) declared in an interview with a leading national newspaper
that 'Codetermination at board level was a mistake of history'.
Another Commission set up shortly before this however, pointed out
that accurately determining the economic consequences of such an
institution, even with complex econometric models (at the time of
such primacy of economics) was almost impossible. Post the banking
crisis, economic modelling has become considerably less fashionable
and responses to recessions are now seen as requiring a more holistic
approach and are less based on mathematical predictions.
Ian Bruff agues 'if we are to explain the evolution of national
political economies, then we must acknowledge that varieties of
capitalism are also varieties in capitalism' (author's emphasis).
Indeed, what is indisputable in Germany, is the fact that some
companies described as being strongly co-determined (i.e. they have
works councils and employee board representation) have survived
extremely tough economic times and gone on to continue to be
profitable. The large car manufacturer Opel (as part of GM Motors)
was able to continue production in the 2000s because of
co-determination and not despite it. Opel's works council had to
carry out a damage-limitation operation regarding the threat of the
loss of thousands of jobs in Germany. The outcome of months of
negotiation was one of considerable compromise, where voluntary
redundancy and future wage and bonus cuts played a major role. In
March 2005, an 'Agreement for the future' was agreed between works
council chairman Klaus Franz and the Opel management. Whilst this
guaranteed no plant closures in Germany before 2010, wage cuts and
more flexible working were part of the final deal. Workers at the
Bochum plant agreed to forego any wage increases until 2010.
GM's plants in Germany came off better than other European production
centres, such as Trollhatten in Sweden, where massive redundancies
accompanied the decision to locate the production of the
Mittelklassemodell to Russelsheim, Germany -- where the works council
was able to convince the company that production costs would be
Similarly, the company Deutz managed to avert major financial
problems in 2002 by successfully obtaining the agreement of its
workforce to wage cuts and some redundancy (albeit with guarantees of
retraining and assistance with job hunting). The question is whether
all this would have been possible without the cooperation of the
Furthermore, events at the large energy concern EnBW in Karlsruhe can
only be described as a resounding success for both codetermination and
free markets. This company managed to turn a billion Euro loss in
early 2003 into a small profit by October 2004. Managing director Utz
Claassen, described by the Manager Magazine as the 'toughest
restructurer in Germany' agreed shorter working hours and lower
wages with the workforce. He also reduced the workforce from 40,000
to 20,000 -- but managed to avoid mass redundancies by selling off
unprofitable sections of the concern. All this happened
extraordinarily peacefully and Utz Claassen put this down to nothing
less than codetermination, insisting that without the close
cooperation of the workforce through codetermination the outcome
could have been extremely negative.
Addison, Bellmann, Schnabel and Wagner rightly comment that the
'legal obligations imposed on the employer by the Works Constitution
Act can complement market forces... by reinforcing the
credibility of the employer's commitment to take workers' interests
into account'. Several researchers have gone to great lengths to
develop econometric models to evaluate codetermination's effect on
company profits and efficiency. Raabe in particular, criticizes
the whole idea of attempting to assess such factors as productivity,
capital market performance or workforce numbers in codetermined
firms, primarily because authors of such studies repeatedly fail to
grasp the legal and institutional context of the operation of
codetermination. His own insights into codetermination are based on
interviews with members of German codetermined supervisory boards;
whether these are accurate or not, what is clear is that
codetermination itself has fallen increasingly under the spotlight
over the past 10-15 years. With corporations becoming increasingly
powerful actors in the international political economy, there is
bound to be interest in an institution, that seemingly successfully
operates in a country which has the lowest incidence of industrial
action in Europe.
There certainly appears to be no overwhelming evidence that
codetermination hinders company performance. Evidence suggests that
it does quite the opposite, despite the determination of some
researchers to prove otherwise. However, instead of posing the
question as to how much higher profits might be without
codetermination, a better question might be 'how have German
companies avoided industrial conflict to a degree that could only be
dreamed of in many countries, not least in the UK?' This latter
question is less interesting for the economists and mathematical
modellers since it obviously involves a myriad of unquantifiable or
difficult to quantify variables -- an important point in the post
banking crisis era.
