You are on page 1of 27

TOWARDS A PROGRESSIVE BUDDHIST ECONOMICS Simon Zadek* A Personal Introduction The challenge of exploring a Buddhist Economics first came

to me in a series of exchanges with a number of distinguished Buddhist scholars in 1992. We had met under the auspices of the New Economics Foundation to discuss the relationship between Buddhism and economics as part of a broader exploration of the five major faiths and economics (OBrien et al, 1992). There was general agreement that Buddhism embodied certain principles that, if followed, could contribute to a more socially just and environmentally sustainable society. There was, however, strong disagreement as to whether the notion of a Buddhist Economics could accurately reflect the real wealth of Buddhism, or its meaning for economics. The view I took at the time was that a Buddhist Economics was fundamentally different from mainstream economics. Mainstream economics excluded the basic tenets and practical experience of Buddhism. It viewed economic relationships as being about how one person uses another to maximise their gain at the expense of those who they deal with in the market. Mainstream economics took peoples ego-based, socially determined desires as a given, whereas a Buddhist perspective required an appreciation of an economic system where people struggled to overcome these programmed desires and associated forms of exploitation. Mainstream economics was fundamentally about an individualisation of experience and behaviour, even where collective interests were involved. Buddhist Economics, on the other hand, concerned systemic inter-relationships, and thus challenged the individual experience and practice along a qualitatively distinct axis. The Buddhist practice of
*

Simon Zadek is the Research Director of the New Economics Foundation. This paper owes its existence to the many people who have contributed to NEFs work on Buddhist Economics, many of whom are referenced in the text. Comments on this paper or queries about NEFs work are invited to the

generosity, I argued, made no distinction between trader or family, friend or worker. Through practice, the Buddhist is able to increasingly treat every relationship as an end in itself, rather than as a means to achieving some other desire. This I saw as being very different from the experiential processes considered within mainstream economics, where the sole interest lay in the market transactions undertaken as a means to satisfying some exogenous aim. This view received the following response from one of the workshop participants, In 3o years of studying, teaching and practising both Buddhism and economics, Ive yet to find any inherent contradiction between the economists model of individual behaviour and Dhamma...There is a hierarchy of beggarly then friendly than regal giving: roughly speaking, grudgingly giving what we dont want for ourselves, then open-handed sharing, then spontaneously giving the very best...I dont recall anything in the suttas on negotiations in the market except for one passage (Anguttaranikaya I) where the Buddha commends a merchant for his skill in buying when the price is low and selling when it is high. The participant concluded, My concern is to counteract a tendency we all have to invent a Buddhist Economics on the hoof. (we must counter the proposition) I am a Buddhist; I have this idea about economics; therefore this idea is Buddhist Economics. Buddhists should not fall into this ego-baited trap. These and other similar comments gave me much food for thought. The history of mainstream economics is one of accommodation, at least intellectually, as a means of absorbing challenges to its stranglehold on the way in which we think about ourselves and economy. Its claim to be able to describe the underlying pattern of human behaviour remains impressively intact because of the failure of its critics to effectively challenge its selfappointed role of being a value-free approach to describing and analysing economic behaviour.

author at Vine Court, 112-116 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1JE, United Kingdom. Tel + 44 171 377 5696; Fax: + 44 71 377 5720; Eml: neweconomics@gn.apc.org

The challenge to the dominant approach to economics continues unabated. Some of those who challenge call themselves economists, but use prefixes such as ecological, evolutionary, institutional, or even neo-Schumpeterian, such as the British economist, Paul Ekins, and the Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef (Ekins and Max-Neef, 1992). Then are those who call themselves the quintessential anti-economist; the scientists, philosophers and literary analysts who make up a disparate vanguard, such as the German political philosopher, Wolfgang Sachs and the Indian scientist, Vandana Shiva (Sachs, 1993; Shiva, 1994). Last but not least are those who identify themselves in some part through their faith; the Christians, the Muslims, and of course the Buddhists (ACFOD, 1989). These people certainly do not all agree with each other about everything. Indeed, it is a feature of the times that the alternative movement lacks a coherent philosophy or agenda. All do agree, however, that the hegemony of mainstream economics needs to be broken if we are to seriously reach out for a new economics where social justice and environmental sustainability lie at the heart of both the means and the end. All do agree - albeit from differing perspectives - that any economy is and needs to be built on an explicit set of values; that any discipline that seeks to understand and explain (and even contribute to) social processes, needs to be absolutely explicit about those values. Not to be so is not merely inadequate, it is deceptive and potentially destructive. So it is not enough, from this perspective, to rely on the existing way of thinking about economy. Certainly it is not accurate or meaningful, let alone adequate for our needs, to speak of economics without establishing the value base that we are advocating or implicitly using. We need to prefix our view of economics with an explicit declaration of values. Following this initial debate about Buddhism and economics, I decided to test my underlying proposition that, actions that arise from Buddhist practice - that is actions that reflect the values of Buddhism - are integral to our material world. Relationships that are underpinned by this world view are not

