Attitudes and Defenses

This is a paper written a long time ago [1990s] for reflection after experiential learning classes  – just want a record of it so putting it up here for now.

Emotional Education: Some thoughts on Attitudes and Defenses

Emotional Education is about (i) becoming aware of what is happening in our emotional process and also (ii) learning how to influence this happening even though most of it is unconscious.

All sorts of interactions have both conscious and unconscious aspects. The unconscious occurs first, before conscious awareness. Also, the unconscious does not have a rational sense of time, place or contradiction. Anything goes. Two ordinary ideas help our conscious observation of emotion and feeling.

Rapport               The degree of emotional contact between people

Here-and-now     Unconscious communication expresses the present emotional state (however far in the past the roots of this state may lie, or however much in desires for the future)

Rapport – (or atmosphere) can be full of feeling, different and strong feeling/s, very nearly empty/ without feeling. The word “trust” can be very significant in relation to rapport. Pay attention to it, and notice when you do not notice rapport or do not want to notice it.

To understand “Here-and-Now” observe how often when we talk (or think etc.) we are sometimes emotionally in “There and Now” (that is stuff/events happening elsewhere) or “There and Then” (stuff that has already happened somewhere). The unconscious acts “Here-and-Now”.

Rapport and Here-and-Now are connected, and consequences like trust, degree of anxiety, etc. follow depending on the kind of attention paid to them.

Whatever people are doing, they are influenced by the quality of the intra and interpersonal relationship(s) which arise, e.g. by the creation of rapport or an appropriate use of authority, respect, etc. depending on the kind of relationships and roles. [Think of examples – doctor-patient, parent-child, friendship, partners, teacher-student, server-customer, financial adviser-client… the list is long…]

In one area of psychodynamic thought, “object relations theory”, a person’s need to relate to others is taken to be central. The term “object-relationship” refers to unconscious activity, where a person processes a store of feelings about others, like an emotional program. These unconscious activities, ‘the inner world of object-relations’ are usually based on those who were important in early childhood, but are more like caricatures of people in particular emotional states, than rounded recognisable pictures. They are “part-objects”. For example, in inner world, a person could feel that a woman who is strong is also angry, or that a woman who is kind cannot be strong, nor ever be angry, even though a real mother might have been able to be both gentle/kind and strong/firm sometimes and either one or the other at other times. A child’s early perception is of emotions present, not an awareness of the whole context, nor a rounded recognition of why or how the mother (or father, other) has these feelings at this moment.

Later, relationships are influenced by unconscious associations that evoke particular part-objects. Say someone has an inner world with “caricatures” such as above, he/she might find it very difficult to trust a female boss (or doctor or teacher), and also might be completely unable to realise that his/her daughter (seen as ‘gentle’) is angry about something real, so she is wrongly labelled “upset” or “childish”.

Some particular object-relationships within people are painfully intense. These are kept out of awareness by splitting and defense. These hostile words describe part of normal development. The supposition is that life/reality is just too complex, especially in babyhood when each person has yet to develop the pre-concepts and concepts for sense-making, so we rely on non-verbal and body communication. Intense discomfort is coped with by diluting, filtering or disposing of some feeling. Ordinary good-enough caring can ‘catch’ the feeling, recognise it and hopefully return it in a manageable form, that is, no longer too intense, something from which the reality of the world can be learned.

However, relationships do not stop being complex, or uncomfortable, and people continue to use defenses that have become automatic rather than useful. These can be visible, especially to others. Developing emotional awareness, and knowledge about emotional process, whether of self or other, can create helpful change and lessen defensiveness in relationships. Examples of common defenses are:

Denial:  Disowning of feelings which are either unacceptably intense, or labelled ‘bad’, or produce too much confusion and anxiety, or all of these.

Projection:  Ascribing feelings or motives to others, i.e. experiencing others as angry, or accusatory, or jealous, etc., when it is too painful to accept these feelings in oneself.

Displacement:  Using feelings which belong to one situation in a different context, for example being angry with one’s family when the cause of the anger lies in a work situation.

Manipulation:  Using the feelings of others to satisfy one’s own need, usually without appreciation of the effects on another, as in ’emotional blackmail’ or ‘double bind’. This often covers hidden desperation about being needy and/or being rejected (needs having been rejected before) and creates a vicious circle.

There are many types of defense. Combinations of defenses entangled with those of others also make it difficult to avoid being drawn into particular kinds of relationships from time to time, for example:

Collusion: where the defense of one person matches with another (e.g. one takes an authoritarian role, the other passively obeys, while both avoid mental pain in the real problem faced)

Health Warning: When a defense is seen, some compassion for the reason for it is needed, otherwise the other is left with the original unmanageable emotional difficulty, made worse by feeling accused, exposed or intruded upon. The result will be greater ‘defensiveness’, increased rigidity, not what is wanted. Pointing out a defense does not ‘catch’ the feeling and return it in a manageable way. It is cruel.

To reduce defensiveness in a safe atmosphere, and do no harm, three attitudes are worth practicing:

Genuineness (awareness of self)

It is sometimes, though not always, easier to see defensiveness in others than in oneself.  To be genuine, and engage in relationships authentically, it is important to regularly reflect on one’s own feelings, notice how and when one became aware of them, and become curious about why the person or context evoked that particular feeling. It is particularly important to notice mixed feelings or those one does not like having, or thinks are ‘wrong’ to have, and acknowledge these conflicts. There is no right or wrong about feelings; one has them. [The action taken in response to a feeling might be wrong.]

By becoming self-aware, relationships with others become more authentic and less a performance. Also, ‘be genuine’ applies only to oneself. It is not possible to demand that someone else is genuine though it becomes more likely when they meet genuineness in you. And, do not demand it of yourself, just practice.

Acceptance (awareness of various parts of self and others)

Feelings, attitudes and personal characteristics, both physical and mental, have to be accepted because they are so at least for now [they may change]. This is easier to say than to do, as, first assumptions are made both about self and others, so you might not know what the actual feeling, attitude or characteristic is. Also, if what it is, or what you assume it is, is something you do not like, which makes you anxious or uncomfortable, you can mentally block the discomfort.  However, accepting can be practiced.  It applies both to yourself and to others. Acceptance does not mean “agree with”, it means you realise that this view or attitude or feeling exists and is held by the person. It does not avoid any responsibility you have to let someone you accept know when, how or what you disagree with.

One way to practice is to allow yourself to think about personal characteristics, e.g. impatience, kindness, and divide them into ‘good’ and ‘bad’.  Then try to find a way in which the ‘bad’ characteristic can be linked with something good, which doesn’t change it, but makes it more bearable, e.g. an impatient person might also be spontaneous or energetic. Similarly, find the downside to the ‘good’ characteristics.

Acceptance needs lateral thinking.  You are opening your mind to wider images of people or groups and respecting them as individuals, not labelling or categorising.

Empathy (awareness of the other)

This is recognising what it feels like to be other person.  It is not necessarily about how you would feel if the same things were happening to you, because you are not them; you might have the same feelings, you might not. It is more like being in their skin, than in their shoes. Empathy is achieved by listening and observing attentively and picking up the clues, both those which are obvious and those from tones, atmosphere and body language. It is gathering information. You can check the information, but do that in an accepting way, as if you are aggressive or intrusive, the feelings will change in reaction to you.

Being empathic is sometimes called knowing the other’s ‘frame of reference’.  Should you want the other to move to your frame (often with good reason) and you have some idea of theirs, you are much more likely to find a way from the one frame to the other, if you convey and make use of your empathy.

There is considerable confusion about ’empathy’, especially the assumption that it means being ‘nice to people’.  For example, to treat a disruptive bully with softness and ‘would you like to talk about your worries’ is not empathic, neither is retaliation with more force than he uses.  A bully is making others fear or be angry; is not owning fear in himself, not letting himself feel weak; he is ‘projecting’.  His need may be for security without retaliation.  To consistently watch him and firmly stop him is empathic.

Genuineness, acceptance and empathy are aspects of reflective activity, or mindfulness. They do not replace regular communication. They are like peripheral vision when driving a car. Of course knowing where you are going and watching the route in front is how you drive a car. Reflection makes connections with the other people on the road, and reflective activity improves all our journeys. In literature concerning psychoanalysis, object relations, defensiveness, etc. the concepts can sound involved and difficult. However, everyone has been living with feelings, defenses and relationships throughout their life and knows a great deal about them already. Practising genuineness, acceptance and empathy increases awareness and enables the psychodynamic notion of using “counter-transference” which leads to change in our inner world.

Acknowledgement: Genuineness, acceptance and empathy as described here are my version of the ‘core conditions’ of person-centred counselling, considered in the light of psychodynamic theory of human living and growing. [See for example Carl Rogers (1961) On Becoming a Person, and Margot Waddell (2002) Inside Lives.] I have found these ideas especially useful in non-therapeutic contexts, such as occur within organisations and a variety of groups. I am responsible for this version, which I believe is accessible from observation in daily life. Emotional Education is more like human relations consultancy than therapy or counselling. Or, it seems to me that Emotional Education offers a way in, and enables flourishing, while complex or difficult ideas are not simplistically reduced.



Philosophy, Ontology, Thought

A personal essay, my philosophy, its emergence, partly articulated, as much a part of my experience as events in a memoir I am writing in another context.

I created my first website in 1997, something of an online resume, but also an attempt to show in this then new format, what was professionally important to me. Through it I hoped to engage others in conversation. At that time I also belonged to the Scottish Institute of Human Relations, SIHR, a charity and a membership organization. There I had a friend and colleague known to me as the “other Elspeth”, as I am known to her. She and I thought that communication between parts of the organization, and the membership, needed to be better. We created a newsletter, and in 1998, I made a website for SIHR, so we could put the news online as well as all SIHR information, its structure and management, lists of its courses, and procedures for applying, etc. Members received the Newsletter by post, probably no-one but me and the other Elspeth looked online. I knew that the internet offered an incredible possibility for communication, but like everyone, had little idea that within ten years it would have become a home to almost every kind of communication, perception and misperception, except those connections of feeling and touch, which it cannot do.