Codetermination was and still is an institution involving people
coming together to talk about how best to avoid a crisis, a company
closure or handle a takeover. It does not attempt to fight capital in
the Marxist sense. Indeed, employee supervisory board members have
often failed to -- or at least found it difficult -- to truly
represent the workforce in challenging circumstances. But
codetermination is at least an attempt to ensure the whole company
rather than the balance sheet alone stays healthy and paves the way
for a degree of compromise. Compromise involves inclusive discussion,
it involves the human factor -- which slows much down. When the banks
were developing mathematical models to ensure maximum profits could
be achieved through lending money, many individuals at the helm of
those banks were either unaware of what type of instruments were
being used to push up profits in their own finance houses or they did
not fully understand them. Speed in decision-making was paramount.
Furthermore, the idea that those who sold the loans should have had
an input into the validity of the loans, let alone the morality of
them (eg. through an employee representative on the management board)
was as far from everyone's minds as the looming crash. There was no
real consideration for the customer, the long-term consequences for
the employees of the bank and certainly no input at board level by
anyone but the directors and clever modellers. Bank shares were at
all-time highs and the idea of employee participation and increased
discussion at any level was preposterous. Until the cracks appeared.
It is not the intention of this article to analyse the banking crisis
(Germany's banks were by no means faultless) but what is interesting
is that in the aftermath of the banking crisis, Germany was able to
quietly display some justified 'Schadenfreude'. The banking crisis
was not just about the banks but invoked much broader questions about
the way companies and the economy is run. The neo-liberal project had
tried to sever economic relations from society as a whole. Growth was
about numbers: numbers of shareholders, numbers of employees, numbers
of hours worked, wage cost numbers and interest rate numbers. Of
course all these numbers are important. But the numbers do not exist
in isolation (and at the time were not even adding up!).
In this connection it is interesting to reflect on how Cleaver
interpreted Marx's 'Capital' in his work 'Reading Capital
Politically' back in 1970. He does not see Das Kapital as a work
about the economy but far more an investigation of all the structures
in society that affect social relations. Economic relations says
Cleaver, are in fact political relations. This brings us back to the
German board room with its employee representatives. Companies are
one of the major actors in the world economy. Often corporations span
countries and continents and employ huge numbers of staff. Employees
are spending more and more time at work -- if they are 'lucky' enough
to have a job. National governments, in a bid to attract investment
are keen to facilitate the operation of companies on their soil.
Companies are however, unlike governments, not subject to the
scrutiny of an electorate -- and if their employees agitate for
change, companies can circumvent the pressure, ignore it or even
attempt to stamp it out. Industrial democracy, as operated (and
legally regulated) in some German companies, is largely absent in
British and US companies. But not only is it unlikely to go away in
Germany, it is seen by many as part and parcel of what post-war
Germany has become.
On the basis of Bower and Vail's research the growing support for
'Die Linke' (a far left party) does not appear to be based solely on
ideological extremism or economic fear, but also on more general
beliefs about economic inequalities, policy responses and support for
economic redistribution. The author's own research confirmed a
considerable anxiety among workers regarding the future survival of
the institution of codetermination and industrial democracy in
general. It is interesting to note that codetermination as an
institution (although drawing on a long pre-war tradition) was also
partly imposed on post-war Germany by the Allies in an attempt to
ensure that the power of the larger corporations who had provided
support for Hitler would be checked and curbed. It has since
developed into an institution deeply embedded in the German
consciousness and is an integral part of the German variety of
capitalism that leans towards a conservative cautiousness regarding
sweeping social reforms. In view of its history Germany also has a
responsibility to embrace difference and hold Europe together,
whatever the economic cost might be. This is reflected in her
response to the current Euro crisis and her general tendency to avoid
any change without lengthy discussion and consultation. A purist
neo-liberal project does not fit into this social landscape.
