At our Monthly Gathering earlier this week, author and anti-globalization activist Jerry Mander talked about capitalism’s shortcomings.
Among them: a focus on financial wealth at the expense of other forms of wealth – Nature, culture, and happiness, for instance.
Expand Your Idea of Wealth for a Just, Sustainable, and Fulfilling Future
As we work for a future that truly values all life and our interdependence, an expanded concept of wealth can be a strong foundation for alternatives to our current systems.
You can start this expansion on a personal level, by taking stock of the different forms of wealth you’re creating, giving, and receiving in your daily life.
Try this simple exercise, inspired by the article “8 Forms of Capital” from permaculture designer Ethan Roland and Gregory Landua, to get a clearer picture of all the different dimensions of your wealth.
Eight Forms of Capital
1. Draw a circle divided into eight equal segments.
2. Label the segments with the following categories (click on each to link to its definition below):
3. Fill in the different segments with words or images that represent the resources and assets you own, share, or can access in that category. Some may overlap across two or more segments.
Use the following definitions (adapted from “8 Forms of Capital”) to guide you.
Best described as a “knowledge” asset, and more specifically, the kind of “book learning” emphasized in schools. For example, a university education can be viewed as an exchange of financial capital for intellectual capital.
Best described as influence and connections. For example, if you have a wealth of social capital, you can ask favors, influence decisions, and communicate effectively.
This form of capital can be harder to articulate, because it is meant to be in constant flow rather than accruing.
Your answers here may also vary depending on your personal religion, spirituality, or other practice to connect with yourself and the wider universe. On the other hand, you may simply write “happiness” in this category!
Some indigenous cultures follow the principle that humans owe a “spiritual debt” to the magnificent beauty and complexity of the Universe or Mother Earth. We are therefore called to make offerings of gratitude, which can be seen as a way of building spiritual capital.
Distinct from the other forms, this form of capital can only be gathered by a community of people. Examples include the songs that every child learns; customs or rituals for celebrating life events, holidays, or harvests; or the unique art and craft traditions of community.
This form of capital is at the heart of the 10,000 hour rule popularized by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. It’s the knowledge you hold about how to do something because you’ve actually done it, whether that something is playing the piano or fixing a car.
Apply Your Expanded Concept of Wealth
Hopefully, once you’ve worked your way around the circle, you’ll be feeling pretty wealthy!
And you can start to use this diagram to evaluate the different exchanges you engage in, whether or not they’re strictly financial. Ethan Roland offers the following example:
“When I volunteer time working on my friend’s organic permaculture farm, more than just ‘free labor’ is taking place:
- I’m gaining experiential and intellectual capital about the farm’s soil, crops, and management.
- We’re supporting the growth of healthy living capital in the soil.
- My friend gets help producing products to exchange for financial capital (her right livelihood).
- We both build social capital through positive interaction and connection with each other.”
How can you apply this expanded concept of wealth in your life? With your kids? At work?
Do you have another way of revealing the different types of wealth at play in our world? Please share in the comments below!