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Revolution or Renaissance

D. Paul Schafer


D. Paul Schafer

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1This is a book about economics and culture: two of the most powerful forces at work shaping our world.

2The first of these forces - economics - gave rise to the economic age we are living in at present. It is an age that has made economics, economies, and economic growth in general, and the production and consumption of material and monetary wealth, consumerism, materialism, and the marketplace in particular, the centrepiece of society and the world system. It has done so because this is deemed to be the most effective way of dealing with people’s needs and wants in all areas of life.

3While the economic age has produced many benefits, particularly for people and countries in the West, it is not capable of coming to grips with the fundamental problems confronting humanity. This is because it is based on theoretical, practical, and historical foundations that are incompatible with solving these problems. This is especially true with respect to the environmental crisis, climate change, the gap between rich and poor nations and rich and poor people, and, most notably, the escalating pressure of human numbers on the finite carrying capacity of the planet.

4Hence the need to create an age that is capable of confronting these problems, and others that have loomed up on the global horizon in recent years. Of all the possible forces upon which such an age could be founded, culture provides the most promising possibilities. This is largely because culture possesses a number of properties that are of crucial importance to the world of the future. Most prominent among these properties is the capacity for holism, sharing, cooperation, conservation, creativity, and the ability to provide a bridge between human beings and the natural environment. Clearly we have only begun to realize the rich potential culture possesses to create the conditions for a better world.

5It is to a cultural age, then, that attention is directed in the second part of the book. How would a cultural age function? What foundations would underlie it? What priorities would drive it? How would it flourish most effectively? These are the tough and demanding questions that must be asked-and answered-in order to make the cultural age a reality.

6In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to delve deeply into the domain of culture, both as a concept and as a reality. What emerges is a portrait of the world system of the future where culture and cultures are developed in breath and depth, situated effectively in the natural, historical, and global environment, and the necessary safeguards are established to ensure that culture and cultures are used for constructive rather than destructive purposes. This is imperative if global harmony, environmental sustainability, economic viability, and human well-being are to be achieved in the future.

7While this is not specifically a book about governance or public policy, it is very much concerned with these matters in the final analysis. For it is concerned with the need to reduce the demands human beings are making on the natural environment, as well as to make it possible for people in all countries of the world to enjoy reasonable standards of material living and opportunities for a great deal of creative and spiritual fulfilment. And it is concerned with doing this without straining the globe's finite resources and fragile ecosystem to the breaking point.

8I would like to thank Gao Xian and the Social Sciences Academic Press for translating this book into Chinese and publishing it in China in 2006. I would also like to thank a number of people whose contributions to my work over the years have meant so much to me, especially Walter Pitman, Biserka Cvjeticanin, Jack Fobes, Guy Métraux, Eleonora Barbieri Masini, Ervin Laszlo, Erika Erdmann, John Gordon, Bill McWhinney, Prem Kirpal, André Fortier, Sheila Jans, Joy MacFadyen, Arthur Witkin, Attila and Elfriede Bimbó, Tony Saadat, and Réal Bédard. A special note of thanks is due to the team at the University of Ottawa Press-Dr. Gilles Paquet, Eric Nelson, Marie Clausén, Jessica Clark, Patrick Heenan, and especially Alex Anderson-for the key role they played in editing, publishing, and promoting this book. Finally, I would like to thank my family-Nancy, Charlene, Susan, and Cinnamon-for their support and understanding during the writing of the book. While recognizing these contributions, I nevertheless assume full responsibility for everything contained in the text.

9Markham, Canada 2008

© Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press, 2008

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