Angela Merkel commented shortly after her election that the German
social market economy would be 'unthinkable without codetermination'
(author's translation). A year earlier at Davos she made it clear
that politics should determine the economics of Germany, despite
pressure to adopt a freer, purer market economy which was seen as the
order of the day.
It seems that Germany's social market economy is continuing to pay
off. A recent survey showed that two thirds of the German population
considered the social market economy largely responsible for the
generally positive economic situation in the country, although 70% of
these thought that it was not functioning as efficiently as in the
past and that Germany's rich were getting richer and poor,
poorer. The author's own, somewhat earlier research suggested
that this latter fear was sometimes associated with the pressures of
globalisation and the 'necessity' for Germany to reform such
institutions as codetermination, which were supposedly hindering
smooth business operation and sending out the wrong messages to
capital markets. Interestingly, Raabe's latest research on
codetermination on German management boards confirms that there are
large defects in the operation of this institution -- but not because
of any failure of (or even the presence of) employees on management
boards but rather because board directors themselves have often acted
in a less than scrupulous way towards each other and towards employee
The 'Greed is Good' credo has never really taken hold in post-war
Germany -- even in post-war Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) West
Germany, where a good deal of conspicuous consumption was (and often
still is) very evident. This is quite a paradox. Germany has created
massive wealth but has not dismantled its welfare state in the same
way that the Anglo-Saxon world has chosen to do. Taxes are high and
health care is expensive -- but on the other hand, health care, care
for the elderly and pensions are all well-funded. The pension system
has been partly reformed and considerable anxiety exists as to how
the demographic changes (an ageing population and a low birth-rate)
in Germany will be handled and all these issues are discussed
endlessly. Germany has a hugely successful export industry but fails
to increase internal consumption to the levels desired. Its
population is loath to borrow and keen to save. Employees have a keen
awareness of their rights in the workplace.
If support for 'Die Linke' really is increasingly, as would seem to
be the case, it would certainly seem to be the case that the social
market economy is something that Germans are not prepared to see
replaced by an Anglo-Saxon model that has itself recently turned out
not to be as robust as originally supposed. To suggest that the
German model has all the answers is foolhardy. But it is hard to
dispute that the mix of policies that have proved themselves in
Germany are probably worth hanging onto, even if they are not
perfect. Just like the architectural mix that Alexander Platz has
become -- it may not be quite right, but you can't help admiring it.
1. Ostalgie is a mix of the German words for East (Ost) and nostalgia
2. See Deutsche Wirtschafts Institute (German Economics Research
Institute), 28 March, 2012. Germany's economy grew by 0.1% in first
quarter of 2012 and wages continued to rise. (Accessed 29 March
3. See eg. Hill, S., Washington Post, 13 November 2010.
4. Unification led to vast changes in the East German industrial
landscape, with widespread closures of large industrial plant leading
to sudden very high unemployment in the East.
5. HEISE, A. Off with the Austerity Straitjacket. Debatte. Review of
Contemporary German Affairs. Volume 10, No.1, 2002 p. 93.
6. Whether it has provided such affluence for Eastern Germans is of
course more questionable.
7. See for example: Anon. How to pep up Germany's economy --
Structural reform in Germany. The Economist, 8 May 2004, p. 36.
8. VAN DER PIJL, K. A Lockean Europe? New Left Review. 37, Second
Series, January February 2006, p.31.
9. Any company with more than 20 employees has to allow for the
establishment of a Works Council if so desired by the workforce.
10. German companies have a dual board system with a 'Vorstand'
(Board) and 'Aufsichtsrat' (Supervisory Board)
11. For a comprehensive discussion on the point see:
Leistungsfahigkeit der Sozialpartnerschaft in der Sozialen
Marktwirtschaft. Briddat, Birger, P., Metropolis, Marburg, 2011.