I know I like trying to communicate, I like writing, and the process, setting out to see if I can capture an event, or clarifying the record of information. Since 2011, I have been blogging, a kind of Diary, called My World, Your World, One World, a ramble of everyday activities and impressions. I hear my desire as I write, I so much want to “Tell the World” and I so much do not want to get mired in Me, Me, Me, but then for a while it does not matter at all if the world, or anyone, reads or hears, as one thing I am doing is listening to myself. With some chagrin I realize I do not have many followers, which is apparently a goal of blogging that I have not made my goal, but when I have occasionally had a response from some other previously unknown soul, I am happy for the rest of the day. It makes a harmony of some kind, a connection. Having discovered that blogging is now easy, once one has learned how, I put my poetry on another blog, another way to record that I am, this is a way to be. Dear old Descartes said “I think, therefore I am” which is totally the wrong way round. I, and all of you others, are. First, we exist. Then we discover that we are, hurray, people who think, consciously, and we can see that we exist by the many ways we do. From preaching to playing, there many ways to hear and see how others are also doing.

At the same time, seven years ago, I had finally retired from the last threads of part-time work. I happened to be in Shanghai for most of 2011, as thanks to sons and wanting to be physically near to the children, to feel and touch, I was being a global grandmother. I was often lonely after I had taken the twins, then three years old, to the “experimental kindergarten” they attended. I began a third blog, which was to be the “Not-me” writing, the place where I could be both passionate and informed about Human Rights, and our World. This writing would, by intention, attempt to clarify and put in order what I have learned from psychoanalytic and scientific thinking, and my work experience in teaching social justice. Well, I could have remembered which road is paved by intentions, but I only remember thinking that it was an irony to say “teaching” and “social justice” in one phrase, as silly as saying “teach morality or values”. The quality sought emerges from experience, one tries to be the part of the experience that would allow that quality to arrive. This blog is called Transitional Space: The In-between of Identity Culture and Community, with a tag line question: Can People Do Better? I remember I began it with such hope that this time I would succeed in sorting my thinking, I might even discover more clearly what it is that I think. I am happy that it declares my values in every post, but I know it is not clearly ordered at all, and my intentions are unfulfilled. It is laden with difficulty, complexity, clumsy writing, attempts at graphics, words, and more words. Looking at it, I am now surprised to find that there are actually 35 posts, that’s about five each year, more or less each about something that matters to me, attempting to explain or show why that is so. This blog has almost no followers, no comments from others. I think of this work as my failure. It is a failure. It was an experiment: could I order my thinking? Read it, and you will see that focus is elusive, there is no completed order emerging. What you might not see is that “failure” is fine, I am still hoping, still experimenting, and will write another post there when I find myself again in that transitional space that brings an idea into my thoughts. Failure is another way to learn, and that is what Michael Faraday knew, and tried to share. . [My doctorate is on Michael Faraday’s thought. In the 1840s he made the discoveries that brought understanding of the electromagnetic field.] I murmur Faraday’s seminal insight to myself: “What if space is not empty?” and realize, again, that transitional space is not ordered, especially when whatever is going to be new, has not yet emerged. I don’t even know if it will be a gem, crystalline, sharp, or round and smooth like a pebble tossed up by the waves on the beach. Maybe, I wonder, can creative new thinking only emerge from some deep level of conflict or ambivalence?

However, some kind of finding my way in transitional space is what seemed possible, lurking in the back of my mind, when I took Uncommon Harmony to be a memoir writing name, and thought that I would try memoir writing, see what happened. I know I was also doing what I have often done, and what many people do: see something they fancy, in the moment, get interested, follow along a bit, find it becoming a hobby, or more, and then it, whatever it is, seems to become part of one’s identity, as well as a pleasure to be enjoyed, a part of living. My memoir writing is making something obvious that I already know, that I have a history of shifts in identity, taking myself fairly blindly into something new that has grabbed my attention, or seemed a good way to go, when I found myself in a box that was becoming irksome. This means my memoir, although a looking back, has also to serve as a means of going forward.

As I write, the record says that throughout my life, circumstance, or active self, or both, have intervened and I would discover a door opening to a new interest and then a little later find I have moved on and seem to be somewhere that I had not previously expected to be. I am not where I was before, though I am still me. In a modern phrase, I have re-invented myself, but unlike the meaning of that phrase, this is not at all by plan. My re-inventing is reactive, not proactive. I would like to think I was creatively reactive, if such a thing can be, an uncommon series of identities, a harmony of self and world. I remember that Faraday, whose courage I revere, was reactive. He reacted to failed experiments, to observed puzzles, and called the process “a revelation, forced on my mind”. So failure can be a process, not a dead end, I am still getting somewhere, just arriving at a different place that I had not expected. There is an Irish joke, where the stranger asks the man at the side of the road: Do you know the way to Ballybofey? The man says, Yes, but I wouldn’t be starting from here.” Maybe planning to reach Ballybofey is not a good idea.

Now, I am not even sure that I have a place where I want to go, but, the act of memoir writing certainly lets me look at where I have been, with views both welcome and unwelcome. When I find myself recording the many different kinds of work I have done, my activities look manic. Surely that is a fault of writing, recording, as the memory is not of mania, some is of vitality, and enjoyment, but a lot is also of being lazy in a good way, letting time go by. It is true that I have more than once shifted from one field of work to another that on the surface seems totally different, but I know my recollection of change is that the transitions were smooth enough, even seamless, not sudden disruptive shifts. The pattern of change seems to hold together if I think of myself as a scientist, the exploring kind, even though know I have never actually been employed in the field of science, so I sometimes say I am a scientist, other times I say I am an educator. One needs experimentation, the other needs play, so both make some sort of sense, at least to me.

The memoir makes me look at my career, my various occupations, and trainings, as well as paid positions. In my resume of experience, extended into retirement, I have been a mathematician, a student of computing science in the 1960s, a wife and mother, a proof reader for a scientific publisher, and a nursery school teacher, though I had no formal certificated learning in Child Development. That was all before I was thirty. Then I was a historian of science, a trainer of science teachers, and a physics teacher, also, without having undertaken a teacher training myself. I was just forty-four when I became Head of a Physics Department, and also the first Chairperson, using that then newish word, of the newly formed Education Section of the British Society for the History of Science. I was breaking new ground, finding a place where I would not just go to conferences, but would sometimes be invited. Learning, education, became ever wider, I know I was a “trailblazer” though somehow, not a leader. I do not seem to bring people with me on the trail, just like now when blogging, I don’t bother courting followers.

While thinking about teaching, and being taught, I remember another quote from Michael Faraday:

“the education proposed must, to a very large degree, be of self, it is so far incommunicable; that the master and the scholar merge into one, and both dis­appear; that the instructor is no wiser than the one to be instructed, and thus the usual relations of the two lose their power”

My story of career is of learner and teacher “merged into one”. As learner I was a doctorate student and analysand, I would feel more like a child and a busy mother/parent, rather than a scholar or master. The best paper I ever had published is called “Making Mistaking Reality”, lots of pages, more words. I could more simply say, I learned to play, and learned while playing. At forty-two, doctorate complete, still fooling myself I was happily married, I had a new job as Head of Physics at Godolphin and Latymer School and was convinced of the value of psychoanalytic thinking. I attended an intensive evening course “Psychoanalysis in Britain Today”, and then with the support of the school, took a Master’s level course in Counselling Aspects of Education, and the Dynamics of Institutions and Groups. This two-year postgraduate study was undertaken at the Tavistock Clinic, London, a different department from where my then husband, George, had trained as a psychotherapist, but a place where I knew some of the tutors socially. The course was a crucial learning experience, that made sense of many previous interactions, and indeed helped immeasurably in those still to come, the breakup of marriage, the death of parents, the dysfunctions and failures of ethics in a teacher training college, that might otherwise have been unbearable. But, during my study time, there was no accreditation, it was pure learning for those of us on the course. I was there on what might have been its third intake. If I had waited until 1995, when it had become a Masters from the University of North London, though still taught at Tavistock by Tavistock tutors, then I would have received a Masters degree for my learning. Maybe there was a retrospective process, but by then I had again “moved on” and I do not know if a masters certificate might exist for those of us students who were the trailblazers, or guinea pigs, depending on view. Not “having a certificate” later mattered a great deal.

In 1990 I became a trainer of teachers in Scotland, and another kind of “not having a certificate” was almost a joke, as no-one cared about a particular regulatory phrase in scottish bureaucracy, but at the time of leaving that post thirteen years later, the General Teaching Council of Scotland had still not managed to state that I was indeed suitably certified to teach, or to train teachers. The paperwork sits on a shelf somewhere, as does the paperwork from COSCA, Counseling and Psychotherapy in Scotland, who did in 1996 decide that I could not be accredited with them as a counsellor or psychotherapist, even though I was not only teaching on courses that would allow the accreditation of others, but was a part of staff teams that had put these courses together and seen them through the quality assurance committees of the educational institutions. COSCA was at the beginning of finding out what was meant by certification and accreditation, as we all were, it was a new institution, for a new profession.

How these things happened are different parts of my story. Here I am reciting that in some sense, I have often been ahead of the game, from being a child who “got” what reading was about before going to school, and saw the solution to maths problems before I had worked them out, to these much later almost farcical professional conundrums. I want to show that it has taken a lifetime to hear my own perception of what I am trying to say, and even now I have no idea whether the articulation of it is understandable. It is certainly not about being a leader, clever or wise, or emotionally intelligent, though from time to time in particular circumstances I might have managed to be these things, and at most times I am doing whatever it is that I do, and then it goes off track somehow, and I start doing something else.

I have two anecdotes that illustrate different kinds of learning, both from the Child Psychotherapy world of the 70s and 80s, in which I was sometimes present, though usually a visitor, a guest, a wife. [I was married to George, a child psychotherapist.] The Child Psychotherapy Association organized professional lectures, seminars, conferences, most of which I did not attend, more often being part of a casual social event that followed, one or two people returning to my home afterwards and continuing discussions. Sometimes there were more organized social events, like the one where I met Martha Harris, one of the founders of the Child Psychotherapy training at the Tavistock Clinic London, whose personality convinced me to commit to therapy, or less profound events, like the Tavistock Christmas Party. Unlike now, I was then good at remembering faces and names, so I felt I knew most of George’s contemporaries, or at least was acquainted with who they were. I don’t remember the date, but it must have been in the 80s when they had all become well-regarded psychotherapists, no longer students or at the beginning of their careers. I attended an event where the visiting speaker was the very well-known Dr. Benjamin Spock. Like most mothers of that time, I owned a well-used copy of his book “Baby and Child Care”, probably more practical and helpful than any other advice I received. After his lecture, there was to be a social evening at Dilys Daws’ home, what we would now call pot-luck. I knew Dilys quite well, her son was in the same year as Donal [my eldest son] at University College School, and I was invited along with George.

