Growth. There’s your answer.
In order for a society to function ‘naturally’, the concept of growth has to be a central tenet of it. This is because the idea of growth is hard wired into our brains and we are chemically rewarded for pursuing it.
Let’s go back several hundred thousand years. We were, and still are, social animals. We banded together to form groups. This held many advantages for us but even if we were solitary animals the desire to reproduce would still have been there. An animal has to increase its numbers or die out. So having children made us feel good. Life equals growth. We only need to look at the figurines of grossly pregnant females to realise how powerful this drive is.
However, in the past, growth was limited by food supply, territory and predators. It was sustainable growth. A tribe could only become so big before it had to split up into smaller groups and look for new territory. Then with the development of agriculture tribes could become much bigger, so big in fact, that they could establish empires.
Growth makes us feel good. We need to feel something is moving, pushing, developing. This is what capitalism emulates so well. And it is scaleable, just like human society, from a small ‘family’ business, to a conglomerate ‘empire’. It taps into the essence of human motivation. This is why governments and companies talk about growth as if it is life itself (it is).
Unfortunately, the capitalist model is not sustainable. And because of globalisation, when we discover this, it will be on a catastrophic scale. It is also too successful in its one facet approach. It is like heroin; yes, the user feels good initially but in the long run, the total focus on its use makes you ill. Such is the drive for growth that it can become, literally, all consuming when unfettered.
This is why models like communism fail. They only work on an intellectual level. The vast majority of the population are still hard wired to experience the pleasure of seeing something grow – their finances, their family, their firm, their country, their church…
Any viable alternative to capitalism will have to include the concept of growth somewhere. The trick is to make that growth sustainable, measurable and perpetual.
One model I am working on is to continue using capitalism but making the medium of exchange, passion, instead of money.