Sacred Economics is a hugely ambitious book. It takes aim at the most basic intellectual and moral foundations of our modern industrial societies. Eisenstein, is fully aware that many of his arguments and proposals will seem naïve, utopian and hopelessly idealistic to skeptical readers, versed in the realities of current-day economic theory and practice. However, as he puts it, these ideas only ‘await a deepening of the crisis for the unthinkable to become common sense.
Nick Rose reviewed Sacred Economics in On Line Opinion noting that
Eisenstein is following the Machiavellian thinking of none other than Milton Friedman, who wrote in his preface to Capitalism and Freedom that, “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around…Our basic function [as intellectuals] is to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”
Eisenstein expects we will see a ‘Great Unraveling of the money system’, first taking the form of, “persistent deflation, stagnation and wealth polarization, followed by social unrest, hyperinflation, or currency collapse’ (p 136).” As the civilization crisis intensifies, the scope for new thinking and new ideas will broaden. Eisenstein’s proposals advocate the redistribution of wealth and a more egalitarian society, rather than continued wealth concentration and inequality.
His Marco-economic framework for a ‘Sacred Economy’ has seven pillars, all of which undermine central tenets of neoliberalism. Together, they amount to a wholesale social and political transformation ushering in the era of what Eisenstein calls a ‘new materialism’: the conscious design of money and economies to recover and embed the higher values of beauty and connectedness. This is what he means by a ‘Sacred Economy’; it overcomes the millennial duality that separates the spiritual from the material realm, and in its reverence for humanity and the earth is indeed ‘more materialistic than our current culture.
Eisenstein says we have reached the limits of this frantic process of commodification, “there is no more room for the conversion of life and the world into money’ (p 131).” No annulment of debts, no redistribution of wealth, no economic stimulus will do the trick of returning us to economic growth. We are, as he puts it, ‘maxed out,’ “Maxed out on nature’s capacity to receive our wastes without destroying the ecological basis of civilization, maxed out on society’s ability to withstand any more loss of community and connection; maxed out on our forests’ ability to withstand more clear-cuts; maxed out on the human body’s capacity to stay viable in a depleted, toxic world. (p. 135)”
Eisenstein juxtaposes his Sacred Economy with our current ‘economy of separation, “Standard commodities that bear no relationship to the individual user, buildings that bear no relation to the land they occupy, retail outlets that bear no connection to local production, and products made in obliviousness to their effects on nature and people. (p. 431)”