By John Lawrence for Grassroots Economic Organizing - ”Happiness is political,” is the opening line of Kaswan’s provocative book on William Thompson’s theory on the social nature of happiness and its ramification for organizing a just society. Kaswan introduces the reader to Thompson (1775-1833) as “perhaps the paradigmatic case of a traitor to his class.” Thompson was the only son of a wealthy merchant in Cork, Ireland; however as a political theorist, he developed ideas of the Enlightenment in a liberatory direction, calling for the elimination of subordination in all its manifestations.
One of the best books I’ve read is “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. Published in 2008, it’s as relevant as ever in our society where there’s a growing divide between children and the outdoors. Louv believes that kids nowadays suffer from “nature-deficit disorder” – a term of his own invention that describes “the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.” The effects of this disorder are widespread and long lasting.
Richard Swift's book, SOS: Alternatives to Capitalism, is a much needed antidote to the myriad of political clap trap that spouts from our daily newspapers and much of our "left" journalism which suggests that capitalism can be reformed and regulated in such a way that an ecological and economic disaster can be avoided. Right of the bat, Swift speaks of "species suicide" in reference to what we are doing to the planet, which sets a tone of urgency that is carried throughout the book. Swift says that we need alternatives to capitalism that go beyond economic change and points out that "When our best natures are not suppressed, we can be loving, funny, carefree, courageous, thoughtful and capable of wondrous acts of generosity." The implication clearly is that under capitalism such traits as greed, selfishness, individualism and meanness are promoted. Capitalism thrives on them. The former, not the latter, traits, must drive alternatives to capitalism. Swift leads us on an exploration of our pre-capitalist roots pointing to the historical reality of different ways of living without falling into the idealistic trait of simply glorifies the past. Following Polanyi he points to an earlier time when the economy was embedded in, and thus in service to, the society. This is in contrast to the present day era of advanced capitalism where society is embedded in and thus in service to, the economy. "Advocates of an alternative to wasteful capitalism," says Swift, "have their roots in past human experience."