Lean Logic: a Dictionary for the Future
Excerpts from the late David Fleming’s 'Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It', chosen by the book’s editor, Shaun Chamberlin.
Lean Logic: a Dictionary for the Future
Photo by Samrat Katwal
By David Fleming and Shaun Chamberlin / localfutures.org

Localisation.  Localisation stands, at best, at the limits of practical possibility, but it has the decisive argument in its favour that there will be no alternative.

Does that mean the end of travel? On the contrary, it means the end of mass dislocation – and the recovery of place. Almost wherever you go in the market economy, you find yourself in the same place – in the globalised market with its shared banality, its fullness; at the end of every lane is a busy road and a housing estate like the one at the beginning of it. You cannot get out of a globalised world, because there is no out. Localisation means the protection of distinctiveness: when you are out, you are somewhere else, in a different in.

Travel now finds its purpose, taking you to a place which is not in essentials identical to the one you have left, but to one that is interesting and finds you interesting, that wants to hear your song, that dances to a different tune.

See also: Delocalisation, Local Wisdom, Presence, Scale

 

Needs and Wants. A distinction between needs and wants has been made by many critics in the green movement and its predecessors, who have argued that consumption in response to our needs is justifiable and sustainable, but consumption in response to our wants is not.

Yet this notion that needs are good and wants bad does not survive inspection. For the anthropologists Douglas and Isherwood, it is a “curious moral split [that] appears under the surface of most economists’ thoughts on human needs”. Lean Logic argues that those economists have it somewhat back-to-front.

The heaviest burden of the modern economy, by far, is that imposed by its own elaborations. Any large-scale economy requires massive infrastructures and material flows just to support itself and keep existing. Such sprawling industrial economies have massively multiplied our needs, our ‘regrettable necessities’. Regardless of whether we want them, we need the sewage systems, heavy-goods transport, police-forces… Given the substantial scale of the task of feeding, raising and schooling a suburban family, and the increasing challenge of such routine needs as finding a post office, many of us undoubtedly need cars. The collapse of local self-reliance was both the cause and the effect of the massive elaboration of transport, and when that need can no longer be met, its life-sustaining function will be bitterly recognised.    

It is, then, the elaboration of needs by large-scale industrial life that causes the trouble. Our wants are squeezed-out, much-missed and light by comparison, not least because they often involve labour-intensive crafts and services – pianists, craftsmen, dress-makers, waitresses, gardeners with minimum environmental impact. Some wants are also needs, of course, and they cannot be cleanly separated, but if we focus our efforts on finding a way, under the stresses of the climacteric, of achieving a substantial and rapid liquidation of our needs, we will be getting somewhere.

See also: Growth, Intentional Waste, Invisible Goods, Lean Economics, Scale, Slack

 

No Alternative, The Fallacy of. (1) The fallacy that there is no alternative (but you may not have looked hard enough). (2) The fallacy that, because there is no alternative to the particular strategy that is being discussed, that strategy must be feasible. Example: It is argued that the other big energy options are not going to provide solutions in the future, and that therefore the solution is a vast expansion of nuclear energy. But this is a non sequitur: the lack of feasibility of the other options tells us nothing about whether an expansion of nuclear power is feasible or not.

 

Peasant. A person practicing small-scale, mixed, energy-efficient, fertility-conserving farming designed chiefly for local subsistence. It is integrated into local culture. It is the defining practice of the community. This model of farming, however, became briefly obsolete in the market economy, with its abundant cheap energy, enabling a different one to develop which did not need to supply its own energy and sustain its own fertility.

Peasant farming is a skilled and efficient way of sustaining food production within the limits of the ecology. It is an eco-ethic, sustaining the measured synergy with nature that we find in Tao philosophy. It has the five properties of resilience.

But it has a flaw. It is highly productive, so it yields a surplus, and this is a tempting resource for the gradual evolution of an urban civic society, with its unstoppable implications of growth, hubris and trouble. Is there a way of learning from that dismal cycle, and sustaining, instead, a localised, community-based, decentralised society, without the seeds of its own destruction…?

 

Place. Space whose local narrative can still be heard, and could be heard again, given the chance. Place is the practical, located, tangible, bounded setting which protects us from abstractions, generalities and ideologies and opens the way to thinking as discovery. On this scale, there is elegance, and some relief from the need to be right, for if you are wrong, the small scale of place allows for revision and repair, supported by conversation.

Place is the endangered habitat of our species.