distinguished by their economic and non-economic character in the practice of generosity. This view does not accept morality and economy as distinct, but seeks a synthesis - a moral economy. Whilst a practising Buddhist, I was under no delusion that I could contribute any insights into Buddhism. Those who have practised and studied far more diligently that I would join with me in taking a dim view of such a prospect. What I have sought to contribute, rather, has been a perspective on economics that would re-new and re-invigorate an age-old debate about the heart of the subject. My bridging knowledge of economics and Buddhism offered the opportunity to reassess the former in the context of the principles, theory, and practice of the latter. That is, to reflect on a Buddhist Economics offered an opportunity for serious thinking about our state of insight about economy and economics. This seemed a worthwhile exercise. We are at a time when mainstream economics helplessly legitimates the convergence of the world economy towards an uncontrollable explosion of excesses and inadequacies of almost every conceivable form. I wish only that others were correct in their view that mainstream economics does not stand in the way of the insight and processes that we need to further social justice and environmental sanity. I only wish... This paper is an attempt to bring together some thoughts that have arisen from the subsequent reflection. It draws from many conversations, and as much reading as possible. It draws from the practice of many. In reflecting on the paper, it seems useful to think about the question of Buddhist Economics in the following way. The question is not merely whether there is or is not a Buddhist Economics. Such a crude question elicits little more than a simplistic and unhelpful dualism. The question is more subtle, and I believe more important than this. It is whether we can conceive of an economics that embodies the values that we espouse and try to live by. It is how we can best reflect personal practice and canonical ideals in the social domain, particularly within the sphere of economy. It is whether Buddhism, rather than

allowing people to accommodate the social and environmental dislocations caused by the dominant approach to economics, offers a path of both resistance and reconstruction.

Schumachers Utopia The notion of a Buddhist Economics can be and is seen in many ways. It is seen as an oxymoron, two words that placed together appear contradictory to the point of absurdity. It is an irritation, both to those who see Buddhism principally in terms of solitary practice and asocial gain, and to those who see economics as an objective, value-free analysis of peoples behaviour. It is an inspiration to those who see Buddhism as having the potential to inform and reform a degenerate economics, particularly those with an eye on the economics espoused by Schumacher. It is an irony for those social historians and political scientists who record the violence of Buddhist nationalism, or the application of Buddhism to the pursuit of economic growth. Lastly, and arising largely from Schumachers perspective, Buddhist Economics has come to represent a critique of mainstream approaches to economics and economy. Buddhist Economics is therefore not one particular thing. Any attempt to own it for one vision, one cause, or one explanation, must be suspect. At the same time, a key reference point must surely be that of Schumachers vision. It was Schumacher who originally framed the notion of a Buddhist Economics certainly in its contemporary form - and it is therefore a useful point to begin our exploration. Schumachers vision was, quite simply, that the economy should exist to serve people, not vice versa, and that it should be in harmony with, rather than exploiting of, nature. These two key pillars had for Schumacher certain implications as to how an economy should work. Technology should be of a human-scale to enable people to control their own pace and forms of work, and to allow peoples own creativity to flourish. This was his idea of an

appropriate technology. The economy should focus first on producing things that are needed for those people most in need, rather than material luxuries for those who already consume more than they need. The economy should be organised so as not to degrade the natural environment, whether through the over-use of resources, or the over-production of pollution. Schumachers vision of a Buddhist Economics has therefore come to imply a set of organising principles for practical alternatives. These principles broadly relate to three levels of transformation: personal, social, and ecological. Personal concerns the manner in which the individuals potential for evolution is understood, particularly but not exclusively through the practices associated with various forms of Buddhism. Social concerns the potential for qualitative shifts in relationships between people, particularly in the context of personal transformations. Ecological concerns the manner in which our understanding not only of nature but of the overall inter-relatedness of phenomena underpins our existence and informs our actions. Schumachers utopia has clear links with key Buddhist principles. Some of these principles are described in an essay by Stephen Batchelor, The Practice of Generosity: First Steps Towards a Buddhist Economics. He suggests that the core values of Buddhist Economics are contained within the principles of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha, he argues, ..refers to the state of wisdom and compassion realised by Buddha Gautama who lived in India around the 6th century BC. The Dharma, he continues, concerns the personal practice that seeks to liberate the individual ..from a self-centred, greed-driven way of being to one that is other-centred and greed-free. The Sangha, finally, in meaning literally community, refers to an understanding that ..the potential for wisdom and compassion are present in every relationship.

Batchelor goes on to highlight the central role of Right Livelihood in locating Buddhisms application to social relationships and practices, also a key concept within Schumachers utopia. Right Livelihood describes those actions that avoid harm to oneself and others. Traditionally, this was understood as entailing the avoidance of working as a slaughterer, an arms manufacturer, a publican, a dealer in poisons, or a trader in human life. In todays world, however, the relevance of Right Livelihood must arguably be extended to a far wider range of activities. Indeed, it is the concept of Right Livelihood that seems most directly to have captured Schumachers imagination, since he concludes is his chapter of Buddhist Economics that, It is a question of finding the right path of development, the Middle Way between materialist heedlessness and traditionalist immobility, in short, of finding the Right Livelihood. Schumachers utopia was not exclusively Buddhist. Indeed, Schumacher himself was not a practising Buddhist. He drew his inspiration from a mixture of sources, including his commitment to Christianity and humanism (Capra, 1990). There is little doubt that his thinking was informed by his professional experience, notably his work as an economist at the National Coal Board in the UK at a time when the issue of energy and natural resources was coming slowly onto the mainstream policy agenda. Indeed, Schumachers key slogan, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for life, was an old Chinese proverb, illustrating the key influence on Schumacher of Asian philosophy and religion. Limits to Schumachers Utopia Schumachers utopia was made up of a curious mixture of mythology, belief, professional knowledge and experience, and personal commitment. It was not really so much a statement of what people did as a call to arms about what people should do. His main written works, including his chapter on Buddhist Economics, all more or less advocate a better way for a better world. In this sense, Schumachers vision fell firmly into the classic utopian tradition that required a simultaneous change in levels of personal awareness and

