Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Interbeing Autonomy and Economy: Toward Enduring Social and Ecological Justice

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Interbeing Autonomy and Economy: Toward Enduring Social and Ecological Justice

Article excerpt


This paper is based on a broader framework of principles and analysis that aim to serve a larger emancipatory project. This project seeks to make not merely an academic contribution to engaged humanistic Buddhism, but also a Buddhist contribution to the area of social justice in more practical terms.

I will show that to move toward true social justice, both inner individual as well as outer social and institutional change is required--and that such a change is indeed possible, and is one that may be aided by the now recognised urgency of the unfolding social justice issues related to climate change. As a result of the emerging climate change, those with least resources and opportunities will be the ones who suffer the most in terms of the loss of their traditional lands and homes, their means of production, and the now well publicized and predicted crop and food shortages that will even affect those of us in the wealthier nations.

Specifically, I seek to demonstrate how an engaged Buddhist response, based on sound principles, can build on and add valuable insights/principles in the areas of both social justice theory and critical theory, in positing a more just and equitable form of distributive justice. I will try to illustrate how the means to such a more just and equitable form of distributive justice lies in the cultivation and development of both an individually realized interbeing autonomy that is facilitated within a collectively established interbeing economy (or what I differently refer to as systems integrity building economy). Both interbeing autonomy, and interbeing economy, are the two key progressive Buddhist conceptual models that I will briefly define and introduce in this paper, as a means for positing an alternative path toward achieving a truly lasting and sustainable social and ecological justice.

It is important to mention here that social justice is inextricably linked to ecological/environmental justice, and that we must strive to not merely achieve an interdependently realized "sustainable" social and ecological justice, but rather we should strive to achieve a regenerative interbeing social and ecological justice. In the latter part of this paper, I will illustrate the importance of moving beyond mere sustainability to a dynamically healthier regenerative paradigm based on a conceptual framework grounded in the twin notions of interbeing autonomy and interbeing economy (systems integrity building economy).

I. The Value of a Buddhist Deconstructive Mode of Analysis and Critique

To begin with, it is important to recognize that even the concept of 'social justice' itself cannot be taken as a given in the polemical world of competing ideologies, especially as espoused by the still dominant and influential advocates of the Chicago School economic paradigm, and the Austrian School. (1) Together, these two schools of economics have molded and continue to perpetuate the dominant socio-economic paradigm that is responsible for the rapidly unfolding disaster of climate change, and the consequential ecological and social injustices that are emerging.

The Buddhist teaching has many unique principles that can contribute to both a deconstructive analysis of the dominant unjust economic paradigms, such as the Chicago School, and also to the construction of alternative ways of interbeing in the world in socioeconomic terms.

The Buddhist principles and methodologies of emptiness and interdependent origination, and its guided teachings and meditations in the deconstruction of both the self and indeed of all phenomena, make it very suitable as an inspirational form of deconstructive analysis in its own right. However, such a deconstructive mode of analysis derived from Buddhist philosophy is one that is unlike most postmodernist attempts at deconstruction. It is different in that it is balanced with the equally important principles of Bodhichitta or compassion, and the 'middle way view'. …

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