Ecology and Market Economy: Is There a Place for Humanism?

//Ecology and Market Economy: Is There a Place for Humanism?

A human, his creative qualities, strength, and ability, with the help of which he transforms himself and the surrounding world in the course of his activity, traditionally occupied a central place in the economic and social sciences. For many years, the productive capacity of a human was considered and evaluated as one of the quantitative factors of social production. The task was only to successfully combine labor, fixed and working capital in the processes of productive activity, and remain a human at the same time.

In many works, the role and importance of the entrepreneurial man, an economic, creative subject, which is presented as a key figure in the market economy, is revealed.  In the process of development of the information postindustrial society, the intertwining and convergence of the economy and social sphere, as well as the inclusion in the orbit of their influence of humanistic principles that recognize the values, needs, and numerous spiritual and moral aspects of the economic activity of an individual as the basic conditions for the progressive development of the entire human society increase. However, when I write my essay, I ask myself: how the market economy is compatible with the well-known principles of humanism and with environmental requirements?


Pollution of Environment and Commercial Approach

It is possible to fight pollution of the environment on three levels (in three places, considered on the theoretical model).

  • The first is the level of the generator (source) of contaminants. Possible actions include not releasing dirty water, gases, dust outside the plant, and processing them; return purified water to the same places, only replenishing from the outside a few inevitable losses; in other words, to carry out practically wasteless or low-waste production with a cycle closed in a small area.
  • The second is the level of the translator (transmitter, carrier) of pollution when one has to deal with all kinds of transport, artificial and natural. To prevent pollution, it is needed not to use the same rivers and canals for drinking and for draining slops; isolate pipelines, protecting them from leaks; in other words, strengthen the walls of the conducting vessels and separate the “arteries” from the “veins”.
  • The third level is the recipient. In other words, it is nature as a whole and every separate living organism in particular.


This problem can also be considered from two different points of view. From the point of view of common sense, it is necessary to prevent pollution in the place of origin. This is the social approach to ecology, equalizing all citizens to the environment as well as before the law, and encouraging them to solidarity, self-organization, cooperation, collective responsibility, stimulating the development of local government and the improvement of civil society. However, with a commercial approach, it is advantageous for producers and the market to eliminate pollution at customer locations, using ever more sophisticated means of protection that quickly become obsolete due to technological progress. The buyer has not had time to play enough, enjoy the recently purchased device, as the advertisement of another firm assures him that this thing is not perfect and even harmful (which allegedly was proved by authoritative scientists), and offers new models. In this case, the manufacturer and the seller need inexperienced, poorly informed, intimidated, disparate, unorganized and competing for prestige potential buyers.

Stimulated by the free market, an endless debilitating competition between the sources of mud and the means of protection against it resembles an arms race (the more powerful the gun, the thicker the armor). In the most beneficial case for entrepreneurs, the polluting industry and the production of environmental protection belong to the same owners. Similarly, the same source can supply drugs and medicines for drug addiction. This also happens in war, when both belligerents purchase weapons from the same third country (naturally, it is interested in this war).


Global Consumption

In the competitive struggle for the buyer, the manufacturer indefinitely increases the variety of goods, in the end; it turns out to be false. So, hundreds of food products of one kind differ so little that they can not be recognized even by tasters. Striking and screaming distinctions pass to labels and containers. In pursuit of a variety of assortment and recognizability, memorability of the company, bright and different not only images on the package but also the shapes of boxes, packages, cans are made. In order to create the illusion of cheapness, the volume of boxes far exceeds the volume of the product. Transport in vain (in terms of common sense) carries a lot of air; the number and capacity of trucks, the number of flights, the need for new roads and lanes, displacing and polluting the landscape are increasing.

Designers, painters, photographers and actors in the commercials, directors, artists, animators, who designed the packaging, worked hard for the garbage dump. The produced and advertised artwork (packing of the goods) is consumed twice or thrice for several seconds (once – in a supermarket, two or three times – at home), and then clogs the habitat. In “advanced” countries this beautiful rubbish is quickly processed, and in “developing” states it is lying around and carried by the wind, especially along the treeless steppes, deserts and tundras, however, with an ideal almost waste-free production, an enormous artificial cycle of substances is formed that supersedes the nature. The desire for a variety of goods pollutes the environment, and the associated revival of the economy is the killing of the biosphere.


Advertising and Fashion Pollute and Destroy

Shrewd advertising and fashion encourage us to consume far more things than is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. The ecological threat lays not so much in the quantity of things but in their total volume, mass, energy intensity and rates of their production, consumption, destruction, renewal. Of course, the public functions of fashion are very diverse and largely positive; fashion allows us to update, refresh, decorate our appearance and environment under the guidance of specialists and under the influence of authoritative and prestigious for us more “advanced” consumers. Trends for things revitalize the economy, stimulate the development of industry and technological progress, and give people jobs. But the main and most important function of fashion, alas, is cruel and far from humanism.

Fashion for things and services, for this or that way of life and thoughts, is a terrible tool to enslave the plebs by the elite, a means of social selection and stratification – the stratification of society into people of “higher” and “lower grade.” At the top and ahead is not just the one who has a particular thing, but the one who purchased it earlier.  The constant pursuit of innovations, formed by the market-consumer system, turns human life into a swim against the stream, into a grueling upward run along an escalator moving down. Few people reach the top level, most get stuck on the roadside or go down.

The mechanism of fashion condemns to moral aging quite good and usable things that have not attained physical wear out. They are simply thrown out to get more fashionable. However, it is worth saying that this system is rationally mitigated by the “secondhand” system. But while clothes that are only a little bit old or even almost new, poor people and less demanding citizens are purchasing almost for free, entire countries import huge quantities of used cars. Completely tolerable physical satisfaction of needs is accompanied by moral damage: consumers of the “second echelon” are stigmatized as poor, backward, marginal. The social situation generated by fashion is inhumane, and the activity stimulated by it physically and morally pollutes the human society and the entire biosphere.


Economy in the Opinion of the Marquis De Sade

The Marquis de Sade, savoring and justifying the monstrous atrocities he invented, claimed that massacres were pleasing to Nature; it is interested in the speedy death of all her creatures in order to give a place to new ones. This is how the modern market economy works. The manufacturer is not interested in the specific model being used for long; it is necessary to give a thing a deliberate flaw or a special element that in its time will work as a “gene of death” in the body. This so-called planning of depreciation and obsolescence not only of goods but, in essence, all components of modern commercialized civilization and culture, acts as a stimulus in the original, literal sense of the Latin word: it causes the crazed flock to flee in the right direction.


Just a Few Words to Conclude

The market is as useful a human achievement as the use of fire, but the fire is good in its place, such as in a furnace, stove, and fireplace. If it leaves his container, then a fire begins. Common sense can not look favorably at how society “burns with a blue flame” of unbridled market relations because a humanistic economy is an economy that meets the principles of humanism, actively supporting the most healthy, spiritually and morally mature, bright minded and effectively working part of society, stimulating the transition into this category of all those who have such a desire and ability and creating the necessary favorable conditions for this.


Barbara Elliott has served in a number of leadership positions throughout his career including College Dean at three Universities and Tenured University Professor. Barbara is a frequent national and international presenter and author. She knows a lot about staff development, job searching and human resources management


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