evolution, and the social rules that guide peoples interaction, especially within the economy (Zadek, 1993a). Schumachers utopia identified a set of solutions to what he saw as problems, but failed to offer any clear sense of how these changes were to come about. He never, for example, set out what he saw as the necessary changes in the manner in which economic policy was formulated and implemented. He favoured democracy, but offered little insight into how to cope with a consumerised society that appeared unable to voluntarily unlock its relationship with high levels of inequitable and environmentally destructive consumption patterns. Whilst evoking Buddhism (as a Christian), it was unclear from his writings how the inner transformation processes were to take place across diverse cultures, social processes, and needs. Whilst advocating appropriate technology and an anti-consumerist culture for the South, he failed to deal with the Souths assertion of the right to experience comparable levels of material consumption as those in the North. Schumachers utopia of a Buddhist Economics is a fine vision, even an ideal of sorts, at least to some. It is not, however, an adequate route map for bringing much needed changes. In addition to vision, a meaningful route map needs to have other signs and symbols, as Schumacher himself stressed in his Guide for the Perplexed (1978). One certainly does need vision, and Schumachers utopia provided that. In addition, however, one needs other tools in order to be able to establish a utopia that not only creates a basis for critique, but one that does in practice provide a concrete sense of direction. In addition to vision and principles, there are certainly two sets of tools that are useful in this sense: concepts; and practice. Practising Buddhist Economics A Buddhist Economics will be meaningful if it arises from an understanding of what is possible based on the observation and interpretation of actual experience. A world that we describe as having achieved a state of grace because, for example, it is populated by superhumans, has an infallible God, or has an indestructible environment, is really of no interest. Indeed, it is less

then useless as such a vision can lead us in the wrong direction altogether. As H G Wells argued in A Modern Utopia, our visions must be possible given who we are and where we are in our own evolutionary processes (1967). The question then is whether we can point to the practice of a Buddhist Economics. The principles set out by Schumacher in the previous section offer at least one starting point in guiding us as to how we might recognise such practice. The practice of Buddhist Economics would involve an evolutionary process at the personal, social, and ecological levels. These three aspects of dynamic would, furthermore, be sensitive to the nature of their interaction. These broad criteria for seeking examples of the practice of Buddhist Economics of course offers many possible routes. Several are explored in the rest of this section. The examples chosen have not been chosen for their excellence since this is not a prize giving occasion. Rather, they have been selected to illustrate the diverse practices that are in part or whole coherent with the interpretation of a Buddhist Economics. Economics of a Himalayan Buddhist Monastery An appropriate starting point to an exploration of practice is to consider the economics of the Sangha (monastic order) itself. An essay by John Crook, The Economics of Himalayan Buddhist Monastic Communities, explores the economic relationship between a monastic order and village communities in Zanskar, a valley in the South of Ladakh within the present state of JummoKashmir. The value system binding these two social institutions together comprise, John Crook argues, the critical Buddhist principle of merit. That is, the key characteristic of the relationships between these institutions is that each acts to earn merit towards personal transformation in this life and the next. The legitimisation of the Sangha afforded by this principle in turn underpins an extended fabric of economic relationships between the monastic order and individual monks, the monks and their families, and between the order and both families and village communities. At the core of these relationships is that those who produce material wealth - the Leity offer material support to those through whom merit can be earned - the

Sangha - and vice versa. Beneath this basic principle, however, lies a more complex pattern of reciprocal relationships, where the monastic order for example acts as rentier through its control of land and role as community banker. The question thus arises as to whether the relationships constructed through the interaction of the institutions of the Leity and the Sangha offer insight into appropriate approaches to economy. Crook answers this in the affirmative. He highlights a number of critical contributions that the Buddhist arrangements make towards a sustainable economy. These include the flexibility to absorb only those (male) villagers who are excess to productive labour needs (and to be able to release people back into the materially productive sector where needs change), the management of land with the long term in view since it is not traded openly as a socially unattached commodity, and the role of the monks in maintaining a moral order within the local community. He argues, most interestingly, that the democratic governance structures within the monastery - although with such rights being confined most directly to the monks rather than the wider populace - restricts the ability of the significant role of the Sangha in the lives of the villagers from being abused through corrupt practices. The economic practices that exist between the Sangha and the Leity are therefore formed through a blending of the Buddhist principles underlying the existence of the Sangha and their relationship with the Leity, and the historical evolution of the economic arrangements resulting from the institutionalisation of these principles. These economic practices do not therefore reflect a mechanical enforcement of a set of guiding principles set out in the canonical texts. Rather, they illustrate how such principles can be, and are, interpreted in a manner that allows for the simultaneous accommodation of the needs of livelihood, institutional imperatives, and actions oriented towards inner transformation. The practical case of monastic economics challenges us to question our understanding of the role of belief and associated moral institutions in

