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Monthly Archives: December 2011


Can relationism be or become an ideology for the 21st century? What will the new ideology be, following neo-liberal market thinking? How will thinking about society evolve after the post-modern era? 

It will be an ideology that unlike its predecessors will be rooted in necessity rather than in opportunity. Capitalism and Communism were ideals that came from a desire to either foster individual entrepreneurs or a collective workforce and possessions. Neo-liberalism, nurtured and brought to maturity by Reagan an Thatcher, further strengthened the individual freedoms of capitalism. 

This individual liberty was built on the presumption that we live on an infinite planet. This is simply not the case. 

The current crisis, now about six years of age, started not with a housing buble – although greed and credit for consumption did play a role. It is more plausible that rising inequality and diminishing fossil fuel reserves sparked the downfall. Inequality leads to status anxiety and thus increased consumption of status related goods. Social status is, as Wilkinson and Pickett discovered, such a strong driver that it may be held responsible for the increase in consumptional credit. However, these effects will be very hard to prove scientifically. 

The rising oil price just before the crisis hit is quite the opposite; it’s so hard to miss that it is amazing so few people came up with it as an explanation for the crisis. Between 2004 and 2008 the oil prices have risen five-fold (from about $25 per barrel to $125). No wonder people ran out of money to pay down their mortgages. 

But rising fossil fuel prices are an indication of something again related; globally resources are running out. That’s the bad news. 

The good news is that people do not become happier after a certain income threshold is reached (about $10.000 annually). If only status anxiety can be overcome, increasing patterns of consumption are unnecessary to become happy people. Most people in the West can easily do with less without giving in on quality of living, since happiness, or subjective well-being, is dependent mostly on the quality of human relationships. 

Now this is the case, the individually focussed neo-liberal ideal is obsolete. Although the liberation of the individual was necessary and still in some places is a prerequisite, now a strong focus on relationships between human beings with each other and the ecosystems supporting us is increasingly important. 

The visions in the Relationist Manifest are from this perspective within reach. Relationism can be the name for an ideology that has to be embraced in order for us to merely survive. And if we do so, we might even thrive and prosper, depending on the remaining stability of the climate and other highly contingent factors sustaining human life on earth. 

Outline of conclusions:

* how proposals help live with and solve crises

* balance between physical and mental survival crucial

* individual and social survival are strongly connected. social belonging main human need.

* know that the totally unexpected will happen; focus on dealing with consequences rather than probabilities. You don’t know what will happen. Work on improving your chances for riding positive waves of serendipity and avoid being hit by negative improbabilities.

* energy transition is a necessity (and underway)

How a goal saves your life

Let’s see… when in recent history did the shit really hit the fan? Viktor Frankl has seen it all. As a psychiatrist – and prisoner – in Auschwitz he learned to see when a man would break. So what was the psychological difference between life and death? It is in the story of one man Frankl new, who believed war would end on a certain date: 30 March, less than a month into the future. When the 30st day came, he fell into a coma. One day after learning that his believe was wrong, he died.

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How the divorce between power and politics leads to increased insecurity

People feel more insecure because politics and power have been disconnected. Multinational corporations make decisions within transnational market conditions that can just marginally be controlled. This feeling of insecurity undoubtedly goes with the fear of losing jobs and material welfare; legitimate fears. Zygmunt Bauman describes them:

Power is the ability to act, Bauman argues. Politics is the ability to decide what will happen. Power and politics have been torn apart. Where politics used to have power to make thinks happen, they can now only make plans but have limited power for their execution.

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Resource Crisis – introduction

We are running out of natural resources. Limited resources for more people means trouble. What are we running out of exactly, how do these relate and what does it mean?

Zizek, with Ed Ayres, sees four spikes of environmental threat: population growth, consumption of resources, carbon gas emissions, mass extinction of species.[1]

Bloomberg recently turned things around; it’s not that humanity is threatening the earth, but the earth treats humanity. That is, they distinguished nine boundaries that will threat human living conditions. From their perspective (see image), it’s first and foremost declining biodiversity that will render the planet uninhabitable.

