A holistic vision for incorporating higher values of the Indian synthesis into capitalism in the light of an evolutionary perspective.
Competition and collaboration; stages of inner awakening; higher evolution of capitalism.
Competition and Collaboration
The Indian mind perceived the unity, mutuality and interdependence of all life and came to the conclusion that a harmonious collaboration between the various organs and limbs of the society, each contributing to the common good of all, is the path to attune the individual and collective life to this higher dharma of life. In other words, Indian thought perceived harmony, collaboration and social responsibility as the best path to higher evolution and progress. However we have to look at competition and cooperation in a wider evolutionary perspective and in the context of the contemporary corporate world. Here comes the relevance of the Indian concept of Yugadharma, which means dharma of the present times. We have to take into consideration the facts and experiences of the contemporary world in arriving at a new synthesis.
In the evolutionary ladder, mutuality, harmony and cooperation are undoubtedly the higher values which lead to sustainable development and competition belongs to the lower levels of development. However, cooperation can become truly creative and effective only when the individual and the collectivity attains a certain level of inner moral development or when it becomes a pragmatic necessity for the survival and success of the individual or a group. And until this happens competition is helpful. We must look objectively at the facts of nature as well as human life to understand the role and advantages of competition.
In the initial stages of human development, competition develops survival skills and the faculties of the pragmatic mind for adaptation and innovation. It awakens the inert physical man to the throb of life, forces him to face the difficulties and challenges of life and as a result helps him to progress from the physical to vital level. It also helps him to progress further by awakening the other vital motives of achievement, enjoyment, expansion, conquest. But if these vital motives are not kept in check or subordinated to a moral sense for the well-being of others and the community as a whole, then it leads to all the evils of traditional capitalism, which we see in western society like inequality, overconsumption, and environmental degradation. On the positive side we cannot deny that free enterprise and competition, wherever it is allowed to function without much government control, create rapid economic progress and prosperity. Moreover competition in terms of quality, cost and innovation is beneficial to the customer. Similarly, if firms compete with each other in terms of employee well-being, social and ecological responsibility and customer service, then it is beneficial to the community as a whole.
So what is needed is an awakening in every section of the human society to the unity mutuality and interdependence of life, in man and Nature. In a life-system governed by the laws of unity and interdependence, the wellbeing of each part is depended on well-being of others and the wellbeing of the whole. When this awakening and recognition is there, then much of the harmful forms of competition will disappear and there will be a greater urge among the individuals and the groups towards cooperation for the well-being and progress of the greater whole.
The Stages of Inner Awakening
This inner awakening happens in three stages. In the first stage when the individual or community is exclusively focused on its own self-interest, it cannot think beyond competitive struggle for survival, expansion and self-aggrandisment by whatever means.
As the human organism progresses further and awakens to the interdependence of life and begins to become aware that its self-interest can be better secured by harmonizing it with the interest of others in a win-win situation, then competition is subordinated and replaced by mutual accommodation. In this stage, this subordination or accommodation is predominantly pragmatic for a better realisation of self-interest. As the human organism progresses further and becomes aware of the systemic wholeness of life and understands how the wellbeing of each individual part depends on the wellbeing of the larger whole, then it is willing to subordinate its self-interest for the sake of the progress and wellbeing of the whole with a greater understanding of the laws of life. This is the stage in which the concept or ideal of social responsibility becomes a living force in the individual and communal life. Moreover, in this stage, the individual human organisms do not insist on competing with other individuals but willing to cooperate with other individuals for the progress and wellbeing of the whole. Modern corporate world is tentatively entering into the second and third stage. This is the reason why concepts like social and ecological responsibility, win-win approach, partnership, co-creation and alliance with competitors are increasingly heard and experimented in modern management theory and practice.
There is one more stage, the fourth, which may be a little far away from the present condition of humanity. It is the stage when the consciousness of humanity as a whole becomes more and more aware of the Oneness of all existence and as a result there is a spontaneous mutual self-giving.
These four stages of evolution from the stage of competition based on self-interest to the highest stage of self-giving happens through a process of natural evolution aided by a combination of external circumstances, education, thought and culture.
But this natural process of evolution can be made fully conscious and accelerated by awakening the individual and the community to the higher laws of unity and the four stages of growth. When our individual and communal life becomes conscious of these greater truths of life, then, keeping the highest ideal constantly in the background of our mind, we can progress consciously from where we are at present to the next higher stage, using appropriate educational and motivational strategies.
The Higher Evolution of Capitalism
Capitalism as a system of thought and practice has to figure out how to consciously traverse these four stages of evolution. The new rethinking in business, management and economics represent the beginning of an evolutionary growth from a predominantly competitive paradigm to a more collaborative growth. This evolution was affected by a combination of external circumstances, critical thinking and reflection. There is at present a growing recognition of the pragmatic interdependence of business and society and as a result the concept of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) is on the threshold of becoming a core value of business. The next step in evolution requires a clear understanding of the deeper, moral and spiritual foundations of CSR, which is the Indian insight into the unity and interdependence of all life. The corporate world has to recognise that interdependence of business and society is not merely pragmatic or the result of the present global environment but part of the highest laws of life, Dharma. The entire creation from the atom and molecule and plant, animal and human being are linked together in an interdependent harmony and unity and a still deeper Oneness of being and consciousness of an eternal Reality which is within our own being as our highest universal Self. In other words, the unity of all life in the oneness of our own self, which means to feel all life as a part of our own self.
The pragmatic consequences of this fundamental law may be described in the following words: “long term well-being and progress of every human organism, individual and communal, depends on the well-being and progress of all other organisms, human and natural, and that of the larger whole of life of which it is a part.”
This Indian insight and its pragmatic consequences have to be incorporated into education, learning and strategy of all the economic, business and corporate systems. This intuition of unity in thought and feeling, leading to an inner identification with people, community and nature, flowing outwardly in caring and compassionate action is the true and lasting foundation for collaboration, corporate responsibility and environmental sensibility. Interestingly some of the new thought on ecology and environment is moving towards these Indian perspectives. For example, physicist and author, Fritjof Capra writes: “Within the context of deep ecology, the view that values are inherent to all of living nature is grounded in the deep ecological or spiritual experience that nature and self are one” and quotes from Arne Naess, the founder of the deep ecology movement.
“Care flows naturally if the self is widened and deepened so that protection of free Nature is felt and conceived as protection of ourselves…. Just as we need no morals to make us breathe… so if yourself in the wide sense embraces another being, you need no moral exhortation to show care… you care for yourself without feeling any moral pressure to do it… if reality is like it is experienced by the ecological self, our behaviour naturally and beautifully follows the norms of strict environmental ethics.” [Capra F, 1997]
The author is a student and practitioner in the path of integral yoga.
Courtesy: VILAKSHAN, Journal of Xavier Institute of Management [partially reproduced with some modifications.]