constructing stable and hopefully sustainable patterns of social relationships, including economic. However, this case is limiting since the communities involved have remained relatively isolated from the economic modernisation processes that provide the core rationale for the search for alternatives. Does Buddhistic monastic economics only work (to the extent that it does) because of its isolation from these processes ? Economics of Intermediate Technology One way of addressing this question is to consider the fortunes of the initiatives that were started or inspired by Schumacher himself. Schumacher was personally responsible for founding what is now known as the British non-governmental organisation, Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG). Schumacher established ITDG with the aim of demonstrating the possibility of an economics as if people mattered. ITDG is not - and has never been - a Buddhist organisation. However, it has attempted over its 25 years history to apply some of the principles discussed in previous sections in its efforts in the South to develop small enterprises based around ethical and environmentally sustainable principles using small-scale technologies that can be managed and owned by community-based organisations and groups. The diverse range of initiatives in which ITDG has had some involvement defies any easy categorisation or analysis. However, it is possible to draw some fairly broad (and entirely personal) conclusions from its work that bears on the matter of Buddhist Economics. First, most of the initiatives have been broadly oriented towards an increase in the material standards of living of those involved, combined with a greater degree of autonomy or control over the production of those material livelihoods. That is, whilst many of ITDGs partners and beneficiaries may be Buddhists or have some other nonmaterial belief, these worldviews are the not the prime rationale or driving force behind the small business ventures that are encouraged by ITDG. Second, is that these beliefs often play a key role in enabling people to work together. It may be through Buddhist-based rituals and symbols, for example,

that a partner organisation such as Sarvodaya Shramandana in Sri Lanka is able to encourage people to assist each other. Similarly, it may be through equivalent rituals that people are motivated to work for ITDG itself. This role of beliefs in encouraging appropriate practice is particularly significant when considering Buddhism because of the need for a counter-point to the view that such beliefs have constrained the modernisation process to the detriment of the communities concerned (Pryor, 1990; 1991; Zadek 1993b). Third, is that it seems a reasonable view that many of those who gain from ITDG are interested because - and only so long as - they are excluded from the material fruits of the modernisation process. That is, the low-level material gains achieved through ITDGs economics as if people mattered is only satisfactory so long as the full-blooded version of economic prosperity is not available. These views are not, of course, conclusively demonstrable and are certainly not held by all those involved. However, they do challenge directly the resilience and indeed meaning of some of the observed practices of socalled sustainable life styles arising from the work of ITDG and other likeminded organisations around the world. Sarvodaya and Modernisation What is being challenged here is not the practical significance of the illustrations of the Buddhist monastery or of the work of organisations such as ITDG. What is being questioned is whether these illustrations offer insights into how to deal with the powerful modernisation processes at force worldwide, or whether they are no more or less than practices of survival for those who are and are likely to remain excluded from the material fruits of these modernisation processes ? What then would be the practical manifestation of a Buddhist Economics within a modern industrial economy ? Would it be restricted to a denial of that economy, which seems to be the stance reflected in Schumachers utopia ? Or does a Buddhist Economics guide us sanely through and within an industrialising and increasingly globalised economy ?

I would like to think about this issue in relation to the case of Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka. Sarvodaya is probably the most well-known Buddhist development organisation. Through the charisma and perseverance of its founder and current president, Dr Ariyaratne, and the sheer scale of its operations (at one time it was reputed to be working in 8,000 villages throughout Sri Lanka), Sarvodaya has come to symbolise an alternative development path rooted in principles of Sangha - typified by the family gathering and shared work in the community - and Dharma - the principle of self-development through practice as a basis for understanding and directing progress (Ariyaratne, 1988). Through extensive references to the liberational practices of Sarvodaya in progressive development literature across the world, Sarvodaya has come to symbolise an approach to indigenous, value-based development that can and has survived the national and international pressures of modernisation (Macy, 1984). An examination of the Sarvodaya experience reveals an extraordinary vision combining Gandhian and Buddhist principles and approaches to village-level development. Furthermore, Sarvodaya has arguably had an unparalleled influence on many patterns of political and social events in Sri Lanka as compared to any other alternative development organisation in modern times. But it would be inaccurate to say that Sarvodaya had developed a clear and effective strategy for dealing with modernisation processes in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, it would be missing the point to argue that Sarvodaya itself has not been deeply influenced by these very same processes. Sarvodayas most recent history has been very difficult indeed. It was hoped that the intensive pressure on the organisation would lift following the assassination of Sri Lankas president in 1993. Whilst the political pressure did indeed lift entirely, the pressures of modernisation took on a renewed and vigorous form. Sarvodaya has become essentially dependent in its current form on the continued flow of grant funds from the international community (Zadek and Szabo, 1994). In 1994, its principle donors began a process of disengagement because, they argued, Sarvodaya had become over-

bureaucratised, ineffective at grass-roots level, and was in a state of gross mis-management. This is not the place to debate to the extent to which these assertions were correct or misplaced. However, it is important to understand that there was a real problem within the organisation, and that this problem was not unconnected to the manner in which its Buddhist values were being interpreted and played out in practice. Sarvodaya had arguably failed to cope with the new values that were needed to manage an organisation that had professionalised, bureaucratised, and had moved from a voluntaristic organisation to one that was essentially monetarised. In short, modernisation had taken hold, and Sarvodayas value-base as it was played out in practice had not been reassessed and where appropriate re-oriented to take account of these changes. Similar processes were also taking place at the village level, where the communities in which Sarvodaya was active were no longer isolated from the thrust of modernisation as they were in the earlier periods of Sarvodayas work. The response of Sarvodaya to this situation is of particular relevance here. Their first - and understandable - response has been to blame the donors for undermining the essential value-base of the organisation, a reasonable although not necessarily a helpful perspective. Secondly, Sarvodaya has began a retreat back to what it sees as its roots: a voluntaristic, dispersed, and largely non-monetarised organisation. The view being taken, or at least being articulated, is that it is impossible for the organisation to stay true to its values whilst continuing to engage in, and draw resources from, the modern world. The situation of Sarvodaya is very complex, and I cannot hope to do justice in my brief description. However, the main point is clear enough. Sarvodayas most recent history has seen a failure to cope with an engagement in the modernisation process in the sense that it has found itself being starved out, and thus taking the dignified but strategically dangerous approach of disengagement. It is difficult to imagine how such a large organisation in the

