What kind of world do we want?
To envision our future, it is vitally important to ask: what kind of world do we want? What are the alternative socio-economic models that promote the welfare and development of every person, physically, mentally, and spiritually. What models address fundamental factors like guarantee of minimum necessities of life to all, right to jobs, structure of the economy such as a three-tiered economy (small-scale private enterprises, cooperatives, and large-scale publicly owned key industries), food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture, proper utilization of natural and human resources, and economic democracy. And what model promotes an ecological perspective that sees all facets of this created world as one integral entity.
Every human being should have the opportunity to fully develop and constructively express their physical, mental and spiritual potentials. Current economic systems of development are unable to provide this opportunity. They cannot even ensure the peace, equity, sustainability, basic necessities and social unity required for basic human existence. No amount of reform within a capitalist (or State capitalist – communist) system can change this, as their limitations stem from their fundamental values. Rather than focus on criticizing the defects of the dominant paradigm of development – essentially the centralized capitalist economy where most wealth is vested in the hands of a few – the emphasize should be on developing a universalistic outlook so that people can act for the good of all, being within their collective communities and to enhance their individual development, at all levels of existence (not just the material plane). For this we need an empowering vision that provides a constructive means to build a truly sustainable and abundant future.
Based on a universal humanist outlook, or rather new humanism (neohumanism), that values the welfare of all living beings, the fundamental social objective becomes that all people must have reasonable opportunities and the right (along with responsibilities) – individually and collectively – to develop and progressively utilize their physical, mental and spiritual potentialities, while sustainably coexisting with the other living beings of the Earth. This is the real Principle of Social Equality. Policies and implementation of solutions in the economic, social, cultural and political spheres of life have to adhere to this principle.
Conditions for social transformation
Many people recognize the need for a new paradigm of development required on this planet, but cannot envision how the leviathan global economy, with its allied state power, can be replaced. While this undertaking seems daunting, the inevitable alternative to the continuation of greed-driven, unsustainable growth is collapse. Reforms that ameliorate the excesses of the global economy are not sufficient; they can only slow, but not stem, the tide. Examples of ‘excesses’ include mass accumulations of wealth in the hands of a few (via the centralized capitalist economy), mass pollution of environments, mass destruction of flora and fauna for animal-based food industries, mass ill-health such as the obesity crisis, and so on. Deep solutions, based on new values and new approaches, are necessary. We need a viable means for transitioning to a sustainable and life-promoting society, placing emphasis on providing people with their minimum necessities of life, along with a positive outlook of hope, vision and empowerment.
While recognizing that humanity faces unprecedented problems, and that significant disruptions in social life are now upon us, there does exist a positive outlook on humanity’s future. It sees the difficulties of the present forcing shifts of consciousness and creating conditions for the rapid emergence of a universal humanity, able to work together to develop the rich potentialities of the human species that have been long suppressed by an excessively materialist culture. Let’s open a path through the darkness of the present to this new stage of human existence and to provide a socio-economic paradigm in which humanity’s emerging new consciousness and unity can take root in fertile soil and flourish. Let’s seeks to open a cleared vista, without dogma-created impediments, to the comprehensive fulfillment of human potentialities.
Collective social progress is imperative for a healthy society. Social progress refers to the continued betterment of humanity through meeting its basic needs, then increasing its living standards, including by developing infrastructure to ensure further progress and the creation of opportunities that allow each individual to reach their highest potential. This differs greatly from today’s idea of social progress, which is viewed through a lens of profit, greed and control. But there is another factor that influences our institutions and our subsequent worldview. That is the influence that philosophy has over society and is key to understanding humanity’s current trajectory.
Our advancements in technology and integrated knowledge are tools that can assist us in co-creating an age of prosperity and peace for all. However, for a happy living we need resources – physical, psychic & spiritual – and a clear understanding of how to best utilize these and to rationally distribute them so that everyone can express and reach their best potential. Really, resources are owned by all – there is ‘Cosmic ownership’ of all these resources – and so it follows that fundamentally there is a ‘cosmic inheritance’ by all living beings. Given that is the case there has to be maximum and progressive utilization and rational distribution of resources (and their potentialities) in society in the interest of the good and happiness of all. When resources are handled in such a manner, then the existential and developmental needs of all human beings can be fulfilled. And combined with ethical governance under moral leadership peace, security and unity in human society can be established. Everyone can be protected from all forms of exploitation, and justice can be given to one and all promoting social progress.
