“Famperlogalism”

Two of my favorite philosophers, C. S. Pierce and A.N. Whitehead have a great deal in common, more than using initials in their names. Both developed philosophies that are relational and organic. Both had the sometimes-irritating habit of inventing hard to pronounce and difficult to understand terms. Pierce termed his philosophy “pragmaticism” after other philosophers began to use his term “pragmatism” in ways he did not approve. [1] Whitehead invented a whole host of terms in this works as he outlined an organic, process view of the world. [2] With apologies to both of these great men, I have coined my own term, which is the subject of this essay.

An Exhaustion Induced Idea

The other day, as I was returning from a game of golf in the hot Texas sun, under the influence of dehydration, as well as heat, physical, and other exhaustion, I invented a term: “Famperlogalism.” The term grew backwards, as I pondered the reaction of many to what is called, “globalism,” and which largely amounts to the less-than-critical protection of big international corporations on the right and support of large international bureaucracies on the left.

My ponderings began with the “Logalism.” So much “globalist” thinking begins with the global (hence “globalism”) and deduces from that the proper local policy. This seems backward to me. Proper “bottom up thinking” begins by thinking locally and proceeds to determine what is desirable globally. I invented the term “logalism” to incorporate this idea of thinking locally first.

Then I thought, “What do we mean by the “local” part of logalism?”  This resulted in the “famperson” portion of the term. Recently, I read an article about globalism and the probable loss of jobs for huge numbers of people in the future. My response was and is that our society often misunderstands the purpose of economic activity and therefore misunderstands what constitutes a rational economic policy. The foundational purpose of economic activity is to provide valuable work for people and families so that they can support themselves and have meaningful lives. An economy, however efficient, that leaves millions without meaningful work or income, and which traps millions in poverty while a small percentage of people become incredibly rich is not a good economy, whether it is “capitalist” (the United States), socialist (Western Europe) or “communist” (China and Russia). [3]

The rest of this essay makes little sense for those who cannot accept this principle: “An economy exists to provide meaningful work for people that will allow them to support their families and live meaningful lives, not to make a few people incredibly rich.” No matter how much money can be made by companies from exporting jobs in the name of “globalism,” such behavior, and any theory underlying such behavior, are inadequate and unacceptable. The well-being of families and persons should form the core value in developing our notion of an economy and how it should operate.

“Famperlogalism” and “Oikos”

This insight is implicit in the term “Economics,” which derives from a Greek word meaning “Household.” “Oikos,” from which we get the term “Economics,” is the Greek word for household. In the ancient world, a household was more than just a house with two people and perhaps a child. It included what we would call the “nuclear family,” as well as grandparents and great grandparents, servants and employees—all those that made up the family economic unit that was the household. [4] The head of the household was not responsible just for his own personal interests, but for the good of the entire household and its members.

This has vast implications for our economy. Executives are not responsible primarily for their own economic advancement or even for the advancement of their company in the narrow sense. They are responsible for the entire family of relationships of which their business is a part. This is to say that those who own or control assets are responsible for the well-being of all the families and persons and social entities that are related to and impacted by their business. In modern business language, we call these people and entities “Stakeholders.”

This idea of economics as a life and meaning creating activity of a society of people, is why, before the late modern world, economics was classified among the moral sciences. Adam Smith, who was first a moral philosopher, recognized, as we often do not, that there is an inherent moral aspect to economics. [5] A proper economics has a moral component and is interested in persons, families, and local communities, in their support and in their health.

There is nothing more important to rethinking modern American economics than the notion that the primary goal of political and economic entities is strengthening and supporting families and persons. Why in this order? Because persons emerge from families. Healthy people cannot emerge from families that are not healthy. When families are healthy, they have meaningful work to do and time to spend raising children, supporting elderly parents, and taking care of their own friendships, family, and employees.

“Famperlogalism” implies a kind of economics that is inherently relational, organic, and communitarian. It’s relational in that it sees families, persons, small businesses, larger businesses, towns, cities, states, neighborhoods, national governments and international governments, our entire economic system from bottom to top, as related. It is organic because it sees the development of society as a process from smaller units to larger units held together by relationships of mutual dependency among communities of various sizes and types. It is communitarian because it focuses on the health of communities of all levels, types and kinds.