There were maybe fifty or more people present, I greeted many, but not Dr. Spock, who was surrounded by eager faces. I have a ridiculous association of the evening with potatoes, and know I did spend most of the time in the kitchen, which I remember as having a very wide modern counter open to the main room, where I could see what was happening, and where people I knew came and went, in and out of the kitchen, to and from the counter, with the food. Why do I think “potatoes”? I don’t remember preparing or peeling potatoes, and I would not have brought potatoes as my contribution to the potluck. My offering was almost certainly a cheesecake, as cheesecake was the specialty I usually made. I know I love potatoes for their comfort, however they are prepared, so maybe the association is a clue to the atmosphere we were sharing, good wise, practical, homely, not too fancy, a place for really good parenting, Baby and Child Care, and Parent and Wife Care too. I felt at home, I was comfortable and cheerful with the role I had taken on, a sort of friendly unobtrusive helper, hearing about Dr. Spock’s lecture, and probably sharing anecdotes of Spock book consultation with whoever came by.

I did not speak to Dr. Spock at all. George had been in deep conversation with him for quite a while, so when the time came to leave, we both returned to his side to say goodbye and thank-you. Dr. Spock turned to me. I still remembered his clear attention and his words: “but I have not met you”. I think he said something like Do tell me who you are, because I also remember that I felt this man really did want to know who I was. Dr Spock had a remarkable skill, in the few sentences we then spoke he cannot have heard much about me, but he left me with the impression that I had been seen and known. I think his book is like that too, when reading, it can make an uncertain mother think her problems in caring are seen, and yes, can be resolved. This is an extraordinarily valuable thing to do, it is probably what being a “good authority” is about, a good parent to the child who wants to know. I will always remember the meeting, and that feeling of being both noticed and well-regarded.

However, another of the Child Psychotherapy lectures, quite a different one, helped me see that this kind of “good authority” is not always what we seek. When I think of the contrast with Faraday style learning, Spock is always the “master”, there is no merge of master and scholar in his attentiveness. At a different Child Psychotherapy Lecture, the speaker was David Bohm, also an author, roughly contemporary with Spock, writer of many books that very few people seem to have heard of, let alone read. His first in 1951 was “Quantum Theory”, one just before his death in 1992 was “Changing Consciousness: Exploring the Hidden Source of the Social, Political and Environmental Crises Facing our World”. Bohm had a theory of mind that psychotherapists were interested in, and I was asked if I would like to go to the lecture, not just the social event, as I was a physicist. Had I ever heard of this David Bohm? I had. In fact I had read his “Quantum Theory” book lying on the floor in that long ago flat I shared with my friend Jean in Belfast, but I had never heard that he had also had a theory of consciousness, linked to his understandings of physical matter. His ideas are very difficult to explain, but at one level are very simple. He says that the atomic theories of matter, and the physical representations of brain, and our ideas of consciousness, are fragmentations, and lead to confusions unless they are also seen to be “just a point of view”. They are always only a part of the “Whole”, aspects of whole, whatever that is, which emerge from the perspective taken. His theory offers not only perspectives but lots of different categories and levels for grasping understandings. Then, Bohm’s theory goes on to describe the nature of the “Whole”. The ideas stop being simple, at any level of understanding. For example, one explanation reads:

“the order in every immediately perceptible aspect of the world is to be regarded as coming out of a more comprehensive implicate order, in which all aspects ultimately merge in the undefinable and immeasurable holomovement.”

Well, quite, not immediately obvious nor clarifying any confusions the reader might have. [implicate? holomovement?] Bohm has several books elucidating his theory with thought experiments and models and further explanation, and it really is not surprising that they are not generally known. In my remembering, his lecture was not very well received by the psychotherapists, although a sense of “wholes and parts” is very much part of “systems thinking” which is much used in family therapy, as well as in organizational consultancy work. Recognizing holistic and dynamic perspective might be why he had been asked to lecture, or maybe, as most therapists would admit, “consciousness” and experience of it, is not something anywhere well described, and they wanted to hear what Bohm would say.

However, as I listened, I recalled what had been said about Michael Faraday by the great physicist who followed him, James Clark Maxwell. Maxwell put the mathematics into Faraday’s discovery of the wave theory of light, and confirmed its power, opening the way to understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum and thus the initial development of quantum theory. What Maxwell said was:

“We are accustomed to consider the universe as made up of parts, and mathematicians usually begin by considering a single particle, and then conceiving its relation to another particle, and so on. This had generally been supposed the most natural method. To conceive of a single particle, however, requires a process of abstraction, since all our perceptions are related to extended bodies, so that the idea of the all that is in our consciousness at a given instant is perhaps as primitive an idea as that of any individual thing. Hence there may be a … method in which we proceed from the whole to the parts instead of from the parts to the whole. …

The method of Faraday seems to be intimately related to the second of these modes of treatment. … He conceives all space as a field of force, the lines of force being in general curved, and those due to any body extending from it on all sides, their directions being modified by the presence of other bodies…”

[James Clerk Maxwell, Treatise, 1873, Art. 529]

Nowadays one name for this first method is “Social Construction Theory”, much loved by history of science educators, and others may give the method other names, but as I heard Bohm speak, I realized that he was talking about the second mode. As I write now, I understand that the essence of what he was saying is that everything is part of a whole, what he calls the “implicate order” and further that the meaning of “implicate” can be understood. However, from then the only thing I remember is that I know I was there. I think that Bohm would say that constructed learnings, whether scientific theories, or the many other kinds of knowledge, are an “explicate order” of parts, from particular points of view. He did give one analogy to the whole that resonates more easily. He asked us to consider music.

“In listening to music, one is therefore directly perceiving an implicate order.  Evidently this order is active in the sense that it continually flows into emotional, physical, and other responses, that are inseparable from the transformations out of which it is essentially constituted.”

I knew Bohm was talking about the Faraday kind of learning, the creative discovery of something new, not the positive good authority of a Dr. Spock. I wonder if most of us are often reluctant to let ourselves learn by this ‘second mode’, preferring to have our learning in Dr. Spock style. Sometimes I wish I had never heard this lecture. I do often, for years at a time, manage to put it out of my mind. Nevertheless, it always returns, and I try to understand it, and sometimes do, but can never explain what it is that I have understood. I do however think that maybe I do experience from “whole” rather than build my world from pieces and parts. The parts emerge, as Bohm describes, from the whole within which they have been enfolded, and each part carries, like a hologram, enough information to perceive the whole. This feels right, it could be what pushes me to go ahead of where I am. I let myself do so, but I don’t at first know that this is what I am doing, and when I am troubled I cannot make sense of it. In fact, most of the time it doesn’t make sense.

I also sometimes wish I had never heard of child psychotherapy, or any other kind of psychoanalytic process, or revelation. And then I remember how many doors have opened, how many prejudices have been shed, how living is not about order however much order pays a role. Again Faraday tried to tell his audience about learning this way:

“What he has lost are things imaginary, not real; what he gains are riches before unknown to him, yet invaluable.”

I wonder what I will lose, and what comes next.


What Have I Lost?

What have I lost?
My youth
young untried self
dipping into an unknown world.
Eyes half-shut, mouth open
bewilderment and folly mixed
I followed rules unspoken.

What have I lost
I mind losing?
A lithe waist,
a body quick to jump,
run, turn cartwheels
on the sand of each
and every beach I ran on.

Passions, lust and longing
springing unbidden,
greener than the grass
my feet passed in carelessness.
What have I lost
that I do not know
has passed by?

Somewhere a whisper
of apprehension.
What if some opportunity
is yet to offer
and I forget such chance
will also pass?
Choice is not for tomorrow.

Now, on the fulcrum
of this moment,
remember to dance
to seize with seeing eyes
whatever loss and sorrow gives.
How else is a life built?
Each present passes by forever
into loss, no longer now.

Age is the sand and stone and rock
on which I stand.
Joints ache
weary eyes need specs
a phoenix from the ash
of sorrowed time
looks to the future.

Considers, maybe,
Can I be wise?
Life’s adventure, next,
might yet surprise.






Usury, and becoming an activist.

Usury has been misdefined as excessive interest, the charging of excessive interest. But, usury is not about having a debate around which percentage of interest is acceptable. Usury is the earning of interest on something that did not exist before.

I have written before about what I have come to believe is a root problem undermining all our attempts to create better lives and better conditions for all who share living on our finite planet. We need Monetary Reform, a change in the way money is created and put into circulation in our economies. [This is a man-made construct, not a natural law; history shows many precedents regarding different methods of money creation.] Recently I heard/read a brilliant podcast on the same theme. I hope you who read this will also listen. The definition of usury, earning interest on something that did not previously exist, is there. Also there is a distinction between causative injustices and derivative injustices. If the monetary system is indeed a causative injustice, from which so many other injustices derive, and if we consider how it was brought into being, we can see that well-meaning people as well as psychopathic greedy people [each of us capable of being both] sleepwalked into the creation of this dangerous destructive system that feeds derivative problems the world over. [It’s a systemic problem, we are part of it, that is why we often feel so helpless.]

How to reform/change?

We need a different image, an easily imaginable mind map of how a different money system would work. The first essential, that is indeed well on the way in many parts of the world, is that we stop giving precedence to purely rational thinking, AS IF by reasoning we could encompass ALL the elements that made up a causative story line. We can’t. See modern neuroscience, or less modern maths logic, like Godel’s theorem, and recognize that any thinking will either be circular or move outside its initial bounds*.

Enter: UNCERTAINTY, we really do not know the future, but duh, we don’t know past nor present either. Language, and its mind-mate reasoning, does not capture all. Perception is not only limited, it can be false.

Enter: EMOTION, the biological response that tells us the state we are in, filtered and nuanced through nature, nurture, memory and experience to become a present feeling.

Enter: INSTINCT, the impulse to act, to be an agent in our living.

Because these enter and affect our experience in our body knowledge, before our higher cognitive capacity gets going, thinking includes them.

ENTER: we no longer feel helpless, we can act, in humble and ordinary lives, each of us may be as a drop in the ocean, or a butterfly wing tossed in the wind, but, we become part of the change. We can each make a new Money Mind Map for ourselves and share that, as widely as possible, making connections, adapting and changing as we live it out.

usury2HOW will I act? I cannot push your action in any direction, but I can write these posts.

As well as writing posts, I am looking more closely at where and how usury enters our lives, my life.