12. Interview with Michael Rogowski, Suddeutsche Zeitung, 14.10.2004.
13. Bruff, I 'What about the Elephant in the Room? Varieties of
Capitalism, Varieties in Capitalism' NEW POLITICAL ECONOMY Volume: 16
Issue: 4 Pages: 481-5002011
14. RUDZIO, K. In: Die Zeit. Wer hat Angst vor Arbeitnehmern? 8
October 2004, p. 22.
15. One of the Acts regulating codetermination.
16. ADDISON, J. T., BELLMANN, L., SCHNABEL, C. and WAGNER, J. The
Reform of the German Works Constitution Act: A Critical Assessment.
Industrial Relations, Vol. 43, No. 2 (April 2004), p.399.
17. For a good summary see: Raabe, N. 'Die Mitbestimmung im
Aufsichtsrat' Erich Schmidt Verlag GmbH, 2011, pp. 63-88.
18. See a study carried out by the Hans Bockler Stiftung in 2007
which details number of strike days per 1000 workers between
1996-2005. Out of 16 European countries, Germany had the fewest
strike days, Spain the most and the UK was in 7th position with 20
more strike days per 1000 workers than Germany. In Raabe, N., Ibid.
It should be noted however, that currently, the German public sector
trade union Ver. di is carrying out warning strikes following failure
to reach agreement on pay during the latest round of collective
19. See, for example Gorton G and Schmid F; 'Capital, labor and the
firm: A study of German Codetermination. In: Journal of the European
Economic Association Vol. 2: pp.863-905.
20. Management board codetermination was the subject of a number of
scandals involving the suspected lack of neutrality of employee board
representatives in the mid-2000s.
21. See, eg. 'Der Paezedenzfall' Der Tagespiegel, 10 March 2012, page
3 concerning the murder of a Columbian Nestle worker and active trade
22. Bowyer B T and Vail, M. I. Economic Insecurity, the Social Market
Economy, and Support for the German Left. In WEST EUROPEAN POLITICS
Volume: 34 Issue: 4 Pages: 683-705, 2011.
23. Richards, A. 'German Codetermination and the Globalised Economy',
Sheffield University, 2007, unpublished thesis.
24. MERKEL A., quoted in: HANS-BOCKLER STIFTUNG eds. Ergebnisse der
Biedenkopfkommission, Regierungskommission zur Modernisierung der
deutschen Unternehmensmitbestimmung. Dusseldorf, 2007, p.7.
25. MERKEL, A. Rede von der Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel auf dem
Weltwirtschaftskonferenz in Davos am 25. Januar 2006. Die
Bundesregierung (online). Available at:
Rede-von-Bundeskanzlerin-Angel.htm (Accessed 25 March 2006).
26. ARD Survey quoted in Handelsblatt 02.02.2012.
27. Raabe, N. 'Die Mitbestimmung im Aufsichtsrat' Erich Schmidt
Verlag GmbH, 2011.
(c) Angela Richards 2012
III. 'IS DEEP ECOLOGY A REALISTIC POLICY GOAL?' BY DR PRABHU
VENKATARAMAN AND DEVARTHA MORANG
Andrew Light is one of the important figures of environmental
pragmatism. Following the convergence hypothesis of B.G. Norton
(Norton, 1991) he tries to bring a new impetus to the environmental
decision making procedure. He writes about two types of environmental
pragmatism: theoretical pragmatism and meta-theoretical pragmatism. As
a pragmatist he is of the view that in real life situations or
environmental conflict areas we can go with the meta-theoretical
method which talks about the agreeing or compromising attitude among
different groups to arrive at a solution. In this same line Andrew
Light also proposes a compatibilism between 'materialists' (social
ecologists) and 'ontologists' (deep ecologists). He argues for a
tolerant pragmatic position where both theorists and practitioners
require straight forward communication and public participation to
overcome ethical and political environmental issues. He says,
A principle of tolerance in the form of a pragmatic
position which would require radical environmentalists to
leave some questions which divide them to private dispute.
