Some ancient seminal ideas from previous Earth-respecting traditions – in spite of originating in largely pre-modern stage societies – are still essentially compatible TODAY with Integral Theory and with other integrative approaches. These are integral-level ideas embedded across time within the main cultural-social developmental stages. Apparently, many of these ideas did occur in agrarian economies like those of the Ancient Greeks and the Andean pre-Hispanic.
Economist Jorge Alberto Montoya Maquin, knowledgeable in Andean cosmology and traditions, studied the Quechua language and ancient Greek and wrote a critical translation of “About Economics,” the first economic “treatise” written in dialogue style by Xenophon (friend and disciple of Socrates). Apparently, his perspectives originated in a more ancient tradition. Like Socrates’ “Maieutic” (not unlike traditional educational styles in the Andes), Xenophon’s dialogues don’t tell us what to think but elicit moments of discovery and resonant understanding.
Montoya Maquin wrote Económico de Ksénofon: Traducción Crítica, which includes an original translation into Spanish, notes and an interpretive section trying to revive – unlike other modern translations – the cultural context of ancient Greece. The book also compares Xenophon’s ideas with Andean thinking and was published in 2013 by the School of Economists of Lima. It should definitely be translated into English for scholars to re-discover Xenophon’s foundational economic ideas.
Unlike modern Economics focusing on concepts like “scarcity,” “greed,” “competition” and an objectifying “rational” attempt to maximize individual “profit,” Xenophon’s thinking represented a synergistic kind of “utilitarian” administration and protection of the goods and entities within an “oikos” ( a“house” or “estate”).
“Economy” derives from the word “oikos” and “nomos.” The former can be appropriately translated as “house” or as “estate” and the latter as the “norms” which that house or estate follows to maintain its organization and objectives. That “house” would essentially have to be a circumscribed land inclusive of all its living entities and this concept can extend to a country, a village, or to the Earth itself. “Oikos” should also be considered an “autarchy” or self-sustaining organization in a fractal-like relation with other such elements. This in itself reminds me of the concept of “holons” as self-organized, self-organizing systems in relation with other higher level, lower level and same level “holons.”
A well-administered “oikos” would benefit all plants and animals within it while being useful in meeting basic and genuine needs. It would be a “synergistic administration” in current terms and would correlate well with the Andean concept of “living in a good, nourishing, relational way” (“Sumaq Kausay”). The world would also be made of interwoven, functionally independent, yet related “oikos.”.
If components of Andean thinking are “integral-level” and on a par with forgotten Greek foundational concepts in Western civilization, perhaps (as philosopher Edgar Morin hopes) important contributions to “complex” (and integral) thinking can also potentially rise from these once culturally disdained and overlooked components.
Apparently, Xenophon conceived the world much like Andeans did: As“Alive.” He did not say thus explicitly as Andeans but that conception is noticeably implicit in his dialogues. In a sense all that changes (not just animals and plants) is “alive” also because it can actually communicate with us. Moreover, if (like the Andeans) we disclosed the features of the world under their subtle aspects they would also be perceived as “alive.” That would enhance our concepts about “holons” (to include piles and artifacts) and what is – erroneously – considered as an insentient collection of systems called “Gaia”and would probably concur with current quantum information holographic theories.
In relation to Xenophon and the Andeans, since everything changes, in order to live well we need to demarcate and situate ourselves. “Episteme” referred to delimiting an aspect of experience so as to observe it (in stasis) from outside in order for its inside to reveal meanings at various degrees of depth. It is like relating to the interior meaning of “holons” and – as in the Andes where everything that changes is considered to be “alive” – it is relational, surpassing the simple acquisition of information about something simplistically reduced as an “object.” Thus all “things” would have a relational-living aspect.
Xenophon also uses the idea of “making a chorus” (a concert) to administer the “oikos” well an “oikos” which must be of benefit to all life within and to humans if they administer it without greed taking only what is needed and useful without waste. This attitude is similar to life within an Andean community or “ayllu” based on the concept of “making pairs” or of connecting two to make three. Besides, the “ayllu” is also considered like an “autarchy” or self-sustaining entity in which (corresponding to Xenophon’s views) people share each other’s work and every person plays multiple converging roles. Poverty in the “ayllu” and the “oikos” essentially means disconnection from others.
If Xenophon had been less misrepresented under modern biases by authors entrenched in a conceptually incomplete modernity he may have influenced modern economic thinking in its formative stages and perhaps our current economic systems would have emphasized more a practical, relational harmony with the life-world while de-emphasizing resource exploitation, scarcity, greed, unending “growth” and competition. Let’s reconnect with this wisdom now to nourish a major change.
About the Author
Giorgio Piacenza Cabrera was born in Lima, Peru. From the age of 10, he began to question the nature of reality and what motivates human behavior. From the age of 12, he began to participate in Western esoteric and Oriental mystical groups, trying to synthesize knowledge while maintaining a critical perspective all along. In 1987 he earned a degree in Sociology from Georgetown University and, in 1990, two business certificates from John F. Kennedy University.
For several years, while working in a regular business, he researched the UFO phenomenon and offered lectures, and TV/radio interviews. Between 1999- 2000, he became one of the civilian founding members of OIFAA, the Peruvian Airforce Investigations Office on Anomalous Aerial Phenomena. Through the years, Giorgio has maintained a wide-ranging interest that impinges on various aspects of reality, aspects such as the mind-body problem, philosophy, cosmology and physics. He has been a life-long student of integrative theoretical models and, since 1981, of Ken Wilber’s. He has completed a Certificate in Integral Theory offered by John F. Kennedy University, plans to write articles and essays, to pursue a Masters degree in Integral Theory and also the analysis of Meta Theories.