Over the last few months, we have been airing an interview series on Equal Time for Freethought unofficially called the “Economics of Humanism.” The purpose of these programs is to address what I personally think ought to be the center of focus for 21st Century humanism; that is, humanism ought to redirect its primary focus away from atheism, secularism and religious critique and toward the sociopolitical and economic aspects of human culture.
Humanism, as promoted and defended in the Humanist Manifestos (which serve as modern humanism’s defining documents), is a philosophy or world-view about an ethical, moral system of thought, derived from scientific method, naturalism and reason, and must be applied to the real world. If we want – as is argued in these documents and elsewhere in myriad humanist literature – a cooperative, tolerant, peaceful society where everyone has equal opportunity to live “the good life,” where people are not held back by racism, class-ism, sexism and nationalism, and where we can control or even eliminate the more dangerous sides of human nature such as violence, crime and the actions born from religious fundamentalism, we have to be serious, focused, and even strident about our mission.
The crux of our humanity can be found in our relationships with one another in what we have come to call societies or cultures. The way in which we interact on the large scale as we need to with 6 billion of us on the planet and growing, falls within those areas of study sociologists are interested in – which of course, includes how we govern ourselves (politics) and how we share human made and natural resources (economics). And, If we want to apply humanist ethics and morals to creating a very real planetary humanism, the means must be equal – ethically and morally – to the ends.
The means modern humankind has endeavored at over the last 200 years or so – capitalism, hierarchal democracy, state socialism and Party Communism – have all failed to bring us close enough to the ethical and moral sensibilities of humanism. In fact, too often, they have taken us further away. Therefore, we interviewed for the “Economics of Humanism” series Annalee Newitz on how capitalism’s evils have been represented in horror films in March, Joel Kovel on ecosocialism in April, and Noam Chomsky and Michael Perelman on, in part, the problem of capitalism and old forms of socialism, and what do to about it, in June and July respectively.
And now, for this week and next, we will explore one possible alternative to both capitalism and our current form of democracy.
On Sunday, August 26th, we will speak with Michael Albert as he offers us an overview of Participatory Economics (or ParEcon), at 6:30pm. On Sunday, September 2nd, while America celebrates Labor Day, we will speak to economist Robin Hahnel and political scientist, Stephen Shalom on both ParEcon and Participatory Politics, and how to get from here to there. This program will be a one-hour special beginning at 6:00pm.
The recent conference in NYC of the American Sociological Association spoke to the change human societies must make if their borrowed slogan – ‘Another World is Possible’ – was to be realized in our future. Humanism, which is informed by scientific naturalism, can be on the cutting edge in articulating an overall species-wide philosophy which can inspire, motivate and cut new paths on which we can travel to that world. Sure, atheism and religion will be a part of that endeavor, and we should seek to better understand how they fit – or don’t fit – into our overarching philosophy; but if we fail to make concrete changes in how we organize ourselves on this pale blue dot, nothing else will much matter.