A Brief Outline of “Famperlogalism”

With this long introduction, I’d like to set out a brief outline of what a different kind of economic and political organization might be like and upon what ideas it might be founded:

  1. The world is inherently relational. From the smallest units of energy and matter to the universe as a whole, everything is related. That is to say, the universe is a community.
  2. The world is inherently an organic process. From the creation of the smallest elementary particles, to the organic unfolding of universe as a whole, a relational process is unfolding.
  3. We human beings are a part of this process, connected with the entire universe and to each other in powerful and important ways. In other words, “no person is an island”.
  4. Each level of reality builds on every other level of reality and is related to it. From the mysteries of quantum physics to the mysteries of sociology and politics, different levels of reality emerge and have both an independent and dependent reality that must be considered for understanding and action. There is no independent level of reality and no human person capable of seeing or understanding the entire complex relationality of any human or complex natural system. This is why tolerance and freedom are important: We all need the correction of each other.
  5. These levels of reality include not only physical levels of reality, but also “noetic levels” of reality: spiritual, moral, aesthetic, social, cultural, religious, mathematical, theoretical, and other immaterial levels of reality. Physical levels of reality cannot be healthy or complete except in the context of both the seen and unseen aspects of reality. This is the ground of a healthy environmentalism. There can be no healthy human life unless the entire ecology of the person, material and noetic, is healthy, which is why it is so difficult to nurture healthy people.
  6. The world of immense complexity we inhabit developed from fundamental particles. The world emerged and emerges not from the top down but from the bottom up. Therefore, the health of any emergent phenomena, including social phenomenon, is dependent upon maintaining health and vitality from the bottom up. This is true of political institutions and cultural institutions.
  7. Persons emerge from families. From the standpoint of healthy human society, the fundamental unit is the family. Each human person is profoundly impacted by the family and local society in which they are born and raised. The health of families, neighborhoods, and local economies and cultures is vitally and fundamentally important, and should be treated as such by political and cultural decision-makers. In order to have healthy persons, there must be healthy families. The initial formation of the human person, physical, intellectual, social, and moral, all occur early in human life when the family unit is the most important aspect of the person’s development. When this fundamental unit of reality, the family, is not healthy it is difficult for healthy persons to be formed. A wise society is constructed with health family life in mind and expends its resources to support, encourage, and make healthy families and persons, for these are the fundamental units of any society.
  8. Just as material elements emerge from the immaterial fundamental “particles” of physics, persons emerge from families and have their own independent reality. [6] Healthy societies are constructed so that individual human beings can fulfill their potential and live healthy lives. Among other things, this means that human societies are responsible to organize themselves in such a way that people have meaningful labor and other meaningful human relationships.
  9. Each part of a functional society: families, neighborhoods, businesses, local governments, towns, cities, nations, international businesses, for-profit companies, not-for-profit companies, religious institutions, social groups, and all other cultural units, are both independent and related, dependent entities. Just as people and families are independent but dependent upon one another so are all human institutions.
  10. The result is this: We can’t have healthy people unless we have healthy families. We can’t have healthy neighborhoods unless we have healthy people. We can’t have healthy communities unless we have healthy neighborhoods. We can’t have healthy cities unless we have healthy smaller communities. We can’t have healthy states (regional political units) unless we have healthy cities and towns. We can’t have healthy nations unless we have healthy states. We can’t have a healthy world, and global economy and polity, unless we have healthy nation-states. The health of all are impacted by the health of every particular level. These levels are related and interdependent. [7]
  11. It is important that local communities be supported and people be able to make a living and support their families within their local communities in which they live, support their families, find meaning and purpose in life, and from which the next generation emerges. This is especially true of smaller agricultural communities upon which the economy of any nation rests.
  12. Larger economic and political groupings are dependent upon a sense of healthy community among their members, whether human or social. Large cities and other political groupings depend upon the health of smaller, more local, institutions. A society that destroys the sense of community among its citizens by excessive individualism will decay and become unhealthy. Without a sense of mutual community, large political, social, and economic entities become dysfunctional. This has happened in the United States and all over the Western world. No political society can hold together without communal roots based on shared history, culture, language, economies, etc.
  13. The separation of “local” from “national” or “global” is a false separation. There can be no healthy national or global economy that does not involve healthy local economies. There can be no healthy national or global political organization that is not dependent upon local healthy political organizations. By the same token, there cannot be healthy local communities if larger social entities are not healthy.
  14. A certain level of perceived inefficiency from a purely economic perspective may be necessary to maintain the moral and communal health of a social organism. Put more clearly, if we think that the destruction of a lower level of reality is necessary for the health of a higher level, we don’t understand the system in its entire complexity.
  15. A wise society sees the local as small and beautiful. It nurtures small local businesses. It constrains the power of larger entities to harm local, more fragile parts of the social system. It recognizes the various capacities of persons, physical, emotional, and mental, and provides meaningful work for all of them. In a wise society the small is not the only beautiful, but it is to cherished and protected. [8]
  16. If it can be done or managed locally, it should be. Each higher level of society should carefully not control anything not required on behalf of the health of the whole. This is true of families, neighborhoods, cities and towns, states, larger social units, nation states and global political entities.
  17. Larger social political, and economic entities need to see themselves as servants of smaller, local entities, not as their masters. In a global, highly interdependent economy such as ours, there will be large, transnational companies and supply lines. The question is, “Do they serve local interests and the health of smaller, local units?”
  18. Freedom is important because it is by protecting freedom that local, smaller units are allowed independent function. This is true politically and economically. The Communist and Socialist dream of wise central planning of society was built upon an illusion of the capacity of larger units to wisely manage smaller political and economic units. It assumed a human capacity that does not and cannot exist. It is by maintaining the maximum freedom in relationship that the best and wisest decisions are made.