See also: County, Harmless Lunatic, Home, Identity, Localisation, Parish, Practice, Proximity Principle, Regrettable Necessities, Scale, Transition

 

Protection. The act of caring for something that you value, or for which you are responsible – it is a deep behaviour which, in some senses, is shared by all living things. It is widely supposed to be a good thing, except in the case of economies, which are required to dance to the single tune of perpetual competition. True, natural selection is a condition of all living things, too. But species with less intelligence than ours use both. It is time we caught up.  

Lean Economics is about protecting the right of local economies to proceed on a different basis.

On such matters, market economics is far from neutral. It takes the view that the competitive market is the only sound basis for economy, politics and culture, and it advocates its case with evangelical conviction: if there is a society somewhere which is not based on the market, it needs to be saved.

In a taut, competitive, growing market, it is true that protectionism is not a good idea. …

But, of course, there are circumstances in which free, unprotected trade is not what an economy needs, and we are coming to a time when they can be discussed without inviting derision. Competitive free trade comes with a commitment to growth, i.e. to the rubbing out of diversity and local self-reliance, to resource-depletion, pollution, the loss of social capital and resilience – and eventual collapse. It is too late to consider protection against these things; the damage has already been done. But protection of what is left of indigenous food production and steps toward local self-reliance and reduced dependence on fossil fuels for every aspect of food production would be rational.

See also: Local Currency, Nation

 

System-Scale Rule. The key rule governing systems-design: large-scale problems do not require large-scale solutions; they require small-scale solutions within a large-scale framework.

 

Time, Fallacies of.

The Permanent Present.  The fallacy which gives undue emphasis to the present when considering an option with long-term consequences. Examples include arguments that our present ability to import food justifies permanent burial of agricultural land under new housing, that joining the Eurozone is justified by today’s low interest rates there, that the state of the jobs market at the moment calls for migrant labour, that the current price of oil opens the way to a long-term expansion of air travel. This presumption of a constant present is a leading symptom of the dementia that afflicts the judgment of governments – dementia absens: the patient is so elevated, so far removed from ordinary life, so taken up with a global vision, so protected by experts, so busy, so short of sleep, and so absent, that he or she has no sense of time or place. (Abstraction, Presence).

And there is a risk that the values of the present may crowd out all other values. The question, “What is right?”, short-circuits to the answer, “Whatever is now”.

 The Irrelevant Past.  An argument that affirms that now is a special case in that the present has achieved standards of reason and ethics which have not been available before. The fallacy typically cites the fact that this is the twenty-first century as proof that the argument is correct:

“By the end of the 20th century, the independent sector had emerged pre-eminent in the British education system but the only vision the independent sector has today remains entrenched in the 20th century… We need new vision for the independent sector in the 21st century… It is no longer tenable in 2008 to retain 20th century apartheid thinking.”  (Anthony Seldon (2008), “Enough of this Educational Apartheid”.)

The Irrelevant Past argument begs the question: if the proposal would change things around from how they were in the past, it is self-evidently a good thing.

Here is the scientist-philosopher Mary Warnock being sympathetic with the unfortunates who are so stuck in the past that they are opposed to genetically-modified crops:

“[For] many confused and vaguely frightened people, the new biotechnology seems to have opened up possibilities of changing the genes of plants and animals in a way which nature, or God as the Creator, never intended. … [And now] the argument has moved on [to] the myth of an unnatural creature being formed in the laboratory whose growth and behaviour could not be controlled. It was upon such fears that Mary Shelley played, as long ago as 1818, in her story of Frankenstein.”

Oh dear. Perhaps we should learn from the future?

See also: FeedbackSystems Thinking

 

Transformation, The Great. The Great Transformation has already happened. It was the revolution in politics, economics and society that came with the market economy, and which hit its stride in Britain in the late eighteenth century. Most of human history had been bred, fed and watered by another sort of economy, but the market has replaced, as far as possible, the social capital of reciprocal obligation, loyalties, authority structures, culture and traditions with exchange, price and the impersonal principles of economics.

Unfortunately, the critics of economics have had a tendency to discuss the whole structure as a tissue of misconceptions. It is a critique that fails. The strength of economics is its considerable, if far from complete, understanding of the flows and comparative advantages that underlie trade, jobs, capital and incomes, and the logic of optimising behaviour, all backed by glittering accomplishment in mathematics. That makes it a powerful analytical instrument, so that just a few misconceptions – such as a failure to understand the informal economy or resource depletion – can have leverage: like a baby monkey at the controls of a Ferrari, they can turn it into an instrument with extraordinarily destructive potential. If it were a tissue of errors, it would not be dangerous: it is its 90 percent brilliance which makes it so.

