Major Forces of Human Society in the History and Our Time

Note: below is what I said during a Buddhism discussion about Buddhism Economy. Here I just revise a little and put it here.

The way I look at human history is somehow different. I view human history as a history of how human beings organize together, how organizations/institutions arises under various forces in the historical context. So it is very interesting to see how the core values of individual human beings get reflected collectively in the organization/institutions under various forces at a certain historical time.

Now in the west, there are a lot of reflection on capitalism. Most of them, especially views from progressive/grassroots communities, are quite harsh criticism of capitalism. But to really understand capitalism, it is better to go back to human history before capitalism to better understand it.

When we look at capitalism, we need to compare it to what was before it, the feudalism. In the feudal society, it is ruled by military power, by bloodline. That is how its hierarchy is maintained. It is maintained by raw forces. That is the dominant fore that was in play in the feudal society.

With new technology, as the productivity improves, the capital become a more and more important force, until it can fight against the raw force. In the rising of capitalists, they naturally demand democracy and protection of private property, and so on. But some of them will get increasingly attached to the wealth and greediness, and thus want to use the system to maintain themselves on the top. More importantly, they feel they need to maintain the hierarchy for the purpose of mass production. Although knowledge is power in the time of capitalism, capital still plays a dominant role and professionals are dictated by the capitalists.

In our time, capital plays less and less important role, and real professionals become more and more important and able to accomplish themselves. Capital more serves the purpose of professionals, instead of dictating them. We can see this in engineering, music industry and journalism.

So trying to do your professional very well is the same as saying playing the art of your life. With this, it ties in with Buddhism. How can we have more people to have a chance to practice Buddhism or experience what Buddha experienced through their real life? They have to play with their arts of life. So from Buddhism’s perspective, to build a better society is to build a society in which everyone can pursue what s/he likes to do.

Above is a very simplified version to just give you an idea. The complete story is of course very complicated and tangled, like a huge novel. A lot of evidences and theories can be added to elaborate more. I think I might put them into other posts in the future. Basically the key is to look at various forces at play collectively in the human world. My basic conclusion is: given more choices to try and develop, collectively the core values of human beings can less be suppressed by institutional forces imposed top down, and thus the core values can be more able to be expressed collectively. And thus human society, as an organic whole, has more life and be richer and more beautiful.

(If your art is software programming, you can feel how the core values of a domain can be better reflected when you program with a better programming language (such as Python), how the core values can be less restricted by the artificial barriers set up by the programming language, and thus how life can emerge out of it and be more beautiful. I think in other arts it is the same. That is why everyone has to pursue an art of life in order to experience this and thus understand self.)

We have to let people play, and learn (e.g. expanding the space) naturally.

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Filed under Chan/Zen, Grassroots

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