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March 14, 2009

Market – and only market.

Filed under: Carl Jung, gandhi, gandhian principles, market, Sigmund Freud — neosurya @ 19:36

We had been to Satish’s farm last Saturday. Their story is similar to that of Srikanth and Priti at vanashree: I will not repeat the aspects of simple living and so on over here. It is better described at several other websites.

I wonder what would be the social implications if people take to such lifestyles on a large scale. Often, people say that such a simple life, or “the Gandhian way” is anti-development. I beg to differ. The way most “development” is designed right now, it is designed to only serve a “market”. The larger the market, the better the development. This cannot be the best model that our economists, researchers, and industrialists can come up with.

There has to be a middle ground between crass commercialization, market economy principles, and the North-Korea/Cambodia style defeatist principles. As for a window into current “market development”, it would help looking at a sample of the products that hit markets, I quote an article I saw on Onion:

== Begin quote ==
“Often, when we’re assigned a new order for, say, ‘salad shooters,’ I will say to myself, ‘There’s no way that anyone will ever buy these,'” Chen said during his lunch break in an open-air courtyard. “One month later, we will receive an order for the same product, but three times the quantity. How can anyone have a need for such useless shit?”

“I hear that Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I’ve made for them,” Chen said. “And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible.”
== End quote ==

Of course, not all products are this bad. Some innovations are really useful. But much of it is junk, or given the environmental hazards posed, worse than junk :). The effect of a purely market economy can go deeper than creating junk. It subtly alters people to think that they are happy while indulging in products, and satisfying such an indulgence is most important for “life”. BBC had a series called “The Century of the Self”. It is a documentary about the understanding of human behavior vis-a-vis market economy and large businesses (Available on google video). The works of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud make for very interesting reading here.

This is where Gandhian living kicks in. It focusses on people satisfying their basic needs through their own hard work, and looking for external resources only when absolutely needed. A typical argument against this lifestyle is that it stunts progress; Science is like evolution and needs to be done in baby steps (I agree with this). If one ventures to science only when absolutely needed, there will be disorganized, slow, or stunted development. For example, if vaccum cleaners were never invented, the “roomba“, an automatic vaccum cleaner would never have been invented. This is a very subjective argument for which a short answer is not possible. However, in the current era, it is easy to see that most science has been overtaken by a market phenomena. Too frequently, the fundamental technology, and even a study of its effectiveness at solving the stated problem gets much less importance than the buzz factor generated. It gets even more dangerous when profit becomes the prime driving force behind industry. A lifestyle that is focussed on only solving the most important problems will not let go of scientific advances completely. It may be a model that can eliminate mass-producing the “junk” that gets generated by intermediate results.


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