context of Sri Lanka could not have been penetrated by the culture of modernisation, which in turn would necessarily challenge many of its underlying values. Insofar as Sarvodaya did represent one type of frontline between Buddhist values and the modernisation process, it is unfortunately clear what won. The Challenges of Practising Buddhist Economics These illustrations of the practice of Buddhist Economics therefore raise a cluster of critical questions ? Is Buddhist Economics to be understood as a practice relevant primarily to those who are excluded from the mainstream economy, and therefore have to find coping mechanisms in terms of both material livelihood, selfesteem and purpose? Is a Buddhist Economics particularly relevant because the numbers of people that have been excluded in this manner will grow over time, and may become or remain the majority in divided societies in the North and the South respectively ? Or must a Buddhist Economics be able to penetrate the modern economy to prevent it from driving us along a materially unsustainable path, and to uproot its growing hold on our psychological conditions ? These questions are certainly not mutually exclusive, seem absolutely central to the issues being addressed in this paper, and raise equally important challenges as to how we see the future that is approaching. Do we take a millennium view that the modern fabric of society will collapse, leaving a confused but renewed space where the values of Buddhism can once again be relevant to the ways in which we all live ? This is clearly one possible scenario, but it is arguably an unstable basis on which to plan the future, or to live out the presence. Or do we alternatively take a view that the size of the marginalised community will become so large that the degeneration of modern society will be more or

less irrelevant to the project of a Buddhist Economics ? It does certainly seems likely that an increasing number of people will in the future either be excluded from the material benefits of modernisation, or will become entrapped within a sub-class of citizens within a modernised society. So the project of Buddhist Economics may be most relevant to this possible scenario. However, we see that even these enormous groups of exploited and otherwise marginalised people are deeply influenced by the principles and practices of modernisation; of the desire to consume, to individualise their ambitions and behaviour, to externalise their consciousness and so reduce their level of inner awareness, and to seek to participate in processes of economic growth as the means by which these ambitions can be achieved. We come then to the third and most difficult option. That we have no choice but to engage in the processes of modernisation in an attempt to redirect it or at least minimise its negative features. That we have to find ways to encourage both individual and systemic change in the face of the combined opposition of the forces of capitalism and the associated active resistance of those whose lives we seek to transform. Conceptualising Buddhist Economics We should not under-estimate the difficulty of thinking about a modern economy based on a Buddhist Economics. How can we balance transformation processes and relationships embodied by Buddhist practice with the way we live in modern society, and reflect Buddhist principles with the ways of materialism, profit and consumption ? How can we or should we stop seeing these different visions as opposites, and begin to see how a Buddhist Economics can be implied and nurtured within the modernisation process itself. There is a need to carefully conceptualise this matter of a Buddhist Economics in this sense and context. This need arises not only to understand, but also to convince. We cannot expect the practice of a Buddhist Economics to arise purely from within. There is a need for maps that engage to transform society.

The conceptualisation of a Buddhist Economics is important therefore as one means of persuading people that there is a way of practising economy in a manner that is consistent with the tenets of Buddhism. The historical evolution of neo-liberal economics is a case in point. The approach taken by its advocates from the 1930s to the late 1970s was essentially to convince people through an ever increasing elegance in the exposition of neo-liberal principles and concepts applied to a wide range of practical economic issues. It was to the academics, the intellectuals, and the teachers that this force of argument was directed, with the conscious intention of achieving a permanent destruction of any collectivist ideal by convincing the entire strata of elite decision makers that there was simply no better choice for any rational human being. It is our challenge in turn to conceptualise a Buddhist Economics that can have an equally powerful role in social transformation. A Buddhist Economics of Growth There are two traditions of analysis about Buddhism and economics. The one that we have focused on so far has been Schumachers utopia of a small-scale, low-tech approach to economy. The second is a tradition going back to Max Weber that examines the proposition that value-systems such as Buddhism constrain progress towards modernisation by preventing the rationalisation of productive forces (Weber, 1958). These two traditions are clearly related, and indeed can each be seen as the flip side of the same coin. What Weber described as a constraining influence on a certain type of progress, Schumacher depicted as an alternative development model. What Weber saw as the restrictive and embedded social structures of Buddhism, Schumacher saw as the potential for an invigorated human economics. The quintessential sociologist meets the unequivocal utopian. These two different perspectives both, however, shared a view that Buddhism was not consistent with the modernisation process, and in particular the economic growth associated with unfettered productive forces. This view has been taken up in various forms over the years by followers of both traditions,