At the same time this pragmatism would require theorists
and practitioners to communicate strait forward public
position that endorses the overriding ethical and political
environmental considerations on which they agree and the
practices which best meet the needs of their mutually
Light, Compatibilism in Political Ecology, 1996, pp.170,171
According to Andrew Light, social ecologists maintain that economic
and societal aspects are basic reasons which have to be reformed in
order to safeguard nature. On the other hand ontologists maintain
that understanding ontological inter-relatedness among the natural
objects and species and self-realization are basically important for
the safeguard of natural objects. In such situations, Light says that
we need a political compatibilism apart from our own ideologies for
constructing a bond among people for safeguarding environmental
degradation and come up for a better policy which can satisfy the
people of diverse backgrounds.
The compatibilism which is generated as a necessary part of
Rorty's neo-pragmatist philosophy for constructing bond of
solidarity between different people (and specifically the
public/ private split as part of that strategy), can be very
useful for structuring a meta-philosophical position within
which radical environmental materialists and ontologists
can work together.
Light, Compatibilism in Political Ecology, 1996, p.179
In this regard Andrew Light wants to bring both deep ecology and
social ecology under the roof of compatibilism. This is a process
involving public participation guided by a 'principle of tolerance to
achieve the desired goals for the environment. Andrew Light even
proposes a Democratic Political Ecology (DPE) where 'democratic' does
not imply any specific form of government but rejects all
anti-egalitarian principles. If there is an environmental crisis
regarding values, or political-economic or ideological differences,
then compatibilism is needed to negotiate the crisis. Thus
compatibilism arises from a compelling situation or urgency to sort
out the best strategy to solve the crisis. He says,
The urgency of the environmental crisis forces a need for a
new form of meta- theoretical compatibilism on the part of
both environmental materialists and ontologists.
Light, Compatibilism in Political Ecology, 1996, p.161
Though Andrew Light comes up with this idea of compatibilism as a
tool for reconciling ontologists and social ecologists, it is not the
case that those ontologists are insensitive to situational demands.
They are also ready to reconcile in terms of making some compromises
in order to take certain policy decisions. We would like to take Arne
Naess as an example in order to substantiate our point.
Arne Naess introduced deep ecological thinking by an article 'The
Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecological Movement' in 1973. It
tries to find an ontological relationship between human and non-human
nature through a process of self-realization. For him 'there is first
of all an inseparable ontological root of the human and non-human
natural world. It implies that human should be identified with nature
not as a separable organism or set of organisms, but as an integrated
part of the larger life/ world system.' (Light, Compatibilism in
Political Ecology, 1996, p. 164). For thinkers like Naess, this type
of individual realization not only forms the relation between man and
nature, but also helps to serve as the basis for environmental
practice and policy.
Arne Naess's solution to the environmental crisis is to take away the
feeling of superiority of the human species, but this solution demands
a change in the perspectives of humans with respect to nature. It
demands an alternative value system, which leads it to be called
Their works deserves to be called deep ecology because it
searches for the roots (and solutions) of ecological
problems in the metaphysical and ethical assumptions that
Reed & Rothenberg, 1993, p. 4
How far this perspective is substantiated? Can it be substantiated or
is it more of a mystic vision rather a philosophical position? Andrew
Light opines that Naess's theory,
... expands from basic principles of ecology to structure a
normative and ontological dimension which, then fully
developed, employs distinctions that can be attributed to
metaphysical rationalism, mysticism and sometimes Eastern
Light, Compatibilism in Political Ecology, 1996, p. 165
The same point is highlighted by other pragmatist thinkers like Bryan
Norton. Norton mentions that deep ecology's basic value difference is
the main barrier for policy formation. Steverson remarks on Norton's
Some philosophers (environmental pragmatists like Norton)
think that this kind of ontological and equal feeling with
other beings of nature leaves deep ecology bereft of a
methodology in terms of environment management and policy
Due to this axiological individualistic framework it is predicted
that deep ecology may not be suitable for policy formation when there
arises an ecological conflict. For Norton, if we think like deep
ecologists that each and every species of the nature are equal and
have the same value then it can't enable policy makers to make
Introducing the idea that other species have intrinsic
value, that human should be 'fair' to all other species,
provides no operationally recognizable constrains on human
behaviour that are not already implicit in the generalized,
cross-temporal obligations to protect a healthy, complex,
and autonomously functioning system for the benefit of
future generation of people.
