1. It was Thomas Kuhn who noted in his famous analysis of how revolutions in the physical sciences happen, that when the dominant paradigm that organizes our thinking and actions increasingly clashes with the reality most of us experience, that specific paradigm is ripe for change.(i)
(i): Reality does not forgive theory a single error… (Lev D. Trotsky)
2. Now, to achieve a world in which millions of people are ‘left behind,’ let alone systematically crushed, we urgently need a paradigm shift, as opposed to just a gap-filler for the ubiquitous market failures.(ii) (Beware though that there is always a danger that the powers-that-be block such a progressive shift –and that there is an equally significant danger that they coopt the shift). (A.Yamin)
(ii): Being a good consumer does not equal being a good human, despite what the current dominant paradigm would have us believe.
3. From the point of view of their genesis, the universal European principles and values (more recently also said Western) are a contradiction in terms because, if they are European, they cannot be considered universal and, if they are universal, they are not European. What distinguishes European principles is the political, economic and cultural dominance of all countries that, since the XV-XVI century, have seized the right to claim these principles as their own and impose them on others under the pretext of being universal. (Note that since the end of the First World War this claim has been Euro-American).
4. All values are universal, but some are more important than others. With John Locke (1632-1704), at the dawn of capitalism, the right to individual property preceded all others. Since then (or before) it has been legitimate to violate other of the universal principles and values, because the legitimate interpretation given to universal values is that which is set by the hegemonic power of the moment that, among other, authorizes and justifies the repression of citizens’ freedoms.
5. When it is not possible to silence the violations of universal values by the allies of the hegemonic power, such violations are trivialized or justified referencing them to other supposedly superior values. Long live the prevailing hypocrisy and duplicity!
6. Universal values are found in a catalog that can be consulted by all, but only the hegemonic powers decide what goes into these values. On the one hand, values and principles of some non-European in origin are considered Western, but non-Western contributions are not admitted into the catalog of universal values. It is appropriate to ask how long the catalog of universal values will be under Western domination and with what consequences for human rights. Will there be a transition from Eurocentrism to sinocentrism? Or can we finally aspire to a world without cardinal points or hierarchical centers where cultural and political diversity is possible, under the protection of emancipatory values that ought not be violated according to the convenience of those who have more power? (Boaventura de Sousa and Santos).
7. So, as relates to the power of domination, there are three main forms in which the paradigm establishes power over us:
• the power imposed by force,
• the power obtained by authority (scientific or other), and
• the power of seduction that neutralizes the ability to discriminate. Hence the need to go deeper into the concept of power.(iii)
(iii): Organic Intellectuals is the expression Gramsci used for the unconditional justifiers of power (namely the gatekeepers of the dying paradigm)
8. The alternatives are either to keep the paradigm (by force?) or to innovate/replace it proactively using, perhaps, conscience over science and, above all, avoiding inertia and bias in ‘the angle of view’ that the paradigm makes all of us use, (Luis Weinstein), i.e., a call here not to beat-around-the-bushes and go straight to the root of the issues the gatekeepers are hanging-on to.
In short: We have a social order that is collapsing, and another must be born against a background of human emancipation, not passively, but in dispute
-The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
9. The postwar neoliberal economic project is nearing its end. The question is who will write the last chapter, –the totalitarians? The economic neoliberal paradigm underpins the past 70 years of Western economic and cultural order. Though it contains the word liberal, neoliberalism was originally devised by libertarian-conservative economists and political scientists as an alternative to authoritarianism.
10. About 30 years ago, the project started to fray at the edges; take:
• The jobs that neoliberalism offered: they had lower pay, fewer benefits, and less opportunity for advancement.
• Technology, which had promised to make our lives easier and more connected, started to get so complicated, and advance at a pace so dizzying, that it no longer felt within anybody’s control.
• The social media joined the project, but also bred resentment and social fragmentation.(iv)
• Automation and online commerce erased many local economies, communal local meeting places, and even local news sources.
• Consumerism that was supposed to fill people’s lives with the material rewards necessary for happiness, instead left many feeling empty as cultures and identities got swallowed-up by the shapeless, antiseptic, profit-obsessed international economy.
(iv): No technology company controlling the social media should be so big that a single CEO’s decision about algorithms move markets and redefine political conversations. They should neither be allowed to purposefully target young children. These technologies are to serve us, not rule us. (Senator Chris Murphy)
11. The result, today, is a very real epidemic of unhappiness. People grope for meaning and sense a depressing, decreasing personal control over their own future.
12. Promises to undo economic neoliberalism have shown to be empty rhetoric though. Instead, we witness an unending parade of alternatives that ultimately cater to the very status-quo forces serving its biggest beneficiaries, i.e., using government as a crude means to deliver favors to its billionaire and corporate friends. Hostility toward regulation make these biggest beneficiaries allergic to setting new rules for greater social justice. (C. Murphy)
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
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