The Super-Smart Alternative

Few of the many millions who are sickened by the lack of action on climate change, the privatisation and outsourcing of public-services, benefit cut-backs, zero-hours contracts, corporate political influence, bank bail-outs, rising inequality, fracking and the scrapping of environmental protections, understand that these and many other evils are surface manifestations of the Neoliberal model at work.

Russell Brand seems to be speaking on behalf of millions of others when he says,

I’m not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class…”.

But the political class he rightly loathes are mainly just ‘useful idiots‘, shoved into the front-line to take the flak for the real enemy: the global Neoliberal Thought-Collective1.

They ensure that, “The more discombobulated the average citizen can be rendered, the quicker they will get with the (Neoliberal) program.”2

Since World War Two, Neoliberalism has promoted itself as “a Theory of Everything, providing a revolutionary account of self, knowledge, information, markets, and government”.3

In the 1980s Thatcherites adopted the slogan TINA, meaning There Is No Alternative (to Neoliberalism).

With the collapse of Soviet communism and the adoption of capitalist market principles by China’s communist elites, TINA has since gone global.

Today, few of the citizens who loathe the political class, are likely to connect the dots between Neoliberalism and the evils that reduce them and Russell Brand to despair. Even those who are able to connect the dots face an insurmountable obstacle: there is no viable alternative on offer.

In Latin America there is already a widespread and knowledgeable opposition to Neoliberalism, but the search for a viable alternative ‘Theory of Everything’ has so far been unsucessful. There is some sentiment in favour of ’21st Century Socialism’, but this re-hash of ‘Communism with a human face’ has little popular support.

A viable alternative model has to be based on a deep understanding of the complex  ecological, economic, social, political, technological and cultural challenges facing the human family. None of the failed 20th Century models is capable of meeting those challenges. Worse, over the past sixty years, the Neoliberal model has nurtured ‘an elite caste of managers’,4 who have replaced ‘responsible management practice and thinking’ with ‘management from hell’5and routinely turn complex challenges into complex disasters .

The inadequacy of Neoliberalism’s caste of managers is shown by Price-Waterhouse Cooper’s 2005 survey of 1400 CEOs.

PWC found that 70% of CEOs said that managing the increasing complexity of their organisations was a high priority, 91% believed that this required special skills, tools and approaches, but only 5% believed they had the skills needed.

The Super-smart model of democracy is intended to provide its citizens and societies with the ‘special skills, tools and approaches’ they need to surmount the hugely-complex challenges they are facing. It is founded on the work and practice of non-economists: in particular, educationalist Paulo Freire and systems thinkers, Stafford Beer, James Lovelock, W. Edwards Deming, Dee Hock, John Seddon, Horst Rittel and Peter Checkland.

To explain its main features requires a very different vocabulary to that of conventional political science, as this admittedly rather clumsy definition shows:

Super-Smart Democracies will emerge when the people, their leaders and the technical professionals learn how to use ensembles of participative, management cybernetic and soft-systems processes (i.e. ‘Super-Competencies) to co-create increasingly just, sustainable and super-smart communities, organisations, enterprises, services, cities and states.

The core purpose of the obsolete pseudo-democratic models inherited from the 18th – 20th Centuries, is to constantly increase economic growth to preserve the privileges of ‘the opulent’, as Andrew Hamilton explained to readers of ‘The Federalist’ in 1789.

The core purpose of the Super-Competent model of democracy is to enable citizens and societies to learn how to become increasingly just, sustainable and super-smart.

The special skills, tools and approaches enshrined in the Super-Competent Democracy model have been rigorously tested, evaluated and refined by many thousands of innovative systems-leaders, citizens, employees, technical professionals in every kind of society and organisation, since the 1930s. Their collective knowledge and experience would provide opponents of Neoliberalism with the guidance and support they will need to learn how to apply ensembles of Super-Smarts in their own communities, organisations, enterprises, municipalities, services and states.

In other words, consigning Neoliberalism to the trash-can of history will start when its opponents combine to form a global Super-Smarts Community and learn how to co-create increasingly just, sustainable and super-competent democracies wherever they happen to live and work.

1 Philip Mirowski: Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown. Verso 2013

2 Philip Mirowski:

3 Philip Mirowski:

4 H. Thomas Johnson , Portland State University, Oregon USA

5 H. Thomas Johnson , Portland State University, Oregon USA

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