I have come to believe that the Monetary System where banks create money through credit/debt came into being because usury was ignored. This is, as always, about money creation, NOT about money lending, as lending means that the something lent already existed.

I can’t do much about the price of my coffee, and the amount of that price that is interest in the usurious system. I can move away from some kinds of  “money” making, like share dealing. [As my income is relatively small, this is easy, I do not have spare money with which to deal.] The best I can do seems to be to support activities that are based on commons principles, or cooperative endeavours. Especially I can support community actions that do not involve money at all, see for example the “101 things to do“.

And, I write to my representatives, both local and national. Apparently they do heed what constituents say, if they hear it often enough from enough of us.

*We know that psychologically complex holistic thought that includes all, is difficult if not impossible. In fact, the good old Enlightenment [male] understandings, let us mistakenly believe that reason was the most powerful element in our mental armoury. OOPs – neuroscience and experiential psychologies and lots of non-western and feminist thinking now puts reason in its more realistic non-hubristic  place, an outcome of emotion and experience enabled by test and connection with the whole world out there. Wilfred Bion called this thinking  process an “intersection with truth“.
I find that this truthful thoughtfulness (in which one is active, an agent) has many names, call it what you will:
be mindful; meditate; use systems thinking, situated knowledge, reflexivity, ecological thought; heed heuristic as well as evidence based science; use critical friends, the examined self, connect with others; be open to change, hear and bear criticism, use  self.

Money and Society: Review

I really do recommend taking this free online course, MOOC Money and Society. It is well run and accessible whether or not anyone has previous experience in the areas covered, but for those who do, it is thorough and offers reliable information with a very interesting perspective. I wrote a review with my personal comments at the end, and I have added a reply from Jem Bendell.

Summary of Money and Society MOOC: Lessons 1-3, then Lesson 4.

[Bendell, J and M. Slater (2015) Money and Society, free course,]

An overview of Lessons 1- 3, then Lesson 4, Alternatives

These give a good view of the current Monetary System, analyzed from the perspectives of 1: Money Functions, Forms and Fallacies; 2: The History of Money; 3: Impacts and Problems with Money. gives Jem Bendell’s twelve minute recap, but without references and sources this feels too general, only convincing if one is already convinced. Many of the resources available through reading, online audio and video, etc. were provided, and excerpts well chosen. Documentaries, available on you tube are informative, especially the three hour tedious Money Masters [], from Bill Still and made in 1995 but not out of date, and all three of Paul Grignon’s Money as Debt. [The documentary “The Four Horsemen” was not mentioned by Bendell and Slater, but other participants besides myself did. It is also a convincing account of history, problems and impacts, referring to the way cultural hegemony builds, and the need for cognitive change in mind-sets, but unfortunately in the last ten minutes it opts for a return to the gold standard and classic capitalism as a solution. Maybe this is why the MOOC did not recommend it,]

In lesson 1, the functions of money, , are identified, and forms of issuance [fiat, sovereign, commodity, etc]. Eight “traits” that money has are stated, as these are necessary to make it acceptable to the people who use it, whether they understand its function and issuance or not. These are:

  • Backing / intrinsic value
  • Nominal / face value
  • Incentives – put in place by issuers to create greater circulation, is the way government creates demand for its currency, local currency convertible to national may create demand by offering a % discount on exchange. Incentives and local currency can be banned by legal tender laws.
  • Payment technology – how people experience “the money” coins, notes, cheques, now often digital, via card or a pattern on a smart-phone screen.
  • Trust in the issuer
  • Cultural prevalence
  • Unit of value
  • Value over time

Along with lessons two and three, history and problems, the Current Monetary System and can be understood, and the analysis separated necessary issues from obfuscating details. The flaws are shown, and also how this system came about, through human construction. The groundwork necessary for Lesson 4: Alternatives, is laid. This makes the view of money as a tool for human need much clearer, at a meta-level, and opens up thinking about how to answer those needs.

In brief, whatever the system/s, or type of currency, the summary of my understanding is:

a) Money (and use of a currency) is a social relationship: the promise to pay;

b) There has to be a third party that upholds the promise, enables trust;

c) Although the system relies on promise, it is a claim on real resources otherwise the supply is not valid.

d) Real resources (planetary and human capital) are both limited in the present and uncertain in the future. Monetary systems are not neutral regarding these resources. The false belief that it can be is one of the reasons why the current system is flawed.

The Money and Society MOOC aims to look at alternatives, and actions that can be taken, rather than claiming a solution.


Lesson 4 Alternatives.

The first distinction made is between alternatives that have been tried, known to history, or as workarounds when economic failures have occurred, and alternatives that have not yet been implemented, or have only very local application. In considering alternatives, the capacity for trust, risk and governance needs to be transparent, hence the following groups of ideas were analyzed illustrating possibilities and issues.

Banking Reform, and other re-makes within the present system

“…we have explored in this MOOC that the root of the problem lies far below the day to day practices of globalised banking institutions, psychopathic though those practices appear to be. Even if banks broke no laws they would still be stewards of a constant transfer of wealth and power from the poor to the rich, the commodification of everything, and the consumption of every resource.

Consequently banking reform could be seen as a distraction …”

There are however proposals worth considering such as that of Public Banking [Ellen Brown] and a similar proposal from the New Economics Foundation to turn state-owned RBS into a network of local banks, modeled on Germany’s Sparkassen. These have not received much media coverage, nor have attempts to create the legal framework that would enable them been made. On the contrary, some countries have tried to prove in court that national central banks are unconstitutional. The other alternative form of banking that already exists is Islamic Banking. Although lending and borrowing of money at interest is prohibited, the Islamic banking movement has copied the institutional framework and product range of the interest-based sector so that in practice fractional reserve banking and interest-like financial products dominate.

In recent times, some leading voices within the monetary reform movement have called for greater reliance on equity financing, the promotion of investment funds rather than banks as financing intermediaries, and the separation of financing activities from payment transmission services. There are proposals for regulation rather than reform, narrow banking, where the institution is not allowed to take risks by giving fresh loans to business. Instead, it would use the incremental funds to invest in zero risk government securities, a very restricted form of banking.

Following the discussion of banking, there are brief discussions of:

  • The Gold Standard – backing can be any tangible substance to prevent issuance abuse, but it is noted that what actually gets traded is the promise of gold, not the gold itself, and that the gold can be ‘cornered’ by the already powerful. The dichotomy of ‘gold’ vs ‘fiat’ is the first level of the monetary reform debate, and neither solves the problem of trust without proper government.
  • Free Market Money [Hayek] – suggests that currencies of any kind could be treated in the same way as other commodities, and traded similarly, without the legal tender laws that privilege those nationally defined. Those issuances of currency that inspired confidence and trust would survive.
  • Or, New World Currency has been proposed, and the IMF already has a facility called the Special Drawing Right, originally created in 1969 to replace gold and silver in international transactions. SDRs could be global, replacing national currencies, in the same way that the Euor become a European currency.

I agree with the authors of the MOOC, Bendell and Slater, “We, your authors of this lesson, are very cautious about ANY global currency. There is a problem if one currency becomes the dominant or only currency across a diversity of economies, as then, as we see in the Eurozone, it can prevent countries from setting their own policies. But the main problem with a global currency is governance. The IMF is not a democratically accountable body to all governments or citizens of the world. A global currency could centralise political power, more so if and when it became global legal tender.”

Reforms and Alternatives needing Government Action

Bendell and Slater call these “Neo-chartalist Solutions”. They include Positive Money, the American Monetary Institute and Modern Monetary Theory. [AMI even has a bill prepared for Congress to enact, but there is no uptake by congressional representatives.]

In all of these, government (or governments, one by one, internationally) have to be convinced and take the action necessary to bring monetary reform. The challenges are listed:

  • What kind of reforms would be needed to ensure the government could be trusted with monetary policy?
  • How would the banking industry respond to losing the income stream from creating credit?
  • Government issuance, banks at 100% reserve and onward lending guidance for money from government.

Bendell and Slater also address the idea of Universal Basic Income. [They do not refer to Social Credit as proposed nearly100 years ago by Douglas, although it seems similar, nor to modern proponents of UBI such as Standing: The Precariat, last chapters on basic income and recovering the commons, and the Basic Income Earth Network, BIEN].

Bendell and Slater finish this section saying:

“While engagement in public policy can and should continue, given the limited prospects for deep analysis and informed policy debate on monetary policy today, where else might reformers put their attention?”

Complementary Currencies and Local Actions

Local, complementary or community currencies are social processes agreed by a group, say by exchanging legal tender notes for locally issued notes in a way that traps value in the local economy, creating more circulation there (the multiplier effect). Various means are employed to enable the exchange with legal tender. See for example Bernard Lietaer. Bendell and Slater acknowledge that complementary currencies do nothing for monetary reform, but are nevertheless proposed as actions that informed people can and should take. Slater stresses a vital value recognition:

“If a community currency was simply a printed note or an accounting system, then you could make a 1 2 3 recipe for starting one in your community, like boiling an egg. However this approach is unlikely to succeed, because a currency is more than just tokens and symbols. Currency is a social construct made from trust relationships; creating a currency involves deep work in your community. Because the Necessary Transition [to environmental sustainability] cuts across all areas of life, and because money is a symbol of value and not value in itself, a currency project should be an integral part of a wider … agenda in your community.”

There are many examples of complementary currency projects existing, and ‘recipes’ for helping the start-up. All involve work and support, possibly but not all need initial financial support, from many others. Certainly time has to be volunteered. The Money and Society MOOC finished with many of these examples, of the following different types: localized legal tender, collaborative or mutual credit, self-issued currencies, and crypto-currencies. It is clear that Bendell and Slater believe these are worth doing, for the human value and local benefit in the present, but also, because should more global monetary reform happen, they would favour a system that included a plurality of currencies, interchanged collaboratively, rather than reproducing a dominant national or global currency.

It was not stressed, but is notable, that all forms of complementary currency have to grapple with the problem of governance: What kind of ‘third party’ upholds the social contract that validates the currency? Many attempt to form a de-centralised or non-heirarchical self-correcting process, in the ‘rules’ by which they are set up. Crypto-currencies like Bitcoin may claim that this is built in to the blockchain by which they operate, but Bendell and Slater say:

“We would like to clarify the meaning of decentralisation in blockchains because the concept is often seized upon by apologists. Decentralisation can apply to many different aspects of a thing. The blockchain is a technology for decentralised data storage, but everything else about Bitcoin, we would argue is centralised. There is ONE currency, with ONE ledger, running on ONE protocol. In addition, the issuance of bitcoin has been to early adopters or those with the most powerful computers, leading to a distribution that is not at all decentralized. We do not think that bitcoin should be called a decentralised currency or that the expression is helpful. Decentralised data storage though is very useful as it inspires trust in the one true blockchain.”