reinforcing the view, either as an empirical and theoretical statement, or as a normative position, that Buddhism and economic growth do not mix. Frederic Pryor, for example, in two articles published in the early 1990s, took the Weberian view that the more that the Laity gave to the Sangha, the less will the economy grow (Pryor, 1990; 1991). Pryor's proposition can be interpreted in a number of ways, which are explored more fully in a response to Pryors arguments (Zadek, 1993b). Firstly, it is true that significant proportions of total income are transferred to the temples in Buddhist societies. Suksamran, for example, reports that this proportion can and has been as high as 55% of the total income of some communities in Thailand (1977). Indeed, the widest held view of the impact of Buddhist-influenced behaviour is, as Ling states, that "surplus material resources are devoted to economically unprofitable ends" (1980:580). It is, however, incorrect to assume that resources transferred to the "monk-sector" should be treated entirely as "consumption". Ebihara, for example, reports that some resources passing through the "monk-sector" in Cambodian peasant society are used to provide social services, such as health care and education, that would likely be made available through another route in a non-Buddhist society (1966). Indeed, the most recent work by the World Bank on the so-called Asian Miracle economies suggests that success is largely attributed to consistent and large-scale investment in health and education (World Bank, 1993). A somewhat different perspective concerns what Pryor refers to as radiation. Radiation is the effect on society of giving resources to the monks, irrespective of its use. Thus, he states, that "Buddhists hold that any appropriate dhammic action inevitably leads to an increase of the material welfare of the community" (1991:18). Most interesting of all is his reference to Liebenstein's notion of x-efficiency . Liebenstein developed the notion of xefficiency to describe a reason for changes in productivity that could not be explained by resort to traditional production functions that treated labor as a determinate input into production. In particular, Liebenstein argued that there was a positive effect on productivity if the "atmosphere" was right, which concerned people's idea of fairness, of being "attended to", and other factors.

So it seems that there is far greater ambiguity in the influence of Buddhism on the process of wealth creation. Buddhism might have a positive long-run effect on wealth creation through its impact on investment in education, health and other public infrastructure, and through the effects on the community that it can engender. These views then challenge the tradition that sees Buddhism as a constraining force on economic growth. However, it tells us little about the view of economic growth from Schumachers tradition of Buddhist Economics. Buddhism acknowledges the need for production and consumption, and accepts that this involves processes of negotiation, trading, acquisition of capital, and so on. At the same time, Buddhism challenges the individual (and society as a whole) to contextualise these processes in Buddhist values, including for example the idea of Right Thought, Action and Livelihood. Most importantly, economic welfare is seen within Buddhism as being instrumental in achieving spiritual advancement, as Louis van Loon points out in his essay entitled "Why the Buddha did not Preach to the Hungry Man" (1990). Whereas the essence of modernist thinking is to view all pre-capitalist values as instrumental to either enabling or impeding economic growth, Buddhist Economics turns this equation on its head and insists rather that economic development must cohere with Buddhist values. Thus, "a non-instrumental treatment of values draws its development goals from within the value system to which living communities still adhere" (Goulet, 1980:484-485). Mindful Consumption The view that economic growth in itself is not rejected within a Buddhist Economics may be uncomfortable to those who take Schumachers utopia as their key reference point in this matter, or more generally see Buddhism as necessarily pointing the way towards an asceticism of some kind. However, the preceding argument does offer a view that it may be possible to engage in the modern economy and maintain a perspective and practice that reflects the principles of a Buddhist Economics.

Guy Claxtons analysis of the matter of consumption in his essay Mindful Consumption: the Buddhist Path to Voluntary Simplicity takes this issue forward in offering insight into the relevance of Buddhism to an industrial, consumerist economy. The basis of his message is simply stated, ..you do not get free of the need to consume if all you do with Buddhism is understand it...Buddhism invites us to be alert enough to seize a loose end of behaviour, and tug at it gently until it reveals the filigree of assumptions and beliefs to which it is attached. Buddhism, therefore, is about practice that leads to realisation, not merely the design of activities based on should principles. Buddhism is from this perspective much more than a set of ethical recommendations, and goes far beyond a particular view of how to use ones money or behave towards ones employee. At the same time, Buddhism certainly aims to address these issues, only through a different route. It is in that shame-faced but unflinching seeing that can arise from the practice of Buddhism, asserts Claxton, that the possibility of change resides. Claxtons analysis of consumption touches at the heart of the dilemma of sustainability within an industrial, internationalised economy. So long as those who control resources continue to use them to consume, or in the search of profit encourage excessive consumption in others, neither social justice nor environmental sustainability is likely to be secured. Moreover, the quality of social relationships will continue to deteriorate in such situations. This, argues Claxton, will be partly because of the increasingly dominant role of material consumption itself. More important, however, will be the deterioration caused by the need for those who have and those who have not to isolate themselves from their knowledge of their exploitative behaviour or their position of being exploited in order to maintain and cope with some sense of normality. It is here that Buddhism has a particular role to play. In insisting that inner knowledge is the basis of value and therefore of self-development, it encourages a practice that challenges these forms of social isolation. In offering a coherent means of understanding and coping with the realisation of this isolation, Buddhism offers a path that is consistent with its rejection. This

