The nine years that have passed since Dada Maheshvarananda first published this precious book have proven its validity and relevance. The first decade of the 21st century dramatically revealed the chaotic, dehumanizing and destructive nature of global capital. Capitalism’s logic of maximum profit in the shortest time, with minimal government regulation and intervention has created a war economy of all against all – people against people, companies against workers and other companies, workers against workers, nations against nations, gender against gender, humans against God, nature and other species. And commercialized fiction still imagines wars between humans and aliens! Humanity seems to have forgotten its spiritual origin and been caught in the trap of fetishes: material wealth, money and power have become the goals not only of the economy, but of life itself.
“PROUT does not ignore the contradictory nature of our human reality, for that is what stimulates our evolving, dynamic character.”
Dada Maheshvarananda’s book enriches the paradigm of P.R. Sarkar, who proposes that human development in its highest sense should be the goal of economic development. Dada emphasizes Sarkar’s conception of an economy that is human-centered, that human beings are multi-dimensional, and that their wholeness encompasses the natural, the individual and the social, the physical, mental, psychic and spiritual. Such a being is in continuous evolution, self-directed in active and creative interaction with the great human family, life as a whole and with the natural environment, in a search for balance, harmony, wellbeing and happiness that is continually being recreated.
The radical nature of this proposal is the second feature of Sarkar’s PROUT, and lies in its viability – the act of making real the vision and dream of an economy that is just, equitable, and harmonious, and which produces wellbeing and happiness for all. Dada illustrates this feasibility with a great wealth of examples, narrated so that anyone reading the book feels confident that PROUT – and every proposal for an economy that is centered on the whole human being, conscious and progressive – is historically viable.
In the holistic and systemic approach of Prout, which I greatly admire, no aspect of human existence is left out. There is critical reflection about the reality of the world, as well as the search for another way of constructing it.
The proposal to place human beings, individually and collectively, in the center of the social relations of production, demands that the economy be treated as valuable, but economics is not the only dimension of human existence on the planet, nor even the most important one. In the work of Sarkar, enriched by Dada, the economy exists alongside political, cultural, environmental and spiritual dimensions, creating a challenge that is just as complex and multidimensional as human beings are.
This is just one aspect of PROUT’s proposal that is close to what we have built under the name of “solidarity socioeconomy”. Other aspects of this convergence include a radical critique of capitalism and emphasis on human values such as altruism, a cooperative spirit, solidarity and mutual respect for human and cultural diversity. Our very survival as a species depends on our developing these qualities, applying them not only with other humans, but also with the Earth and the Cosmos.
PROUT does not ignore the contradictory nature of our human reality, for that is what stimulates our evolving, dynamic character. It enhances our human consciousness, allowing us to adopt an attitude of active collaboration with the Creation. It achieves this by:
- Working to overcome the pseudo-culture that subverts the spirit and will of many people, conditioning them to be self-centered, competitive and aggressive. In addition, deconstructing the illusion that individualism is the highest value, and the capitalist myth that, by maximizing self-interest, everyone benefits.
- Promoting the culture of compassion, altruism, cooperation and solidarity.
- Striving to realize the complementary dimensions of the human being: personal and collective, feminine and masculine, present and historical, active and contemplative, rational and sentimental, instinctive and volitional, material and spiritual, animal, human and superhuman.
Sarkar’s critique of global capitalism is deeply radical, and the author applies it to the reality of Brazil, where he lived for 11 years, and to the world. It is revolutionary, because it examines capitalism not only as a system that organizes the social relations of production, but also for its ontological, ethical and epistemological assumptions. The author examines the fruits of capitalism, not in their abstract sense, but in their historical and social location.
PROUT proposes that personal development has a role in changing the world. Great historical transformations begin with personal choice. Our everyday actions can contribute to significant social change. Each transforming act of improvement joins with others, like small lights merging to form a great effulgence.
This book presents some concepts that are completely redefined. For example, today’s notion of wealth is purely material, centered on capital, money and goods. PROUT greatly expands this concept, designing the economy to satisfy the material needs of human beings and supporting their mental and spiritual growth. Technological progress is also reinterpreted, as that which frees the time of workers from the tasks of mere survival, allowing people to dedicate more and more time to developing their higher capacities.
The author’s analysis of global capitalism is deeply critical. Even as this capitalist system progresses technically and materially, producing an ever-growing abundance of products, it causes growing human suffering. Because of a compulsion to increase the concentration of wealth, capitalists construct increasing numbers of obstacles to the healthy distribution and circulation of money and resources. They commercialize and steal the dignity of not only everything in Nature, but also of the human being.
The book brings together prominent contributing authors from diverse cultures to construct a Proutist vision of socioeconomic and human transformation. The author shares with us Sarkar’s opinion that Karl Marx was not opposed to spirituality or to superior human values.
There are countless spiritual movements that propose that the solution for every human problem lies in the subjective sphere. However, this is not the case with PROUT. Although it is deeply rooted in Indian culture and spirituality, this movement combines action with contemplation, and material human development with the spiritual. It contributes to an undeniable universalism. The book has another value: the author is one of the guides of this movement, combining all the wealth of these proposals with his practical experience and spiritual understanding.
The “utopian” aspect of this proposal may intimidate some readers. I would like to remind them that no system of social organization ever appeared in history based only on the abstract vision of an illuminated thinker. PROUT’s proposal is being lived, even as I write, in a diversity of forms and with different names, by millions of people and communities around the world. The “utopian” dimension of the proposal involves planning for an entire country, and hopefully, all of humanity. But it is practical in that it aspires to be a “realistic utopia.” This vision is anchored in the human being’s wholeness, and enacted in the enlightened lifestyle of a growing number of activists who search for concrete answers to the problems faced by contemporary humanity.
Global capitalism, with its single-minded desire to consume, fails to fulfill the deepest aspirations of humanity as a whole and of each individual. PROUT’s proposal has the power to construct itself in a post-capitalist project that embraces both existential values and the organization of human society.
This proposal is also being submitted to the hard test of the real world. Venezuela, where Dada currently lives, offers favorable conditions for its implementation. And it is exactly in the field of practice that I believe PROUT will network and converge more and more with other grassroots groups that share similar principles, values and vision, such as the solidarity socioeconomy, the solidarity economy, the social economy and the agricultural revolution. Eventually this will become concrete in one or more experiences at the national level, leading towards a cooperative globalization based on solidarity. The ever-more likely potential of this movement is to transform the human species into ultra human beings.
Rio de Janeiro, March 17, 2012.
In 1970 the Brazilian dictatorship imprisoned and tortured Marcos Arruda. Amnesty International lobbied the government to release him. Once released, he was forced into exile for 11 years. He worked with Paulo Freire for four years at the Institute for Cultural Action based in Geneva. He also served as a consultant to the ministries of education in Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and Nicaragua. He received his Master’s degree in Development Economics from American University in Washington, DC, and a doctorate in Education from Universidade Federal Fluminense. He has contributed to several books and has written over one hundred articles and papers. With sociologist Herbert de Souza (“Betinho”), he founded the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (IBASE). Marcos Arruda is director of the Institute of Alternative Policies for the Southern Cone (PACS), which helps educate and train groups of workers in Rio de Janeiro to manage their own enterprises.
After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action is published by InnerWorld Publications, San German, Puerto Rico. Copyright The author. All rights reserved. The book is available from Amazon, Ananda Marga Publications, and Barnes and Nobles.