Main conclusion is that systems that support human life are being depleted now rapidly, with unpredictable effects but with food being the ultimate resource. Some of these we are experiencing already quite forcefully; high oil prices, rising food prices, atmospheric instability.

The most important dimensions of resource depletion will be described in this part.

  1. [1]Zizek 2011: 327, quoting Ed Ayres (2001), quoted in Rolston, “Four Spikes, Last Chance”, Conservation Biology 14:2, pp. 584-5.


Proposals – Ideas for guidance

Brown, Lester (2009). Plan B 4.0. Mobilizing to Save Civilization. New York: Norton. download pdf (free).

  1. documentary by PBS: watch here.

Brown, Lester (2011). World on the Edge. How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. New York: Norton. download pdf (free).

Rifkin, Jeremy (2011). The Third Industrial Revolution. How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, The Economy, And The World. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. on amazon.
Interview (27 min.). Animation on the Empathic Civilization (11 min.).

Rifkin, Jeremy (2009). The Empathic Civilization. New York: Tarcher/Penguin. (abstract).

Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007). The How of Happiness: A Practical Guide to Getting The Life You Want. London: Sphere. (abstract)

Gene Sharp (1993). From Dictatorship to Democracy. Bankok: Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in Burma. Online or pdf (4th US edition, 2010).

Robinson, Ken (2009). The Element. How finding your passion changes everything. New York: Penguin.
Animated TED-talk on changing education paradigms (12 min.)
Tex Gunning (2011). Value Based Education. NIVOZ-lecture 13 October 2011. PDF (Dutch).
On Value-based Education:


Victims of the Crisis (who pay)

Human Impact Report (2009).

Sirimanne (2009). The gender perspectives of the financial crisis. Paper written for the Commission on the Status of Women, Fifty-third session New York, 2 – 13 March 2009. download.

Bauman, Zygmunt (2011). Collateral Damage. Cambridge: Polity.

Collier, Paul (2007). The Bottom Billion. Why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it. Oxford: Oxford University Press


Diamond, Jared (1997). Guns, Germs and Steel. New York: Norton

Judt, Tony (2010). Ill Fares The Land. London: Penguin.

Wilkinson and Pickett (2010). The Spirit Level. Why Equality is Better for Everyone. London: Penguin.

Financial crisis (2008) explained

The Inside Job. Documentary. Sony Classics / Ferguson 2010. download transcript.


Martenson, Chris (2011). The Crash Course – The Unsustainable Future of our Economy, Energy and Environment. New Jersey: Wiley.


Magnus, George (2009). The Age of Aging – How Demographics are Changing the Global Economy and our World. New Jersey: Wiley.

Pogge, Thomas (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights. Cambridge: Polity.

Hessel, Stephane (2010). Indignez-Vous! Montpellier: Indigène éditions.

Taleb, Nassim (2007). The Black Swan. The Impact of the Highly Improbable. London: Penguin.

Klein, Naomi (2007). The Shock Doctrine – The rise of Disaster Capitalism. London: Pengiun.

Frankl, Viktor E. (1946). Man’s search for Meaning. Original published as Ein Psycholog erlebt das Konzentrationslager. Wenen: Verlag für Jugend und Volk.

Zizek, Slavoj (2011). Living in The End Times. London: Verso.

Dostoevski, Fjodor. Crime and Punishment. (link to online English version)

Big Picture analysis

Ashcroft, Ross (2011). The Four Horsemen. Documentary. (website).

Egmond, Klaas van (2011). Een vorm van Beschaving. Zeist: Christofoor. (abstract – in Dutch)

Diamond, Jared (2005). Collapse. How societies choose to fail or survive. London: Penguin.

Metanexus. Institute focused on big and connected thinking. Company striving to collect knowledge connecting the dots.; bigger picture analysis starting from oil depletion.

Big History of life and the Universe by Harvard prof. Eric Chaisson. 