path is not versed primarily in the language of altruism, it must be stressed. Rather, it can be understood through the language of self-revelation, or in some ways through the language of humanist psychology. Engaging a Buddhist Economics Each and every belief system sees itself as unique. Buddhism is not an exception to this. In too many discussions about the role of Buddhism in social action, I have found myself wishing that Buddhists would stop expending energy in seeking to distinguish themselves from other sources of insight and transformation. The uniqueness of Buddhism does not lie in its ability to distinguish itself from other perspectives. It lies in its ability to enhance a host of on-going activities and evolving perspectives about how an economy might be more people-centred and environmentally sensitive. People who I work with and learn from provide ample illustration of such progressive perspectives and practical approaches. I would like to illustrate at least some of the perspectives and approaches that seem particularly relevant to some of the insights offered through the discussion of a Buddhist Economics. Community Economics. There is a vast growth in the number of community economics initiatives all over the world. In the UK, these initiatives include the development of locally-controlled currencies to usurp the dominance of national currencies, the establishment of many different forms of community-based banks, and the development of information systems to inform households of their levels of consumption of energy to encourage them to reflect on and adjust their behaviour. Many of these initiatives seem to be entirely consistent with the basic tenets of Buddhist Economics. Socialising Trade. The growth of the so-called fair trade movement has marked an attempt to re-introduce the sense of social relations into trading patterns. People in the North are being asked to purchase products they want at a price that reflects a more equitable deal for the producers. Whilst

certainly not mainstream, this movement is demonstrating an approach to economy that reinforces the positive aspects of the social relationships and responsibilities that have been lost during the globalisation process. This seems to be consistent with a Buddhist Economics, and should be supported from those who support this perspective. Social Accountability. The development of social auditing has marked a drive towards new forms of social accountability of corporate, state, and non-governmental institutions towards people whose lives they affect through their activities. Initiatives are underway in the UK, the USA, South Africa and elsewhere to encourage the adoption of such accounting processes as one way to overcome the deep lethargy of the democratic project. Whilst versed in a very different language than that of Buddhist Economics, it seems that it is completely at one with its principles, and therefore an approach that should be embraced and supported. Sustainable Consumption. The debate about the future of consumption patterns has become more heated and more relevant since the Earth Summit at Rio in 1992. The main topics for discussion concern the social justice and environmental dimensions of growing material consumption. The main failure in this discussion to date has been a meaningful engagement in how communities already or becoming tied into high levels of consumption could disentangle themselves from the psychological hold of these alienating patterns. Buddhist Economics throws important light on these matters. It is not my intention to suggest that these initiatives will transform the mainstream economy today. My interest is not in an idealism, or blind optimism. At the same time, it is my intention to highlight the practical moves by many different peoples to take the leap from fear and desire to the practice of a progressive economics. The examples above are but a fragment of the totality of the exciting activities that are being practised in every country in the world. They do not all fit my view or yours of what might be a Buddhist Economics. But many of them do to a greater or lesser degree. It is these

initiatives that we need to identify, acknowledge, and support. It is these that we must name as moves towards a Buddhist Economics. It is these that we must learn from and also inform where appropriate. Towards a Progressive Buddhist Economics The idea of a progressive Buddhist Economics was born largely from Schumachers utopia of an economics as if people mattered. This vision was (and is) largely consistent with a number of historical and contemporary calls for an approach to economics that embodies principles of selfrealisation, social justice, harmony and creativity, and an appreciation in practice of ones role in the cycles of nature. This paper has tried to unravel the nature of a Buddhist Economics. It has shown that it offers certain principles of behaviour associated with a particular appreciation of the nature of being; it proposes a means of conceptualising or organising critical aspects of our experience in the social and non-social spheres; and it offers a means of interpreting economic practices in the context of Buddhist principles and associated individual aims. Does Buddhist Economics then resolve what are seen as valid economic questions of our time ? Does it throw light, for example, on the matter of inflation, of interest rates, or on the most appropriate rate of technological progress ? Does it inform us as to the optimal rates of taxation, of savings, or of social security ? The answer to this must be broadly negative. Buddhist Economics does not answer these questions directly, and in all probability will never do so in any clear-cut manner. Furthermore, the argument that this apparent deficiency arises through the infant-nature of the discipline is not really sustainable, since there is nothing apparent in its underlying principles (at least to me) that foreshadows revelation on these subjects. Shortcomings in these areas do not, however, mean that Buddhist Economics has nothing to offer. Whilst mainstream economics may at times offer direction on the matter of interest rates, inflation, and optimal tax policy, it offers little or nothing (save for rationalisations) on the matter of poverty,

inequality, and environmental decay. Most certainly of all, it has no tools whatsoever for considering the matter of why people are so deeply unhappy amidst material affluence. Buddhist Economics does offer foundation principles that can be interpreted as a set of ethical norms that should be followed. The various aspects of Right Livelihood, for example, can be seen in this light. To believe that there is a right way that ought to be followed seems inadequate against the imperatives of industrialisation. Belief alone can reinforce rather than confront the increasing tide of nationalistic, ethno-centric, fanatical believers. Buddhism can challenge those who would surrender to belief. The rigour of practice and its complex relationship with paradox and opposites offer at least some basis for resisting social fragmentation and disorder rooted in the social identity of belief. A meaningful Buddhist Economics needs, thirdly, to be able to demonstrate a Buddhist Economy. It is here that the weaknesses of idealism can be challenged, and the practical translations of a Buddhist Economics more clearly understood. The examples that draw insight from Schumachers utopia offer practical strategies for those most directly excluded from the material fruits of modernisation, and a source of inspiration to reinforce commitment and resolution against often considerable opposition and deprivation. The relationships between a Buddhist Economics and developments within the heart of modern industrial processes are possibly the most ambiguous. It does somehow seem easier for us to conceptualise and work towards the soft focus of Schumachers utopia. But it is simply not adequate to ignore the fact of modernisation as a part of our lives, either in terms of material gain, or in terms of marginalisation and deprivation. Buddhist Economics is, however, manifested in ways that can effectively confront the mainstream. Whilst not always versed in the terminology with which we are accustomed as Buddhists, these initiatives do provide a practical set of tools for addressing many of the ills and aims that Buddhist Economics would respectively

highlight and move towards. A progressive Buddhist Economics is happening today; it is happening amidst often chaos, confusion, and despair; but it is happening. Our task must be to embrace these many different forms of peoples response to an alienating economy as they struggle to regain their inner vision and social dignity within the practice of a new economics.