PROgressive Utilization Theory – PROUT
In support of these fundamentals the theory of PROUT proposes a political system for good governance of society, and an economic system to assure fulfilment of everyone’s existential wellbeing as well as their utility value. PROUT is an acronym for Progressive Utilization Theory (PRO-U-T) and it stands for progressive utilization of all resources individual, collective and universal for human welfare and also for the betterment of animals, plants and the environment as a whole. PROUT is a socio-economic philosophy that synthesizes the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of human nature. By their maximum utilization and through the rational distribution of resources (starting at the point of potentialities) we can achieve a truly progressive human society.
The central message of PROUT is that it must free human beings from mundane problems so that all will have increasing opportunities for intellectual and spiritual liberation. Shrii Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar (the propounder of PROUT) observed, “Economics today is a theoretical extravaganza. It should be made more practical.” He was of the view that economics must be a precise, practical science and should be properly developed for the welfare of all. PR Sarkar was a philosopher, social reformer, and spiritual teacher dedicated to the task of planetary transformation. Through his actions and teachings he inspired people to develop themselves to their fullest, and to assume greater responsibility for humanity’s welfare.
PROUT is an alternative to the outmoded capitalist and socialist/communist socio-economic paradigms. Neither of these approaches have adequately met the physical, mental and spiritual needs of humanity. PROUT seeks a harmonious balance between economic growth, social development, environmental sustainability, and between individual and collective interests. Combining the wisdom of spirituality with a universal outlook and self-reliance within communities, PROUTist thinkers and activists are creating a new civilizational discourse and planting the seeds for a new way of living.
A few basic tenets of PROUT
Spirituality and progress
Each human being is on an evolutionary path in the course of which they strive for realizing a higher consciousness. True progress is movement that leads to self-realization and spiritual qualities such as compassion and love for all beings. Material or intellectual gains do not necessarily constitute progress unless they contribute to deeper, spiritual well-being. The progressive orientation of society is maintained by making continual adjustments in the use of physical resources and mental potentialities in accordance with spiritual and neo-humanistic values. Human beings are encouraged to construct economic and social institutions to facilitate the attainment of our highest potentialities.
Political democracy and economic democracy have to develop together. People must advocate for economic democracy based on local economic planning, cooperatively managed businesses, local governmental control of key natural resources and key industries (a type of public trust), and socially agreed upon limits on the individual accumulation of wealth. By decentralizing the economy and making sure decision-making is in the hands of local people, we can ensure the adequate availability of food, shelter, clothing, health care and education for all. A decentralized economy can better ensure that the ecological systems of the earth are not exploited beyond their capacity to renew themselves. Environmental stewardship is a requisite for people who are dependent upon these systems for their own survival and well-being.
Basic necessities guaranteed to all
The basic necessities of life must be a constitutional birth right of all members of society. People cannot attain their highest human potential if they lack food, shelter, clothing, health care and education. Meaningful employment with a living wage must be planned to ensure adequate purchasing power for all basic necessities. The standard of guaranteed minimum necessities should advance with increases in the economy’s productive capacity.
For a benevolent society, it is essential that leaders are morally principled and dedicated to serving society as part of their personal progress. Authority should not be centered in the hands of individuals, but should be expressed through collective leadership. The viability of political democracy rests on an electorate possessing three factors:
- Socio-economic consciousness,
- Ethical integrity.
Individuals should have complete freedom to acquire and express their ideas, creative potential and inner aspirations. Such intellectual and spiritual freedom will strengthen the collectivity. Restrictions should only be placed on actions clearly detrimental to the welfare of others. Constraints need to be placed on the accumulation of physical wealth, as excessive accumulation by a few results in the deprivation of many.
In the spirit of universal fellowship, the protection and cultivation of local culture, traditions, language and historical heritage are necessary, but must be in accord with cardinal human values, such as love for all and furthering the development of humanity as a whole. For social justice and a healthy social order, individual and cultural diversity must be accepted and encouraged.
We have to accept the struggle for liberation against all forms of violence and exploitation used to suppress women. Here the goal is coordinated cooperation, with equal rights between men and women. As well, to seek the economic and social empowerment of women throughout the world, expression of culture and leadership, including spiritual.
Science and technology
Scientific knowledge and technology are potential assets to humanity. Through their proper use, the physical hardships of life decrease and knowledge is gained about the secrets of life. Time is freed for cultural, intellectual and spiritual pursuits. However, the development and utilization of scientific knowledge must come under the guidance of neohumanist values and ethical leadership. Without this, technology is often abused by profiteers and the power-hungry, resulting in destruction and exploitation.
PROUT supports the creation of a world governance system having a global bill of rights, global constitution and common penal code in order to guarantee the fundamental rights of all individuals and populations within nations and territories of the world, and to settle regional and international disputes. As the global economy becomes decentralized, it will be advantageous to also have a global political system so that common standards of law-making, application of laws and dispute resolution is achieved.