Ecosystem, biodiversity, climate and ecosystemic tipping points

Hansen – Tipping Point (in Dutch)

Systems Philosophy (philo ~ love , sophia ~ wisdom)

Schumacher, E.F. (1977). A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Harper and Row. Wikipedia. Abstract.

Bateson, Gregory (1979). Mind and Nature. A Necessary Unity. New York: E.P. Dutton. Documentary ‘An Ecology of Mind’ made by his daughter.

Renewable Energy

Prices of solar voltaic panels:

How solar will outprice coal in about two years:

The Arts

Johnstone, Keith (1979). Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre (1st ed.). Faber and Faber.

Additional Sources

How the West Went Bust (BBC). Two part series on how the UK and other Western countries increased their debt and zeroed savings, while the Chinese do just the opposite. As a result, the growth-oriented Western economy is skidding to a halt.


The Trap (Adam Curtis, BBC, 2007). Not meticulously argued, heavily suggestive, but still insightful account of how Cold War induced game theory ‘trickled down’ into 1990s-2000s free market ideology. Three parts (other parts found in related videos).

How to Live in Times of Turbulence?

Unprecedented global change is happening. Economic, environmental and social crises are tumbling over one another. Some people will profit, more will suffer, most are uncertain. Results are both positive and very bad: tremendous new chances for change go together with huge human suffering especially for those already poor. The victims are  given very little attention.

How to prepare for imminent disaster? Buy candles and matches? Change your money into gold? Grow crops on your rooftop? Read Thoreau? Or find wisdom, think, connect and meditate; be as graceful and mindful as possible? To get an idea of what to do, you need a bigger picture. In this book we try to show links, relations, facts and well-informed visions.

We start from a Vision for the 21st Century. The guide follows with two main sections, devoted to analysis (Converging Crises) and solutions – guidelines and proposals offering direction in chaotic times. In between the main sections you find some crisis indicators; how bad is it? Where do opportunities emerge? Who are being left behind?

The guide is being written for the practical intellectual: those who feel they want to think and listen before acting. For those who want to inform their instincts. Crucially, I am convinced that acting doesn’t mean to ‘do less’ like in less travel, less eating, or turning down the heat in your house. Changing old habits can best be done by embracing new ones and by seeing the world in other ways. Our focus will be on what to do instead of on what to stop doing, in order to survive, live, prosper and thrive.

This guide builds on the arguments by (social) scientists like Tony Judt, Zygmunt Bauman, Gregory Bateson, visionaries like Jeremy Rifkin, philosophers like Slavoj Zizek, and documentary makers like Ross Ashcroft, Adam Curtis and Charles Ferguson. Foundational ideas include (complex) systems theory. We will try to close gaps between academic disciplines, and the arts, but still write for normal people. And although I am heavily indebted to the work of others, all opinions and mistakes remain my own.

Finally, the Arts. I think wise answers come from that side. Science has not been too good at predicting complex social issues. Art lies the truth, as Picasso has put it. Umberto Eco wrote The Name of the Rose because he had discovered that some things – like the workings of power – are hard to grasp scientifically. After years of studying Political Science as well as working as a theatre director, I can do nothing but agree with him.

Please find the contents table to the right, and if you think we’re missing something important, feel free to join the discussion.

Phillip Blond on the need for a new ideology


Ill Fares The Land – Tony Judt (2010)

“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.”

Free market atrocities have to be balanced by government. Judt describes how the wellfare state, built upon the ruins of the Second World War, has been squandered since Reagan and Thatcher adopted neo-liberal market fundamentalism. Every statesman and citizen should read this book. I think the argument is powerful and of life-saving importance. On top of that, I like timely and seemingly-pathetic statements.

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Four Horsemen – and other crisis documentaries

We are living in turbulent times. I could not help but coming to a selection of films screening at IDFA that not even make the point we are on a tipping point for our survival as a species, but rather depart from that point. Are we living in The End Times, as Slavoj Zizek puts it? The Four Horsemen in Ross Ashcrofts’ 2011 film are mere indicators for the tipping point we reach; banking crisis, terrorism, inequality and a resource crisis (see presentation below).

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