References Ariyaratne, A T (1982), "Collected Works Volume I", printed in Sri Lanka by Vishva Lekha, an income generating project for Sarvodaya Village Development Services Ariyaratne, A T (1985), "Collected Works Volume III", printed in Sri Lanka by Vishva Lekha, an income generating project for Sarvodaya Village Development Services Ariyaratne, A T (1988) "Sarvodaya and the Economy", printed in Sri Lanka by Vishva Lekha, an income generating project for Sarvodaya Village Development Services Asian Cultural Forum on Development (1989), Liberation, Religion and Culture, ACFOD, Bangkok Batchelor, S (1993), The Practice of Generosity: First Steps Towards a Buddhist Economics, Sharpham Trust, Totnes Capra, F (1990), Uncommon Wisdom: Conversations with Remarkable People, Fontana, London Chambers, R, and A Pacey and L A Thrupp (1989), Farmer First: Farmer Innovation and Agricultural Research, IT Publications, London Chapela, L (1994), Buddhist Guidelines, On Economic Organisation and Development For Future Tibet, to be published in forthcoming volume The Practice of Buddhist Economics Clark M (1994), Toward a Buddhist Economics, published by Milo G Clark, Berkeley Claxton, G (1994), Mindful Consumption: The Buddhist Path to Voluntary Simplicity, to be published in forthcoming volume The Practice of Buddhist Economics Cockett, R (1994), Thinking the Unthinkable, HarperCollins, London Crook, J (1994), The Economics of Himalayan Buddhist Monastic Communities, to be published in forthcoming volume The Practice of Buddhist Economics Davis, W (1989), Buddhism and the Modernisation of Japan, History of Religions, 28 May 1989: 304-339 Ebihara, M (1966), "Interrelation Between Buddhism and Social Systems in Cambodian Peasant Culture" in Anthropological Studies in Theravada

Buddhism, Manning Nash (editor), Southeast Asia Studies, Yale University Press, Conneticut Ekins, P, and M Max-Neef (editors) (1992), Real-Life Economics, Routledge, London Goulet, D (1980), "Development Experts: The One-Eyed Giants", in World Development, Volume 8 No 7/8 Jul/Aug 1980, pp. 481-493 Hower, S and P Robins (1994), A Theory of Moral Organisation: A Buddhist View of Business Ethics, Reseach Paper 9411, Aston Business School, Birmingham Kolm, S (1985), Must One Be Buddhist to Grow ? An Analysis of the Cultural Basis of Japanese Productivity, in Economics and Philosophy, P Koslowski (ed) (1985): 221-242 Leijonhufvud, A (1985), Buddhist Values and Economic Growth: Comment on Serge Kolm, in Economics and Philosophy, P Koslowski (ed) (1985): 243-247 Ling, T (1980), "Buddhist Values and Development Policy: A Case Study of Sri Lanka", in World Development, Volume No 7/8 Jul/Aug 1980, pp 577586 Loon, L (1990), Why the Buddha did not Preach to a Hungry Man: Buddhist Reflections on Affluence and Poverty, Bodhi Leaves No 121, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy Macy, J. (1984), Dharma and Development, Kumerian Press Mendis, P (1993), Buddhist Equilibrium: The Theory of Middle Path for Sustainable Development, Staff Paper Series P93-2 University of Minnesota, Minnesota OBrien J, M Palmer and R Prime (1990), Wealth of Faiths, New Economics Foundation, World Wide Fund for Nature, London Pryor, F. (1990), "A Buddhist Economic System - in Principal", American Journal of Economics & Sociology, Vol 49, No 3 (July, 1990), pp 339-49 Pryor, F. (1991), "A Buddhist Economic System - in Practice", American Journal of Economics & Sociology, Vol 50, No 1 (January, 1991), pp 1732 Sachs, W (1992), The Development Dictionary, Zed Books, London Schumacher, E F (1973), Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, Abacus, London Schumacher, E F (1978), Guide for the Perplexed, Abacus, London Shiva, V (1993), Monocultures of the Mind, Zed Books, London Suksamran, Somboon (1977), Political Buddhism in Southeast Asia: The Role of the Sangha in the Modernisation of Thailand, C Hurst & Co, London Wells, H G (1967, first published 1905), A Modern Utopia, Bison, London

Wijayasundara, S (1994), Economics in Buddhist Perspective: A Study in Pail Texts Weber, M (1958), Economy and Society, edited by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich, Volume II, Bedminster Press, New York World Bank (1993), The Asian Miracle, World Bank, Washington Zadek, S (1993a), An Economics of Utopia: Democratising Scarcity, Avebury, London Zadek, S (1993b), The Practice of Buddhist Economics: Another View, in The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol.52 No.4: 433-446 Zadek, S and S Szabo (1994), Valuing Organisation: the Case of Sarvodaya, New Economics Foundation Monograph, New Economics Foundation, London