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My book, MEMEnomics: The Next-Generation Economic System, represents a culmination of ten years of work. Five of these years were spent doing research and analysis on how to present a fresh approach to economic development. What emerged was a whole systems, integrated model that places economic activity into an evolutionary framework that advances the field of bio-psychosocial development originally pioneered by psychologist Clare W. Graves. MEMEnomics pioneers the applications of Graves’ values-systems model and the work of his successor Don Beck into the long-established field of economics.
The first part of the book introduces the concept and the history of value systems. It starts in the eye of the storm of the 2008 financial crisis on the day former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testified to the US Congress about the shortcomings that exposed vulnerabilities in the capitalist system over the last four decades. This becomes the catalyst that sparks the search for a new paradigm and sets the stage for the reader to understand that the Enlightenment Era, a memetic code of one of the value systems levels, was just a stop along our journey of human emergence in an endless quest towards higher values.
The book offers details of the main principles behind the emerging science of value systems on which the concept of MEMEnomics is built. It describes how and why cultures emerge and introduces the research of Clare W. Graves, Don Beck and Christopher Cowan, whose seminal work represents the most ambitious effort on the mapping of human existence. There are many examples of different economic value systems around the world with analyses that demonstrate how we’ve been approaching economic development from subsistence values that set forth the urgent need to alter our approach.
My conceptual framework introduces the concept of MEMEnomic Cycles (Figure 1). It explains how visionary ideas are born and come to define our culture and how they mature, decline, eventually decay and become a part of the DNA of future cycles. The reader is provided with a fresh view on the role of technology and how it affects human emergence. I also introduce new value-system approaches on the nature of change, which enable the reader to distinguish between aesthetic change and systemic change and know when and how to design for each. I reintroduce money as an agent of the values of temperance, and offer a critical perspective on the challenges facing Western economies today. This time is indeed different, not just because of what econometrics tell us, but because we have perverted the historic representative of productive output, money.
The US has experienced three MEMEnomic Cycles since the end of its Civil War. After a value-systems analysis of each cycle, the reader gains a deep understanding of how and why complex economic ideologies rise and fall and why the financial crisis of 2008 was the turning point for the transcendence of a lower value expression in order for the evolution of capitalism to continue on its endless quest along the upward spiral of human existence. Today we are entering the growth phase of the fourth MEMEnomics cycle that overlaps with the entropy and decay phase of the third cycle. The former was defined by the values that seek the democratization of resources, the latter by the values and economic ideologies that define everything through financial innovation.
The book examines the virtues of the fourth cycle such as collaboration, peering, presencing, openness and sharing, which are the primary representatives of the post-industrial sixth-level system of values. These practices are necessary stepping stones as our economy works its way back towards this higher level of communal values, but they won’t represent the Utopian happy ending for capitalism.
The last part of the book details the Platform for Functional Capitalism, which is a value-systems guide to an economy designed from the second tier of values. These are the highest known values of the seventh and eighth levels of big picture integration and humanity’s holistic interdependence. They espouse the ‘magnificence of existence’ ethic. This is the emerging Fifth MEMEnomic Cycle that is in its embryonic and introductory phases that will differentiate its memetic characteristics over the next few decades.
Adopting functional forms of management is a concept for large-scale change based on the unique cultural DNA codes of the seventh level of values. This is a system that aims to synthesize and integrate the best expression of past cycles into a functional flow while scanning the horizon for change. This is the distributed intelligence of biological systems being pioneered in economics.
The first pillar of this new system is smart government. While the values of governance in the past are represented by the fourth-level system, effective governance of the future has to be designed from the seventh level of values. Paul Volcker and Elizabeth Warren are examples of that next system of governance.
The second pillar of this platform is the creation of a functional financial system that provides a new understanding of money once it is redefined through its role as a tool for social emergence. The often unseen problem within the field of financial innovation is that it has decoupled from any reasonable measure of productive output. The seventh-level system realigns finance with productivity and introduces a seventh-level monetary system that is more congruent with the proven functional history of money, but still allows for an evolving expression of productive pursuits. This chapter also examines the nature of central banking and the functional reforms needed in order to restore the Fed’s role as the facilitator of distributed prosperity. It studies the design elements needed to create functioning seventh-level capital markets and details how to steer investment banking away from non-productive pursuits that remain the main cause behind every financial crisis.
The third pillar for functional capitalism is the empowerment of seventh-level manufacturing that calls on everyone from teachers, community leaders, research universities and a smart government to participate in its design. This is seventh-level functionality in manufacturing. This guardian of middle and working class values is returning to the West and it’s looking nothing like it did when it left. It is digital and robotic. It is additive, modular and green and has all the marking of a third industrial revolution. It is coming to the garage of anyone who wants to participate. It presents the US with the rare opportunity to design an entirely new and sustainable economic sector if it’s approached from an ecosystems perspective of the seventh level of values.
The fourth and final pillar of The Platform for Functional Capitalism is a value-systems examination of corporate practices. Ownership is placed in the context of seventh-level values to examine the difference between Founder CEO ethic and the professional CEO ethic. I examine the core characteristics of a seventh-level CEO and what it takes to establish a seventh-level corporate culture. I offer my analysis of the two distinct types of seventh-level corporations that are on the cutting edge today. Google and the disruptive nature of the knowledge economy represent the first emerging model; Whole Foods and its conscious evolutionary model represent the second.
On the final pages of the book, I offer a value-systems analysis of the Conscious Capitalism Movement and why it holds the promise for the systemic spread of seventh-level values in business practices.
The MEMEnomics framework is based on the belief that whole-systems thinking is the way of the future, and by applying the unique principles of the emerging science of value systems, we begin to see what that future looks like. As commerce emerges to higher values, it has to shift to a paradigm that sees all of its activities as a part of a living system that is holistically interdependent on a planet with finite resources.
Said E. Dawlabani is a real estate developer turned social entrepreneur, is the author of the upcoming book Memenomics, decoding the capitalist experience and founder of Memenomics.org He is the COO and member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Human Emergence Mideast.
Fall | Winter 2016