Politics of Being: Wisdom and Science for a New Development Paradigm
by Thomas Legrand
Ocean of Wisdom Press, 2021, 518 p.
Book review by Arthur Lyon Dahl
If you set out to synthesize all the latest thinking about what is wrong with the world and what needs to be done to fix it, you might end up with a book like “Politics of Being”. What is remarkable is that it is equally strong on both the rational social science approach and the need for spirituality and values. The author, Thomas Legrand, has a Ph.D. in economics and many years’ experience working in the field of sustainability for UN agencies, private companies and NGOs, with a focus on forest conservation, climate change, sustainable finance, organizational transformation, and leadership. He also shares in the book his spiritual journey starting as a French Catholic, discovering native spirituality in Mexico, exploring many traditions and practices, and finally embracing Buddhism, living near a monastery in Southwest France.
“The Politics of Being” starts by exploring sustainability as a collective awakening, escaping from an obsolete development path that is destroying the planet and precipitating an evolutive crisis, and suggesting the need to move from “having” to “being” as the new paradigm. It then reviews the spiritual values which can serve as the foundation for what Legrand calls the Politics of Being. These values include: understanding, life, happiness, love, peace, mindfulness and light. The book then becomes practical with proposals for an agenda for action, covering childhood and family, education, work and organization, health, food and agriculture, nature, justice, economy, and governance. It concludes with suggestions for how to put the politics of being into practice, including accepting that we are one world with a rich diversity of many nations, requiring leaders with both wisdom and spirituality.
Legrand summarizes his book in ten core messages. We need a collective shift of consciousness, a cultural evolution of a spiritual nature, to address our current challenges. As a wisdom-based, science-informed approach, a politics of being can support this evolution. Cultivating our fundamental “interbeing” or relational nature is instrumental to allow us to live in harmony with one another and the Earth community. Societies progress as they increasingly honor the highest values, qualities, and ideals, such as freedom, goodness, beauty, truth, understanding, life, happiness, love, peace, etc. The focus on being, the highest values, wisdom and science, provides a simple conceptual framework for a politics of being, which can integrate all relevant claims and initiatives. Our institutions should help cultivate human virtues. Concrete and actionable policy recommendations supporting this agenda already exist in many sectors. Spiritual teachings and wisdom traditions, through dialogue among them and with science, have much to bring to inspire, help design, and implement a politics of being. Each nation needs to reconnect to its own soul and wisdom to develop its version of a politics of being. Healing trauma is, for individuals and societies, the gateway to being.
This remarkable book might best be described as the journey of an enlightened intellectual, searching everywhere for what seem to be the best ideas and experiences, and assembling them into a coherent vision for a new development paradigm. It is thoroughly documented, as one would expect from an academic, including in the domains of research that provide a scientific basis for understanding spirituality. It is open and inclusive, proposing the kind of path that could bring everyone together, including those who have difficulties with traditional religions. Since it is deeply rooted in personal experience, it has a ring of authenticity, even if there might be issues with the vocabulary used in some descriptions of felt experiences.
From a Bahá’í perspective, many of its approaches resonate with Bahá’í principles including our higher spiritual purpose, the harmony of science and religion, the oneness of humankind, unity in diversity, moderation in material civilization and respect for nature and the environment. There are three pages explaining the Bahá’í Faith, and several mentions of Bahá’u’lláh and quotations from Bahá’í texts. The chapter on governance features a whole section on the Bahá’í governance system and the need for international governance as proposed in the Bahá’í vision. It also cites and summarizes the proposals for UN reform described in the Lopez-Claros, Dahl and Groff book on Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century.
For those looking for an introduction to a wide range of sources, from philosophy and mindfulness to psychology and development, as they relate to our human condition, this is a good place to start. But as with all such efforts to propose solutions to the problems of the world, the question that is not easily addressed is how to implement these ideas and where to find the kind of new world leaders that Legrand calls for. He cites Gandhi, Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but such leaders are extremely rare. His politics of being may resonate with those already on a spiritual path, but that will not stop the rich and powerful behind the present materialistic system. It may take more than an intellectual approach and an individual version of spirituality to catalyze the necessary transformation that we all hope for. Perhaps this book will lead more in the right direction.
A trailer video can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TvAGpiM5A0
The book can be ordered from various sources: https://politicsofbeing.com/get-the-book/. The e-book is available now, and the book itself will be released on 22 January 2022.
A two hour book launch can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK6iJJzorDg.
Last updated 13 December 2021