‘‘The Hidden Connections’’
M R Rajagopalan

Fritjof Capra is a well-known author through his famous book The Tao of Physics which discusses the philosophical implications of the dramatic changes of concepts and ideas that occurred in Physics. His second book The Turning Point explored the paradigm shifts in biology, medicine, psychology and economics. In the book [The Hidden Connections] under review the author has presented a conceptual framework that integrates life's biological cognitive and social dimensions. His aim is not only to offer a unified view of life, mind and society, but also to develop a coherent, systemic approach to some of the critical issues of the present time.

Academic disciplines have been organized in such a way that the natural sciences deal with material structures while the social sciences deal with social structures, which are understood to be, essentially, rules of behavior. In the future, this strict division will no longer be possible, because the key challenge of this new century—for social scientists, natural scientists and everyone else —will be to build ecologically sustainable communities, designed in such a way that their technologies and social institutions—their material and social structures—do not interfere with nature's inherent ability to sustain life.

The design principles of the future social institutions must be consistent with the principles of organization that nature has evolved to sustain the web of life. A unified conceptual framework for the understanding of material and social structures will be essential for this task. The purpose of this book is to provide a first sketch of such a framework.

The identification of mind, or cognition, with the process of life is a novel idea in science, but it is one of the deepest and most archaic intuitions of humanity.

He further presents an interesting quote from Franciscrick, nobel laureate for DNA theory :
"You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll's Alice might have phrased it 'You're nothing but a pack of neurons'."

The discussion proceeds with consciousness and the Brain origin of language etc."The idea that language may have originated in gesture is, of course, not new. For centuries people have noticed that infants begin gesturing before they begin speaking, and that gesture is a universal means of communication we can always fall back on when we do not speak the same language. The scientific problem was to understand how speech could have evolved physically out of gestures. How did our hominid ancestors bridge the gap between motions of the hand and streams of words from the mouth?"

Over tens of thousands of years, as vocal tracts evolved, humans communicated through combinations of precise gestures and spoken words until, eventually the spoken words crowded out the signs and became the dominant form of human communication.

Then he has discussed about Human Nature, spiritual dimension, Perspective of Life, Meaning, Purpose and Human Freedom. He quotes Galbraith on the origin of power :
"The exercise of power, the submission of some to the will of others, is inevitable in modern society, nothing whatever is accomplished without it: Power can be socially malign, it is also socially essential. The essential role of power in social organization is linked to inevitable conflicts of interest". Galbraith distinguishes three kinds of power, depending on the means that are employed. Coercive power wins submission by inflecting or threatening sanctions, compensatory power by offering incentives or rewards and conditioned power by changing beliefs through persuasion or education.

A community would be able to act much more effectively if somebody had the authority to make or facilitate decisions when there were conflicts of interest. Such social arrangements would have given the community a significant evolutionary advantage.

How to bring life into organization?
The new economy is structured around flows of information, power and wealth in global financial networks that rely decisively on advanced information and communication technologies. It is shaped in very fundamental ways by machines, and the resulting economic, social and cultural environment is not life enhancing but life degrading. It has triggered a great deal of resistance, which may well coalesce into a worldwide movement to change the current economic system by organizing its financial flows according to a different set of values and beliefs. The systemic understanding of life makes it clear that in the coming years such a change will be imperative not only for the well-being of human organizations, but also for the survival and sustainability of humanity as a whole.

Criminal Economy
It is becoming increasingly apparent. The new global capitalism has also created a global criminal economy that profoundly affects national and international economics and politics. It has threatened and destroyed local communities around the world, and with the pursuit of an ill-conceived bio-technology, it has invaded the sanctity of life by attempting to turn diversity into monoculture, ecology into engineering and life itself into a commodity.

The world-wide decimation of coral reefs is one of the clearest and most troubling indications that the planet earth is warming.

Globalization has no future unless it is designed to be inclusive ecologically sustainable and respectful of human rights and values.

Global civil society
Civil society is traditionally defined as a set of organizations and institutions—churches, political parties, unions, co-operatives and various voluntary organizations—that form an interface between the state and its citizens.
Powerful social movements emerged from these institutions since 1960s. Eventually, an alternative vision emerged from these movements, based on the respect of human dignity, the ethics of sustainability and ecological view of the world.

Some important institutions of research and learning in the USA—the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Global Trade Watch and several others. Schumacher college in UK, many other in different nations of the world.

This write-up briefly summarizes what has been said in the book and ends in an optimistic note from personalities like Lester Brown, Amary Levins, Vandana Shiva etc. In Vaclav Havel's words :

"The kind of hope that I often think about.... I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of world. Either we have hope within us or we don't; it is a dimension of the soul, and it is not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation..(Hope) is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out."

Vol. 45, No. 5, Aug 12-18, 2012