Conclusion

I’m sure as time goes by I’ll be able to think of even more aspects of “Famperlogalism.” In my mind, all this demonstrates the dangers and benefits of an occasional game of golf on a hot Texas day. You never know what will happen or what you will think of when you’re late to dinner, tired, dehydrated, and exhausted. [9]

Copyright 2020, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

[1] See, Edward C. Moore, ed.,” Pragmatism and Pragmaticism” in Charles S. Peirce: The Essential Writings (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1972), pp 261-299.

[2] See, A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (New York, Free Press, 1969). I have a book that is nothing but terms Whitehead uses and their definitions. It is almost impossible to read him without such help. Nevertheless, it is worth it.

[3] One unfortunate feature of present day “crony capitalism,” Western “social democracy,” and Soviet and Chinese “Communism,” is that they all bear little resemblance to what they pretend to be and, in fact, look like the “National Socialism” of Germany in the 1930’s. Government, the media, business, and industry have come together with the favored few, robber barons, political elite, and the children of the elite controlling the economy of entire nations.

[4] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Abridged Version, Geoffrey Bromily, trans (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans, 1985), pp. 674-5.

[5] Smith believed that human persons by nature think and act in terms of their perceived “self-interest;” however, their notion and pursuit of self-interest is defined, guided, restrained and confined, by their “moral sense” concerning how we should act in our deeds toward others and ourselves. See Richard M. Ebling, “Economic Ideas: Adam Smith on Moral Sentiments, Division of Labor and the Invisible Hand” The Future of Freedom Foundation (December 12, 2016), downloaded from https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/economic-ideas-adam-smith-moral-sentiments-division-labor-invisible-hand/ May 5, 2020. The modern idea of a morally neutral competition is incompatible with such an idea.

[6] One of the most difficult ideas to comprehend, at last for me, is that the fundamental particles which quantum physics describes are not particles, like a small stone. They are activities in an underlying wave structure of the universe. In this sense, the material emerges from the immaterial, potentiality of the quantum world.

[7] This particular paragraph is reminiscent of the Tao Te Ching. See, G. Christopher Scruggs, Centered Living/ Centered Living: The Way of Light and Love Rev. Ed. (Cordova, TN: Book Surge. Shiloh Publishing, 2016), especially Chapter 54, pages 108-109.

[8] See, E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1973). See also, Centered Living, Centered Leading previously cited, at Chapter 80, pages 160-161.

[9] For those who have read the last couple of posts, you know that I am also deeply indebted to Wendell Berry, who began my thinking in this area as I read some of his essays. See, Wendall Berry, Sex Freedom and Community (New York, NY & San Francisco, CA: Pantheon Books, 1992).

One thought on ““Famperlogalism””

  1. Chris,
    I am proud that I was able to read and understand your essay. I largely agree with this. I was thinking about the programs at Advent and how they fostered this local idea. I am no philosopher, but it seems this kind of thought should be incorporated in our higher educational system. Just some random musings at 4:00AM. I’m glad your are enjoying golf in your semi-retirement.

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