It also seems inevitable that some form of crypto-currency, a digital currency, is likely to arrive within global and national monetary systems, whether reformed or not, and whether complementary currencies of digital or other types exist or not. Other open source blockchain currencies that have been proposed were also brought to attention. Whatever the kind of complementary currency, Bendell and Slater show that they want to see a plurality of types, and also, that a Commons type of governance [Elinor Ostrom] is established, so that the currency serves local and human need.

Absolutely recommended:

Greco, Thomas, Reclaiming the Credit Commons: Towards a Butterfly Society, in

The Wealth of the Commons: a World Beyond Market and State (2012)

My personal response:

I was convinced that complementary currencies are worth beginning, but see that much time and energy is required. I also am pretty sure that crypto-currencies will be developed, and indeed advance with properties we have not yet thought about, just as ways of exchange are also advancing and changing. I have negatives:

I believe that to spend time on complementary currency development of any kind, although worth doing in ones own community, may be a distraction from the real need for global reform. We must continue to tackle the need for reform of the global monetary system via representatives, government educational processes and planned campaigning. We should join with and collaborate with groups whose aims are different but overlapping or affected by money matters. My most important reason for campaigning to educate representatives is that I do not believe that ‘most people’ are ignorant, or even if they are, that they need to become experts in money matters. I believe that most people function as best they can in the system they are in, that their wish, like fish in water, is to spend time swimming, not examining and changing the water quality. This is the job of elected representatives, and I want them to be brought to realise that this establishment of good governance is their responsibility. I know I will not become a crypto-currency developer, may never work out how to use my smart-phone, nor do I want to be an economist, even a better informed one. Similarly I understand that in varied and different ways, this is true of most others.

The underlying humanness is about ethics – the inner attitude to living collaboratively, that is easy to demand, hard to enact when it seems that ones own life has to be protected.

Many references, sorry they are unsorted.

Wray, L. R. (2013). Modern Money Theory: A Primer on Macroeconomics for Sovereign Monetary Systems. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin Q1 2014

Positive Money

NEF, A Green New Deal (2008)

UNEP Global Green New Deal (2009)

Dyson, B. (2014, pers com) Personal communication with Jem Bendell

Ryan-Collins, Josh and Tony Greenham, Richard Werner, Andrew Jackson (2012) Where does money come from? New Economics Foundation.

UNEP (2014) “Inquiry on the Design of a Sustainable Financial System.”




Brown, Ellen Hodgson. The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity, 2013.

Bendell and Greco (2013) Currencies of Transition, in The Necessary Transition, McIntosh ed (2013), Greenleaf Publishing.

Ryan-Collins, Josh; Werner, Richard; Jackson, Andrew (2012). Where Does Money Come From?: A Guide to the UK Monetary & Banking System (2nd ed.). London: New Economics Foundation. p. 178. ISBN 978-1908506238. OCLC 816167522.

Werner, R., Jackson, A., 2012, Where does money come from: a guide to the UK money and banking system, 2nd edition, nef (the new economics foundation): London

Simmel, Georg, The Philosophy of Money (1907)

Dodd, N, The Social Life of Money, (2014) Princeton University Press.

Riegel, E. C, The New Approach to Freedom (1976) or full PDF book:

Lietaer et al (2012) Money and Sustainability, The Club of Rome.

Adams, J (1787) Letter to Thomas Jefferson, August 25, 1787.

Standing, Guy. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London, UK ; New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2014.

BIEN, Basic Income Earth Network,,_The_First_5000_Years Or PDF of full book:

Some excellent explanations:

The Cobden Centre, a collection of writers giving a broadly Austrian perspective

Episode 1 of this podcast:

Grignon, Paul, Money as Debt III: Two kinds of money 6 min

Martenson, Chris, Crash Course:

-chapter 6 6 mins

-chapter 7 Fractional Reserve Banking 4 mins

-Chapter 8 Government money creation with treasury bonds 7m

More on Margrit Kennedy

BCCI bank of the CIA

Cobden centre, a blogging platform for Austrian Economists

First UK debate in 170 years in parliament

New Economics Foundation: Inequality and Financialisation,

Money as Debt shows all money is promises, even Gold money at the end of the day

Hudson, Michael, The Bubble and Beyond (Book)

Frederick Soddy, The Role of Money (PDF Book)

Rickards, James, Currency Wars (Book)

Money and Life

The Money Fix

Peter Joseph creator of ‘Zeitgeist’

“People Money” and free tools from

Wizards of Money Podcast 6 – Democratizing the money system.


Hearn, Mike, Turing Festival 2013: Future of Money (and everything else)

World Islamic Mint Study Centre


Davies, G (2002) The History of Money:

Ferguson, N (2008) The ascent of money , Penguin Books. Documentary:

Graeber, David, 5000 years of Debt (2011) Chapter 8. Audio is here:, The First 5000 Years/5000-debt-08-Credit-Versus-Bullion,-And-the-Cycles-of-History.mp3

Zarlenga, S (2002) The lost science of Money

Martin, F (2014) Money: The Unauthorized Biography.

Rickards, James

 Reply from Jem Bendell

Dear Elspeth

Thank you for taking the time to review the MOOC. Does your report feed into a consultation and any decision making within the Positive Money network?

Your report is timely as we will be making upgrades to the content in August. We will also tweak the system to allow every other MOOC to run over 2 months not one month. We will also make a decision in August about whether to create a bespoke version for a specific profession, eg. development professionals, and whether to seek funding to record the history lesson as a video and promote it as a stand alone that could be watched by anyone and generate interest in the topic and the MOOC.

Please, anyone who receives this email and has done the MOOC, consider coming to our summit on April 22nd in London. Its free. We will discuss various ideas.

My thoughts on your comments Elspeth:
– It is important to emphasise that the first 3 lessons provide the context whereby most people conclude to support fundamental monetary reform
– The MOOC is very critical of many currency innovations, for instance we prepare students to critique Ven in lesson 1 and we are critical of bitcoin in lesson 4
– A range of alternatives are discussed and these all imply different theories of change and some different emphases on principles. We spend a little bit more time on collaborative credit forms of complementary currencies in Lesson 4 as this is what we consider has less attention than crypto, local pounds or monetary reform and is what we know more about. However, we do not argue these are the things students should focus on, as it depends on what your opportunities and skills are

You wonder whether complementary currency work “may be a distraction from the real need for global reform.” My view is that it could be an aid for such global reform as well as comprising an element of that global reform. It “could”, because it depends on how it is done. In the first two Positive Money retreats, I gave a presentation on whether currency innovators and monetary reformers are “Foreigners, Friends or Foes,” where I made the case for having a strategy to engage for mutual benefit. Your review makes me think I should write that up for publication as a blog. The benefits are for giving Positive Money campaigners more ways to engage on a daily basis in building monetary consciousness, and enlisting currency innovators in monetary reform campaigns. You wont get bitcoin fanatics to go along with that, and that’s the point… there are good and bad currency innovations with people involved for a wide range of motives, and we need to differentiate and promote what is useful for the common good and aligned with democratic reform of national monies.

Once I write the blog Ill send to everyone here… but it will take some time. Better to discuss in person on April 22nd.

Here is a link to the certificate course that runs in April in London

Thanks, Jem

Dr Jem Bendell
Professor of Sustainability Leadership
Institute For Leadership And Sustainability (IFLAS)

Enable Sustainable Reform?

This blog is a copy of a final assignment written for the Money and Society MOOC online course I have been enjoying very much for the last few weeks. Because of the word length required, quite a lot of the detail is in the footnotes, sorry about that. I am very grateful to Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater for a great piece of learning. I heard about it through the Positive Money group, so thanks to them also.

Enable Sustainable Reforms: an Ethical Guild for Developers?

Missing from the Money and Society course is a Systems Perspective approach[i]. The course analyses ‘moneystuff’, offers information and ideas[ii]. Systems thinking brought a recommendation to the surface.

Systems thinking asks questions about underlying factors, for example, not what makes Fiat or Commodity the same or different, but why are they both called “money”?[iii] In the system, what is a part, and what is a container of parts? Can parts be expressed in different containers? System is personal, I am in it, so what I bring is not just about me, but also provides partial system information[iv]. A systems account takes holism as its start point, however unfocussed, as each individual aspect carries information. It is more like a hologram[v] than a flowchart. First, free association vignettes, then a search for connections and commonalities in the picture.


  1. In Michael Connelly’s crime fiction[vi], the detective Bosch has a credo: everybody counts or nobody counts. The stories tell how Bosch can only do the job, feel valued, when he works for the others, the least important, the forgotten. Without this valuing, everything flips to nothing, is meaningless.
  1. Some years ago, I queued behind a woman offering a cheque to pay for her purchase. The assistant declined, only cash or card, woman distressed, humiliated, assistant helpless. I paid for the goods with my card and accepted her cheque. Everyone happy, woman and I chatted. She was afraid of cards and going into debt, reluctant to change how she managed her life. She decided to ask her bank for a debit card, explained as ‘like a cheque’. She managed life well within limits she could choose. Knowing more would not have helped.
  1. Following links, I was on Ethereum[vii], thought I would get a “wallet” and learn something about crypto-currency. Click went to a “Security Warnings” list from “You are responsible…” to “SURE I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE”. As part of the 21st Century, I have entered sites, bank accounts and passport renewal, playtime apps, computer upgrades, and happily clicked “agree to Terms and Conditions”. Ethereum, transparent and detailed, scared me with my ignorance. I do not understand, I would not click. I did not want to spend the time it would take to learn its meanings.


The woman in the store stands as symbol for all Bosch’s others: me with limited time to learn among other commitments, the teenager with disability seeking independence, the lecturer in literature asking her kids to program her phone, anyone anywhere with inner self-image ‘not capable, don’t know’. We all count, and we are all capable of adapting, but adaptation is sometimes choice (me), sometimes according to previous experience and help available (woman). Guy Standing has identified loss of “time control”[viii]. It is easy to adapt and adopt when either I already know this system or I can easily learn it. The woman and I represent the inevitability of change, how we adapt and manage real limits. We want systems we can safely use, not always becoming well-informed users.