Economics has therefore been seductive. The market economy is effective for sustaining social order: the distribution of goods, services and other assets is facilitated by buying and selling, supporting a network of exchange to which everyone has access. It provides suppliers with the incentive to know their markets and respond to them; it uses ‘pull’ rather than top-down regulation, and it learns from experience, so it is effective and efficient. It supports a more egalitarian society than any other large-scale state has been capable of and it saves a great deal of trouble: it has appealed to minds glad of a cognitive technology which enabled them to make decisions according to mathematical models, and with little fear of contradiction.  

Douce commerce”, sweet commerce, wrote Jacques Savary, an early management consultant, in a textbook for businessmen (1685), “makes for all the gentleness of life.” The authorities themselves agreed: commerce is the most “innocent and legitimate way of acquiring wealth”, observed an edict of the French government in 1669; it is “the fertile source which brings abundance to the state and spreads it among its subjects”.

Indeed, the government’s main task in a mature market economy is to keep it free of obstacles that might stop it growing – like a bemused farmer would treat the enchanted goose: keep the foxes out so that it can go on magically laying its golden eggs.

Its achievements and answers sound authoritative and final, but what is truly most significant about them is how naïve they are – if the flow of income fails, the powerfully-bonding combination of money and self-interest will no longer be available on its present all-embracing scale, and perhaps not at all. And it must inevitably fail, as the market’s taut competitiveness demands ever-increasing productivity and thus relies on the impossibility of perpetual growth.

In the meantime, the reduction of a society and culture to dependence on mathematical abstraction has infantilised a grown-up civilisation and is well on the way to destroying it. Civilisations self-destruct anyway, but it is reasonable to ask whether they have done so before with such enthusiasm, in obedience to such an acutely absurd superstition, while claiming with such insistence that they were beyond being seduced by the irrational promises of religion. Every civilisation has had its irrational but reassuring myth. Previous civilisations have used their culture to sing about it and tell stories about it. Ours has used its mathematics to prove it.

Yet, when this relatively short-lived market-society is gone, we will miss its essential simplicity, its price mechanism, its self-stabilising properties, its impersonal exchange, the comforts it delivers to many, and the freedoms it underwrites. Its failure will be destructive.

And the end is in sight; during the early decades of the century, the market will lose its magic. It is the aim of Lean Logic to suggest some principles for the design of a replacement.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
6 Toxic Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Normal
Mark Manson · 9,934 views today · There’s no class in high school on how to not be a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, they teach us the biology of sex, the legality of marriage, and maybe read a few...
This Polish Ad Will Give You The Feels, For Reals
3 min · 7,689 views today · This is an ad for Allegro, a Polish company similar to eBay, and it's heartwarmingly lovely.
Time-Lapse Satellite Images Give a Startling Snapshot of Past 30 Years on Earth
2 min · 6,546 views today · Working with satellite images from NASA and the US Geological Survey, Google has created a searchable snapshot of the past 3 decades on Earth, creating startling time-lapses of...
Dr. Maya Angelou: Love Liberates
5 min · 4,561 views today · Words to live by from Dr. Maya Angelou. Love each other.
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 2,436 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 1,942 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
15 Easy Things You Can Do to Help When You Feel Like Shit
Maritsa Patrinos · 1,109 views today · You don’t have to tackle it all at once.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,074 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,020 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Problem with Hating Our Enemies
Charles Eisenstein · 819 views today · He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee. —Nietzsche
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 719 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
The Lid Is off, The Truth Is Coming Out
Charles Eisenstein · 561 views today · It is getting harder to keep a secret these days. The collective shadow of our society, once safely relegated to the dark basement of the unmentionable, is now exposed to...
Sleaford Mods on Brexit Britain
4 min · 522 views today · In early 2014 the Guardian hailed duo Sleaford Mods as ‘the most uncompromising British protest music made in years’. Here, we go backstage at a Sleaford Mods gig in their...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 454 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 423 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 353 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 347 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Defiance in the Face of Oppression - Iranian Artist Atena Farghadani Defends the Right to Draw
Gavin Aung Than · 307 views today · Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old Iranian artist. She was recently sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for drawing a cartoon.  
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 271 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 255 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Lean Logic: a Dictionary for the Future