Norton, 1991, pp. 226-227
Arne Naess is a practical philosopher and it is true that human
beings inevitably rely on the natural objects. In this line of
relation between man and nature there may arise some situations or
conflicts where human beings have to take the decision to kill or
exploit other species for the sake of mankind. In such types of
situation how does a deep ecologists react? While the pragmatists may
claim that the deep ecologists' position is too extreme to take care
of conflicting situations, we argue that it need not be so. Naess,
for instance is as much a practical person in trying to resolve
conflicting situations as he is committed to deep ecology.
Naess was well aware of such types of real situations of man-nature
conflict. In a practical situation some values may be weighed more
over other values. Though his deep ecology recognizes the intrinsic
value of nature, in certain real life problem solving situations this
kind of deep feeling of intrinsic value may be forfeited. Naess admits
that in our day to day life there may be value conflicts. We can't
avoid such value conflicts in the life process. In practice, the
assigning value to the natural objects and sometimes replacing one
value to other both are important.
Naess points out, value conflicts can never be completely
avoided in practice; the process of living entails some
forms of killing, exploitation and suppression.
Fox, 1999, p. 161
Naess's point is that in a deep sense of philosophical experience
there will not be any subject-object dichotomy, there will be no
separation of self and nature.
All things, including persons, lack substance, there is no
ultimate ontological divide between self and nature.
Zimmerman, 1993, p. 261
Naess urges self-realization for our nature and natural objects,
because he feels as an ontologist that only such self-feeling for
other natural things can save nature. If we somehow fail to realize
such feeling than it will be very difficult to save our natural
objects. What the deep ecologists like Naess are trying to develop is
an ethics of feeling. Katie Mcshane observes that ethical norms come
in at least two flavours: what we ought to do and what we ought to
feel. She emphasises the feeling part more because the biocentric
feeling leads to a policy formation. While the pragmatists emphasise
norms for action, deep ecologists on the other hand emphasise norms
of feeling (McShane, 2007).
What we ought to feel and what we ought to do, need not always
contradict. Nor do the pragmatists need to think that the deep
ecologists' mystical and metaphysical approach to nature cannot help
them in resolving human-nature conflicts. While Andrew Light calls
for a compatibilism between deep ecology and social ecology in order
to achieve a pragmatic solution of real life challenges, it is clear
from Naess's arguments that such type of compatibilism with the
anthropocentric view is already available in Naess's discourse. Deep
ecology in this way is quite relevant to the pragmatist for policy
management and to the resolution of the environmental crisis. Deep
ecology talks of a heterogenous group for taking policy decisions:
It [the deep ecology movement] articulates and integrates
the efforts of an ideal ecological team, a team comprising
not only scientists from an extreme variety of disciplines,
but also students of politics and active policy makers.
Naess, 2001, p. 149
As a matter of fact, with its fundamental and basic value for the
environment, deep ecology rather helps in policy making decision
procedures. As Callanan observes,
Intrinsic value is not only extremely common but also an
important value in explaining how people relate to their
environment and the creatures within it. For even if people
don't explicitly recognize it, their love, awe and respect
rely on a non-anthropocentric value of the nonhuman world.
Callanan, 2010, p. 139
So, the deep ecologists like Naess are not totally impractical and
neither their positions are insensitive to human-nature conflict
situations. They do provide some pragmatic ways of resolving the
conflicts, but apart from that, they really want us to feel for
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Dr Prabhu Venkataraman
Assistant Professor (Philosophy)
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology
Guwahati, Assam, Guwahati, India
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology
Guwahati, Assam, Guwahati, India.
(c) Prabhu Venkataraman and Devartha Morang 2012