This is about autonomy, BOTH taking personal authority AND having trust in someone else’s. Monetary systems cannot return to ‘tally sticks’, nobody believes in the divine right of kings to issue them[ix]. Instead, we know we are dependent on imperfect others, and vulnerable to their goodwill, their human qualities[x]. Limits in our capabilities and capacity for education are real[xi]. Life chances are not equalized in exchange systems, however devised, but unfair practice can be minimized by an ethical protocol[xii]. I believe this means a restoration of “Commons”[xiii]. ‘Commons’ or not, an autonomous system requires a code of ethics, an infrastructure that maintains ethical direction, and a means by which failing system parts are corrected. From Ann Pettifor:

  1. a) Money is a social relationship: the promise to pay;
  2. b) there has to be a third party that upholds the promise;
  3. c) a system relying on promise is a claim on real resources (with limits and uncertainty) otherwise the supply is not valid[xiv]:

Money systems should be explicitly ethical, as banking is not[xv]. However, reform depends on perception[xvi] not just the quality of the proposal[xvii]. We can learn from history: advances in knowledge practice lead to the formation of guilds, or professional bodies[xviii]. New techno-systems will come[xix]. Let us have planned ethically informed change[xx], not a chaos echoing the old, just as likely to fail.

  1. The ethics of new proposals should be explicit.
  2. Individuals devising monetary systems or currencies should create a professional guild, characterized by transparency, statement of purpose, and ethical code of practice [With or without expertise everyone can choose their involvement and risk].
  3. There should be sanctions, educational and legal.


Books, journal articles, URLs to sites, articles and video are listed by author, editor or organization, alphabetically, not by item type. All weblinks accessed 14 March 2017.



Bendell, Jem, and Thomas H Greco. ‘Currencies of Transition Transforming Money to Unleash Sustainability’. In The Necessary Transition: The Journey to the Sustainable Enterprise Economy, n.d.

Bendell, J and M. Slater (2015) Money and Society, free course,

Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.

Bollier, David, and Silke Helfrich, eds. The Wealth of the Commons: A World beyond Market and State /Ed. by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich. Amherst, Mass: Levellers Press, 2012.

Brock, Arthur, MetaCurrency Project,, SourceTree Commons,


Crawford, Elspeth [1]

Crawford, Elspeth [2] Making, Mistaking Reality,

Crawford, Elspeth [3]

Davies, Glyn. A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. 3rd ed., With revisions. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002.


Faraday, Michael (1839). Experimental Researches in Electricity, vols. i. and ii. Richard and John Edward Taylor.; vol. iii. Richard Taylor and William Francis, 1855

French, R. B., and P. Simpson. ‘The “Work Group”: Redressing the Balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups’. Human Relations 63, no. 12 (1 December 2010): 1859–78. doi:10.1177/0018726710365091.

Hoggett, Paul. ‘Perverse Social Structures’. Journal of Psycho-Social Studies 4, no. 1 (June 2010): 57–64.

Fresco, Jacques, The Venus Project

Greco, Thomas H, Beyond Money, Devoted to the liberation of money and credit, and the restoration of the commons,


Gupta, Vinay [1], Ethereum,

Gupta, Vinay [2], and

Helfrich, Silke. ‘The Logic of the Commons & the Market: A Shorthand Comparsion of Their Core Beliefs’. In The Wealth of the Commons, n.d.

Hutton, Jean, John Bazalgette and Bruce Reed, Organisation-in-the-Mind

Menzies, I. E. P, and London (GB) Tavistock Inst. of Human Relations (TIHR). The Functioning of Social Systems as a Defence against Anxiety: A Report on a Study of the Nursing Service of a General Hospital., 1984.

Money and Society MOOC, IFLAS, see Bendell and Slater

Ostrom, Elinor. The Future of the Commons: Beyond Market Failure and Government Regulation. Occasional Paper / IEA 148. London: Inst. of Economic Affairs, 2012.

Pettifor, A. Thinking Allowed – Money – how to break the power of the banks – @bbcradio4

Roesch, Ulrich. We Are the Revolution!: Rudolf Steiner, Joseph Beuys and the Threefold Social Impulse. Forest Row: Temple Lodge Publishing, 2013.

Slater, Matthew, Community Forge

Standing, Guy,

Sweeny (1977) The capital hill baby sitting coop,

The Merchants of Doubt, documentary film,

Waddell, Margot, and Tavistock Clinic. Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Development of Personality. London: Karnac, 2002.

Further reading and media:

Armstrong, David, and Robert French. Organization in the Mind: Psychoanalysis, Group Relations, and Organizational Consultancy: Occasional Papers 1989-2003. Tavistock Clinic Series. London ; New York: Karnac, 2005.

Bion, Wilfred R. Experiences in Groups, and Other Papers. London: Tavistock/Routledge, 1989.

Bollas, Christopher. The Christopher Bollas Reader. London ; New York: Routledge, 2011.

Coleridge, Greg, The Power Elite’s Ten Strategies Opposing Money Reform

Ferguson, N (2008) The ascent of money , Penguin Books. Documentary:

Four Horsemen, documentary film,

Hoggett, Paul. Politics, Identity, and Emotion. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers, 2009.

Maizels, Neil Is That Really What It Is! Capitalism un-emperored,

Rowbotham, Michael. The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery, and Destructive Economics. Charlbury, Oxfordshire : Concord, MA: Jon Carpenter ; Distributed by Paul and Co, 1998.

Pettifor, Ann. Just Money: Society Can Break the Despotic Power of Finance. Commonwealth Publishing., ///.

Solms, Mark, and Oliver Turnbull. The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience. New York: Other Press, 2002.

Standing, Guy. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London, UK ; New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Standing, Guy. The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay. London: Biteback Publishing, 2016.

Zarlenga, Stephen. The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money, the Story of Power. Valatie, NY: American Monetary Institute, 2002.

[i] Aronson: “The approach of systems thinking is fundamentally different from that of traditional forms of analysis. Traditional analysis focuses on the separating the individual pieces of what is being studied … Systems thinking, in contrast, focuses on how the thing being studied interacts with the other constituents of the system—a set of elements that interact to produce behavior—of which it is a part. This means that instead of isolating smaller and smaller parts of the system being studied, systems thinking works by expanding its view to take into account larger and larger numbers of interactions as an issue is being studied. This results in sometimes strikingly different conclusions …”

[ii] In Money and Society, assignment 1, I defined “moneystuff”, Crawford [1], as everything this course would be about. We got: Introduction, money as social technology, History, trust and backing properties, Problems/Impact, issues of mindsets, challenge to worldview, and Alternatives, old and new ideas. Gupta [1] and Bendell specifically state their belief that monetary systems should benefit all people; Slater, Community Forge website is purposefully aimed to help communities and transparent about its methods.

[iii] In a totally unrelated but analogous systemic process, in 1832 Michael Faraday began a series of experiments called “the Identities of Electricity” in which he asked – remember this is 1832 – Why do we think the spark from a cat’s fur and a thunderstorm and the jump of a frog’s leg etc. are all called “electricity”? Fast forward, his study of commonality led to the discovery of electrochemical theory, the production of steady current, Daniell’s production of the first chemical battery in1838, and many other developments in chemistry and physics.

[iv] I can ask: What would I consider the essential property of a monetary system, or of a currency? see CEPTR values levels, or Brock. Or, I can heed my feelings and more idle thoughts, and wonder what information these carry. See Crawford [2] “Use of Self”, and Hutton, et al.

[v] Hologram characteristics: because of interference between two beams of light, the hologram carries information about the illuminated object at every point it occupies, see

In analogy, a system that consists of many parts, layers and levels, can show some information about each part at any point, depending on the perspective from which the view is obtained. In human systems, feelings and atmosphere offer perspectives on levels differing from that accessed by cognitive rationality.

[vi] see

[vii] links from Money and Society, lesson 4.25, Gupta [2], and Ethereum

[viii] Standing: “What are the crucial assets over which the precariat must struggle? … they are socio-economic security, control of time, quality space, knowledge (or education), financial knowledge and financial capital. All are unequally distributed, and in terms of control are becoming more so. One can even claim that many of them are more unequally distributed than income itself.”

[ix] Davies, and Money and Society, lesson 2.10 identify the tally system parts, but the overarching ‘protocol’ that makes it possible to accept the inherent risk of credit was the hegemonic belief that all kings had divine right. They could demand trust.

[x] For authors writing with reference to money and factors inherent in a holistic life, see Beuys, Roesch, Fresco. For depth psychology, Waddell may be a place to begin.

[xi] In a group/cultural phenomenon, as Money and Society, Davies, Gupta, show, each kind of money or currency fails in some respect. All relate to power (issuing and backing), all affect the group that uses them, in a complex feedback loop, people become like the money system they first devised and now are using. Analysis of this phenomenon, that helps us understand the growth of hegemony, is variously called ‘institutionalization’, ‘groupthink’, basic assumption process etc. See Menzies’ seminal paper in social understanding, French, Hoggett, and for an example from Money and Society course, see Sweeney.

[xii] Gupta [2] brings this to the fore this when he notes that Bitcoin is political.

[xiii] The most realistic ethical society I know of is a return to the idea of “Commons”, see e.g. Ostrom, Bollier, Greco, Helfrich.

[xiv] In a recent radio programme, Thinking Allowed – Money – how to break the power of the banks – @bbcradio4

Ann Pettifor identified these three money properties. It seems to me that Money and Society analysis agrees with these properties, as I do. Consider ‘backing’ for example, or whether money is Commodity or Fiat. History has had chiefs and priests and kings, and law and judiciary play their part, as they always have, with sanctions that operate or not, as in ‘bailing out the banks’ and exporting of the credit risk where a promise cannot be kept.

[xv] NB “Ethical Banking” does not refer to having a code of ethics that governs ones own behavior and direction. It uses the word ‘ethical’ [wrongly?] to refer to particular types of investments and their impact on externals in the environment.

[xvi] see Waddell, Crawford [2], [3].

[xvii] for opposition and propaganda as well as simply mistaken perception, see Coleridge, and documentary film The Merchants of Doubt.

[xviii] The purpose of guild or professional body is usually ethical: the protection of both future knowledge and of those who use the expertise offered. Examples:1377 printers Guild of Stationers, ; Doctors, 1832, revision 1855, British Medical Association. All are in danger of institutionalization, becoming the establishment, see note x above, and suffer from politicians’ failures to represent needs of constituents even though they take oath to do so, etc. Ethics code and infrastructure should address this.

[xix] See Standing: “proficiens, a growing group who live as contractors, consultants, self-employed “businesses” and the like. They earn high incomes, but live on the edge of burn-out and constant exposure to immoral hazards, often breaking laws with abandon. Their numbers are growing, as is their influence on political discourse and popular imagery”? Do “proficiens”, often anti-authority personality types, need education regarding autonomy – independence within a system, and the nature of personal authority – inner recognition of rights, responsibility and ethics?

[xx] Consultancy on code can be available, free, should include “this code is to be re-visited in [insert time scale here] or when request for revisit is made by [proportion of guild members here] or [number of external referrals here], and other guards against institutionalization, note x above. Contact

Love-Hate Relationships/History of Money

While taking a really good online course [Institute for Sustainability and Leadership: Money and Society] I have had to write an assignment for the first time in many years. Having been taken through Monetary History with a series of slides and associated papers, we were asked to develop our own theory on the main factor influencing monetary history, using examples, recurring themes etc. This is what I found myself writing, it was supposed to be 500 words, but this is over 1000. [Luckily, online courses do not assess.]

Human Interactions and System Creation

Sorry, I am out of time to shorten this … but very grateful for the way the assignment gave me an opportunity to put the ideas into words within the monetary context.

Systems, their Currencies and Functions (Moneystuff) are inventions of humans, not universal laws. Money stuff comes from human minds. How do brains/minds work to make these artefacts, cultures, organizations, institutions?

Theory: Bio-social-psychological learning from neuroscience, anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, suggest states of mind result from dynamics of experience through feedback loops (amygdala, hippocampus, cortex) acting on and responding to the complexity of internal and external happenings, bringing artefacts, cultures and institutions into the loop.[1]

LAW: Moneystuff is a product of mind-states projected onto the outside world.[2]

The states of mind existent in humans give rise to three different types of “projected cultural interactions” applicable to monetary history.[3]

These interactions conflict, are productive or degenerate, depending on use and particular context. Each can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the feedback loop resonates; hegemony takes hold. If projection is of a single interaction mode it will in time become dysfunctional, even though at first it may have shown promise of wellbeing. A single interaction mode may be useful by itself in particular circumstances, but reality requires flexible engagement with each as circumstances change.

DEPENDENCE – An experience of all humans (birds, mammals also) engenders a state of mind that obeys authority, feels envy and gratitude, seeks and gives help and security[4]. The monetary systems of Mesopotamia, Yap stones are decreed by law or custom equivalent to law, and refer to human necessity, agriculture, food, shelter. In authority and obedience responsive to need, they represent dependency interactions. The example from Rome seems to show how what was at first a productive fiat currency, Dependence, became dysfunctional, causing a switch to the next mode.

INDEPENDENCE or SURVIVAL As it develops, mind engages with attachment, separation, anxiety, loss of unconditional provision, but at the same time, gains experience of mutual support, and/or competition. “Me” realizes “Us” and “Them”. Entering the world of siblings and others, we echo how humans moved from hunter-gatherer living to settlements about 10,000 years ago, necessitating brain development overlaying more basic biology [Solms]. When competitiveness, fear, anxiety about scarcity or other threats to survival exist, the projection becomes fight or flight, us or them. Money becomes a commodity, capital, of which there is enough, or not enough[5].

Where Survival and Dependence co-exist, co-operative and collaborative systems develop. The Tally Sticks of the Middle Ages may look like “fiat”, and are established by the king’s decree, but in practice are exchange between the king and his subjects enabling the aims of each. However, it could be said that Survival became the sole interaction after the death of Charles I and the brief puritanical republic. Central banking and capitalism emerged at this time, alongside colonialism, fear of scarcity bringing exploitation. Laws passed in the 17th century allowed debts to be freely bought and sold, a social interaction became a commodity. In Survival mode plenty is achieved through “survival of the fittest”. Survival dominates later monetary history, helped by Adam Smith and the enlightenment putting reason above emotion not seeing the way in which emotion underpins all reasoning and enables it to be in tune with reality. Later, living within an already formed Survival understanding of Money, many believed the free market promised well-being. Neo-liberal philosophy is a degenerate form of Independence/Survival that diminishes both Dependence and the third interaction mode.

FUTURE (called Pairing in psychosocial literature) is the human ability to plan, perceive future, remember past, use tools, and join with others to regret, repair, and reproduce to find hope in the future, rather than repeat. This mode contains memory and desire, used alongsid ethe other two is genuinely creative. However, when used without the other two, pairing allows emotionality, fantasy and prejudice unchecked by evidence, to dominate. Many utopian proposals and conspiracy theories that hope to trigger monetary reform probably belong in this interaction, but I cannot find examples in monetary history where money or currency could be considered a projection of this type.

A monetary system that issues money as debt with interest diminishes this third interaction. It makes a destructive charge on the future of ourselves and our planet. Possibly Islamic Banking that restricts usury, may be one form of money that recognizes some aspect of “Future”, micro-finance schemes may also do so, but I do not know enough about either.

Prediction: Recognition of the failure of the neo-liberal monetary system, will lead to either a different form of Survival, or to a Dependent mode. For example, the film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse analyses the system failure, then supports a return to a regulation and gold standard, i.e. commodity money, exchange, limited by authority. This is again Survival, with a reach for something that can be identified as secure with competitive problems deemed soluble by appeal to authority. Positive Money seeks a monetary commission, but its own solution is to have a Money Committee taking the power of issuance away from banks, and deciding on how much or in what currencies money will be issued. This seems to be a return to a Dependent mode, though with good listening parents, the family will be allowed to participate. This could be reconcilable with the third interaction, but equally might see-saw between Dependence and Survival modes, as most solely rational functioning has done in monetary history.

A transformative system would include Future Pairing mode, acknowledging human gift, all our interaction modes, our capital. This may grow in small local cooperatives or transition groups, but none that has appeared has gained much traction[6]. I am intrigued by Bendell’s “Acknowledgement” function of money that seemed to me similar to “paying forward” or “what goes around comes around”, in which trust in goodness, remembrance of past worth, allows different ways of thinking about what money might become. If money were used according to observed circumstance for human-and-environment wellbeing rather than economic growth, its interaction mode would vary. I do not see any government at present able to formulate such a flexible monetary system. My hopes from this course are to be more able to so, but I cannot predict it.


Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.

Bion, Wilfred R. Experiences in Groups, and Other Papers. London: Tavistock/Routledge, 1989.

Bollas, Christopher. The Christopher Bollas Reader. London ; New York: Routledge, 2011.

Davies, Glyn. A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. 3rd ed., With revisions. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002.

French, R. B., and P. Simpson. ‘The “Work Group”: Redressing the Balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups’. Human Relations 63, no. 12 (1 December 2010): 1859–78. doi:10.1177/0018726710365091.

Hoggett, Paul. Politics, Identity, and Emotion. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers, 2009.

Maizels, Neil Is That Really What It Is! Capitalism un-emperored,

Rowbotham, Michael. The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery, and Destructive Economics. Charlbury, Oxfordshire : Concord, MA: Jon Carpenter ; Distributed by Paul and Co, 1998.

Solms, Mark, and Oliver Turnbull. The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience. New York: Other Press, 2002.

Standing, Guy. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London, UK ; New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Waddell, Margot, and Tavistock Clinic. Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Development of Personality. London: Karnac, 2002.

Zarlenga, Stephen. The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money, the Story of Power. Valatie, NY: American Monetary Institute, 2002.


[1] See e.g. Solms for neuroscience, Waddell for states of mind, Hogget for processes of cultural formation.

[2] Psychosocial references: Solms, Waddell, Maizels, Hogget, French.

Monetary History and socio-political references: Rowbotham, Standing, Davies, Zarlenga.

[3] Adapted from Wilfred Bion’s theory of basic assumptions in group unconscious and Robert French’s development of it in leadership studies where the assumptions are considered to be universal interaction modes that can be both positive and negative. The names above are mine, to apply the ideas better within 500 words.

[4] Maslow heirarchy of needs – food and shelter

[5] Neil Maizels:

[6] Joseph Beuys “What is Money?”


A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [4]

Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 and Part 3.

Based on philosophical and psychological inquiry, part 1 referred to the philosophy of science in order to show the need for a new paradigm approach to a world problem: to think how “money” or a monetary system might be better planned to support life. Part 2, supposed three interlinked relationships within life as the foundation of this holistic approach [transcendent, rights, and exchange]. Then in part 3, a thought experiment began where “exchange” was left out, so that some notions of what “money” might mean without that aspect we are so accustomed to viewing could emerge. This “out of the box” thinking helps the realisation that the current paradigm (a hegemony in thought) allows exchange to dominate. This can be seen again, but each time a little differently, when the exchange aspect of life is paired with each of the others, but all three are not in combination. Leave out “transcendence” and inevitably, the view moves to conflicting aspects of sociology and psychology. The “elephant in the room” is that we talk about cultures, spirituality, the uncertainty of future, as if we were not in the experience. This is OK if we do not forget that there is a wider perspective, but when that perspective is forgotten, it can be observed that thinking tends to become reductionist, about short-term, immediate issues.


Politics tries to balance the needs of economy – seen as market – without which aims (even self-interested aims) for the well-being of all cannot be begun, nor rights advanced. The viewpoints shift from ‘left’ to ‘right’, neither seems to succeed.

If “exchange” is paired with “transcendence”, leaving out “rights”, observation from this view shows another familiar dichotomy, that between simplistic reductionism, and a more utopian idealism. The idea of “rights” gets dragged in to discussion, almost as an afterthought, again linear thinking as if either ‘left’ or ‘right’ had the answer, overwhelms more complex thoughtfulness. People are again in US and THEM mode, one group being thoughtless consumers, the other utopian idealists, depending which sort of US group one happens to be in at the time.


One aspect of life has become dominant, so that it is almost impossible to use the word “economics” as meaning life management, it refers primarily to “exchange”, trade, things with technical meaning like “balance of payments”.

In a more holistic view, considering disparate fields of inquiry, every discipline* has proposed a different theory of living that contains some truths. From each particular lens, a version appears, of three, sometimes four, drives, instincts, or needs, differently named, but similar in quality, to the threefold approach being used here. Finding correlations, or links, or even differing semantics, is welcome, a collaboration in understanding from a variety of perspectives. 

The foundation chosen here, although it refers to Beuys, an artist with a deep interest in economics and money, is a re-wording of discovery from the psychoanalysis of groups. Over the many years that psychoanalytic thinking (an experiential observational inquiry) has developed, it has left behind early cultural misapprehensions, it has found affirmation from the newer discipline of neuroscience, as well as from practical results in particular applications (therapy being just one of these). For psychoanalytic thinking, often called psychodynamics, one of the biggest problems now is that of expressing valid and useful findings in ordinary language, so the information can be used by all, rather than using the specific technical language that is just as hard to understand as the languages of physics or literary criticism, or any other depth inquiry.

The next part of this exploration of how to make change in a monetary system will use this basic understanding of human life and its motivations, applying it to economics, the idea of “money”.

return to  Part 1 here, or Part 2 or Part3.

*look up almost any discipline and search for “basic human” …: Cultural anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Genetics, Evolutionary biology, Economics, Neurology, Philosophy


A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [3]

Read Part 1 here, and Part 2,or go to Part 4

These produced questions, that are counter-intuitive to how we often consider money: First: Could we, creative people, conceive of a money system that is like life? [Life is a gift] Second: What would money as gift look like?

Before damning this as totally unrealistic, playing games, think instead about breaking the paradigm, gostarting from what is in life that is indeed a gift: the sunlight, the seeds that know how to grow, the seasons, and ourselves with myriad capabilities, including those of death and destruction. This post is about real, not a fantasy wish-list.

People created money as we think of it at present, and most of us think about it as something it is not!! It is not concrete stuff, it is an idea, an artifact of mind, that we use to represent necessary relationships.

Look back at the foundation diagram (in part 2), and take it apart from different venn1perspectives, remembering that it is a whole. Or, at least an attempt to represent something holistically.

Leave out the exchange part, that has become so dominant in recent history.

Surprisingly, historical research[i] into money creation suggests that it first emerged as a combination from the Transcendent and the Rights sectors, not using exchange at all! And, it allows me to think about children, dependents generally, as well as those bugbears of power and authority, both inner world perceptions and beliefs as well as the outer world effects. These are so evidently part of the necessary debate about money and its uses and abuses that somehow it feels like a good road to take. [Reflexive thought, inner awareness of feelings plus outer observations, evidence, combination to assess truth or prejudice. Keep going.]


This brings notions about holistic think methods – basically the well-known brainstorm process. Brainstorm “money as gift” or “life as gift” or just “what kind of money do we want”? What do you get? What did I get? Words like money is relationships between people, payment for service or product, trust, risk, not enough, root of all evil, work reward, many things to many people…

I also discovered that brainstorming alone is not a great idea, so looked at the record of an earlier brainstorm process with others, at a recent Positive Money Retreat a brainstorm about good or bad groups, produced the flip-chart below. It seems to me that the “bad” group represents pretty well how our society has sleepwalked its way to the monetary system we have at present, and the good group processes have been pretty much absent when it comes to designing what we want from money, or monetary system.


Using words from the ‘good’ group brainstorm – do they apply to money? Effective, common purpose, synergy, … why not use these alongside the other words that are more commonly used to describe the meaning and use of money.

Also, would the other parts of the diagram reveal interesting aspects of what we really want from “money for life”?

go to Part 4, or return to  Part 1 here, or Part 2.

[i] See Stephen Zarlenga, the New Science of Money

A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [2]

read part [1] here

How do we set about creating a system that would represent life better? Inadequate as it is, the Venn diagram below helps me think about how we can stop seeing money as only a means of transaction between people, helps me start from something more whole in human experience. There are three interlinked relationships within our life, expressed in many different ways and differently divided by other writers[i]. However they are expressed, all agree that without each and without each in combination, the picture of life fails in some important respect. Joseph Beuys[ii] proposed a basic foundation that encompassed what he called the Spiritual Life, the Rights Life and the Economic Life. A little differently, I consider the life of the transcendent, rights, and exchange[iii]. Suppose a foundation could look like this:


If we said the need was for a money idea that covered life needs, human and world in which we live, then it is not utopia to say this is a final objective, but on the way there will be lesser aims, transitional shifts. Whatever these are, they need to be seen to be stages in heading towards a monetary system that might be uncertain but would even so be more genuinely reaching for real requirements than the present pseudo-science that is too frequently taught as economics[iv]. The direction in which proposed change takes us matters.

In brief:

Could we, creative people, conceive of a money system that is like life?

What would money as gift look like?

read Part 3 here, then part 4

or return to Part 1

[i] Interactions: see French, R. B., and P. Simpson. ‘The “Work Group”: Redressing the Balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups’. Human Relations 63, no. 12 (1 December 2010): 1859–78; The Threefold Social Impulse: see Roesch, Ulrich. We Are the Revolution!: Rudolf Steiner, Joseph Beuys and the Threefold Social Impulse. Forest Row: Temple Lodge Publishing, 2013; add your own knowledge from whatever perspective e.g. ecology, religion, sociology, philosophy, etc.

[ii] Beuys, Joseph, ed. What Is Money?: A Discussion. Forest Row, England: Clairview Books, 2010.

[iii] This is roughly comparable to Wilfred Bion’s unconscious theory of group behaviours, pairing, dependency and fight/flight. see French and Simpson above for development of this idea as basic interactions.

[iv] References, many include:

Rowbotham, Michael. The Grip of Death: A Study of Modern Money, Debt Slavery, and Destructive Economics. Charlbury, Oxfordshire : Concord, MA: Jon Carpenter ; Distributed by Paul and Co, 1998.

Jackson, Andrew, Ben Dyson, and Herman E. Daly. Modernising Money: Why Our Monetary System Is Broken and How It Can Be Fixed. London: Positive Money, 2014.

Ivo Mosley, and Positive Money websites.

A new Paradigm for a new Monetary System [1]

Equity, Fairness and Worth

We, or our governments, spend time talking of economics and money, and even more esoteric things like fiscal policies, and when some idea is proposed, there is an instant antoinettequery about “resources” which usually means, “Where is the MONEY?” Our societies and their institutions are made up of people, made by people, they may seem fixed, but are, like our minds, more plastic than we may wish to acknowledge. The word “money” is also not concrete, not fixed, it is in fact an idea rather than a thing, and throughout history has had many forms. However, when the talk is of values, what is valued, it is the future that is envisaged in many different ways, with all its uncertainties, and over and over again, the wishes, for something fair, and something worthwhile, something equitable. “Be the change you want to be” is now a mantra, a useful one. What it may mean is that things will be different, will become different, when we are different in both thought and action, when our minds have changed along with our behaviours. We do now know that body, mind and action are not separable, but interlinked.

Thinking, the process or the way people think, has many forms, patterns if you like. It often seems natural, indeed often is instinctive, to start with parts, and build towards a whole, understanding the organism by seeing what each bit does, and then trying to find relationships. This is classificatory, cognitive, rational, and has often been mistaken for the “scientific process”[i]. However, this is only one aspect of scientific thinking, indeed only a part of any kind of thinking or thoughtfulness. There is another equally important, probably more important aspect to thought. This more inclusive, but more uncertain, way of thinking starts with the “whole”, allowing perception, feeling, intuition, experiment, and allows the parts themselves to show their enfolding into each other, so that understanding follows the actuality of their relationships. A better idea of whole emerges into the thinking mind.[ii] This is creative thought, reflexive, situated in the reality of observation, aware of bias in the self. Reflexive thinking moves mindfully between subjectivity, feeling experience, and logical connections, towards a stronger more enduring objectivity. This fluid thought process properly acknowledges that understanding is a matter of direction and probability, never complete, but what it grasps, is real. The parts, and logical patterns previously observed will fit in somewhere if the idea, so far, so good, matches reality. If parts don’t fit, if the process becomes mired in confusion, complication, anomaly, contradiction, then it does not matter how rational the theory sounds, it is a mess, not fit for purpose. The history of science, and politics and human endeavour is full of paradigm shifts, as theories were seen to fail, rather than succeed. In science, think Copernicus, Galileo, the wave theory of light, and in human interactions, remember the Berlin Wall, the Industrial Revolution, the outlawing of slavery, all the way back to the iron age replacing the stone age. Thought shifts towards the future, based in reality, when something whole is grasped, even if at first it is not at all understood.

Anyone attempting to follow modern 21st century economics theory, economics policies, government fiscal and monetary understanding, boom and bust, austerity, debt bonds, scarcity and wealth, the deficit, the borrowing, etc.etc. can see that economic theory, in particular neo-liberal economic theory, is not fit for purpose.

Economics is a study of a very important aspect of life, how people interact to produce the goods they and others need or want, how governments enact policy in particular ways to enable people to interact within markets to get what they want or accomplish certain goals. Or not, sometimes. It purports to study the production and consumption of goods and the transfer of wealth to produce and obtain those goods. Within the theories there will be parts that are in tune with real lives, as they are lived, and parts that are plain wrong. Without a new frame we cannot at the moment tell which is which.

Economics requires a rethink, a different paradigm, emerging from the sense of life. We may seek equity fairness and worth, but they can be put aside, temporarily, while life is observed as it is lived by all, not just some, not just in general, but by particular people each of whom lives their own story, connected to the stories from others. Life is a gift. We forget. How can we remember?

The next posts will look for the forward aspect of economics, that would happily not require too many major shifts in many of the ways we use money and production, as those parts of thinking and practice that do work well, will find a better home, and those that do not become redundant. Much of the detail and analysis, especially the details of economics and its history, owes a lot to Positive Money, to Ivo Mosley and to all those people who by active enabling listening and thoughtfulness have helped me to think. Positive Money ask that anyone who comes to see this need for a new way forward in economics, sign petitions here, asking that quantitative easing be directed towards the productive economy, and here, asking for a money commission.

Read part 2, then parts 3 and 4

[i] This is actually only the justificatory aspect of science, the checking out if the theory works, to see what evidence supports it, see by reasoning and logic if the theory stands up in practice. To create a theory, explore uncertainty, scientists also use a heuristic process, and this is more often than not an emotional and instinctive, highly subjective way of engaging with the world being explored.

[ii] Charles Darwin’s wife reported in the appendix to his autobiography that he had stated “it is fatal to reason whilst observing, though so necessary beforehand and so useful afterwards” Collins Edition, 1958. p.159. To work holistically from the real world of observation and experiment, not being afraid to see contradiction and anomaly, is how real understanding of anything has proceeded – and there is no “total” real understanding, no “certainty” just perspectives from which one can go outside of one’s mind and thought into the world, and find a fit with what is there. [Psychological references from Wilfred Bion, Learning from Experience, Daniel Seigal, Mindfulness, and Bessell van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, and many others.]