Shaun Chamberlin: Surviving The Aftermath Of The Market Economy

Historian and economist David Fleming undertook the writing of Lean Logic a grand vision that projected out the likely path of collapse for our currently unsustainable way of life, as well as the key success factors society will need to cultivate to come out the other side. Sadly, he died in 2010 with the 350,000-word manuscript still in draft form.

Following his death, his writing partner Shaun Chamberlin distilled the book's prime conclusions into the more accessible Surviving The Future: Culture, carnival, and capital in the aftermath of the market economy. Shaun, who has also been deeply involved with Rob Hopkins in the Transition Movement since its inception, stresses that localized communities that pursue developing as much independence from the central economy as possible will be the foundations for creating a sustainable, enjoyable future.

As Fleming wrote:

The great transformation has already happened. It was the revolution in politics, economics, and society that came with the market economy and which hit its stride in Britain in the late Eighteenth century. Most of human history has been bred, fed, and watered by another sort of economy, but the market has replaced as far as possible the social capital of reciprocal obligation, loyalties, authority structures, culture, and traditions with exchange, price, and the impersonal principles of economics.

The market’s achievements and answers sound authoritative and final, but what is truly most significant about them is how naïve they are. If the flow income fails, the powerfully bonding combination of money and self-interest will no longer be available in its present, all embracing scale, and perhaps not at all. It must inevitably fail as the market demands ever-increasing productivity and thus relies on the impossibility of perpetual growth.  In the meantime, the reduction of society and culture to depend on some mathematical abstraction has infantilized the grown-up civilization and is well on the way to destroying it.

Civilizations self-destruct anyway. But it's reasonable to ask whether they have done so before with such enthusiasm and obedience to such an acutely absurd superstition while claiming with such insistence that they were beyond being seduced by the irrational promises of religion. Every civilization has had its irrational, but reassuring myth. Previous civilizations have used their culture to sing about it and tell stories about it. Ours has used its mathematics to prove it. Yet, when that relatively short lived market society is gone, we will miss its essential simplicity, its price mechanisms, its stabilizing properties, its impersonal exchange, the comforts it delivers to many and the freedoms it underwrites. Its failure will be destructive. The end is in sight. During the early decades of the century, the market will lose its magic.

It is the aim of Lean Logic to suggest some principles for repairing or replacing the atrophied social structures on which most human cultures were built as the basis for a cohesive society that might survive the turbulent times to come.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Shaun Chamberlin (46m:57s).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Fascinating discussion, Shaun and Chris. Fleming’s goal for Lean Logic, is, I think, of interest to many of us here

It is the aim of Lean Logic to suggest some principles for repairing or replacing the atrophied social structures on which most human cultures were built as the basis for a cohesive society that might survive the turbulent times to come.
I liked Shaun's comment about how we've already lost so much with our current market-economy based way of life, and that one goal of the future we might build is to re-incorporate these already lost, but desirable, traits (like close communities) [paraphrasing, but hopefully came close to capturing his idea].

Lean Logic was an early Christmas gift. I love keeping it chairside to read a short section or two when I sit down. It’s wonderfully stimulating! It’s internal cross referencing system is like exploring in the woods or spelunking. I would never dream of reading it cover to cover, but as a daily explore it’s incredible. There are little pencil checks at each section I’ve already read, but as I often come back to a section from a different starting point I usually reread it. Some sections have three marks now.
David Fleming made the personal lifestyle transition out of our current paradigm as he wrote and rewrote his notes for this masterpiece. That it was published posthumously was not planned, but as I read it I am not sure he would have ever published it while he was alive. It is indeed the work of a lifetime. As we face the future this will become a well worn daily friend. It is beautifully printed in a sturdy binding.
Read Shaun’s book first to get oriented. Then you can jump into the intellectual river that David has left for us to bath, frollic and actually travel in.

A very interesting discussion for a Sunday afternoon, but a bit too arcane and Kierkegaardian for my nature. He has hit on all the relevant points, however and is on the same path as many of us. I’d try balancing it against something a bit more cynically pragmatic like, Doug Rushkoff’s, Throwing rocks at the Google Bus:
or listen to a good interview at the Extraenvironmentalist podcast:
if you haven’t got the time to read the book.
I just finished re-reading Jared Diamond’s, Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and would suggest he has correctly identified numerous examples from recent histories of other current and past societies that exemplify the environmental and ecological challenges that should be a signposts for our urgent times. Controlling population and our consumption of resources continues to be the most radical adjustment that humans need to address for a hopeful outcome. A continued focus on PM’s and fiat currencies and protecting hard assets seems to distract us these more “heady” subjects. As usual, thanks PP for continuing the discussion.

Orlov’s 5 stages are also a helpful guide for critiquing our system. Critiquing has its place. It won’t fix its predicament. Most of us agree the ship we’re on is headed toward collision and will sink, burn, capsize or in someway meet it’s demise.
What I especially like about Fleming’s approach is not his analytics, but his viewpoint. Fleming has jumped overboard. The waters are fine he says. Swimming is not so hard after all. He invites us to join him and avoid the rush and chaos of the crash. By doing so we can learn the skill to survive without the ship.

I could be wrong, but I recall Chris (or Adam) quipping a few times something along the lines of “crash now and avoid the rush.”

Still love that line.

A great line, yes smiley Think it might have been John Michael Greer originally:

For more information on the books (including reviews + discussion videos by the late David Fleming, Rob Hopkins, Shaun Chamberlin, Jonathon Porritt):
As mentioned by Shaun at the end of the podcast, Schumacher College (in the UK) are running a week long course on Fleming’s work and how to apply it in our lives. “Community, Place and Play - A Post-Market Economics”, led by Shaun Chamberlin, Rob Hopkins and ‘Moneyless Man’ Mark Boyle - Feb 6-10:

I first found out about Lean Logic through two interviews with Shaun Chamberlin that I heard on The Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann. I knew right away that I had to get a copy of this book for my shelves at home. So, I got the package deal from Chelsea Green Publishing (Lean Logic and Surviving the Future) for myself as a Christmas gift.
It exceeded my expectations in just about every way possible. David Fleming’s work isn’t about giving up the good things in life that make us human, it’s about rediscovering them. It isn’t operating from the certainty that the world is going to fall apart, or returning wholesale to an idyllic yesteryear; it’s instead floating the idea that the future has a good possibility of being much leaner than the present, and that we can look to the past for practices that can make it more livable than it might otherwise be. Chief among these are anything that involves human contact. As Fleming himself noted, if you can only do one thing toward this end, join your local choir – because it is ultimately culture that will help people to deal with lean times, and those areas that invest more in their local cultures will do better than those that don’t.
The dictionary format of Lean Logic also makes it an absolute pleasure to read. It allows you to jump around, to take advantage of the multiple cross-references, so that it isn’t so much “reading” as it is engaging in an ongoing conversation with the author. Having a solid grounding in these subjects to start with is probably a good idea – for those that don’t the condensed version in Surviving the Future is a better place to start.
As for the value of the contents – I cannot overstate the breadth AND depth of knowledge that Dr. Fleming possessed and transmitted on these pages. I’ve read extensively on the topics of history, economics, energy, philosophy, etc. over my adult years, as I’m sure that many other PPers have. All of these topics are not only touched upon, but given a deep dive and explored in considerable detail. If I had to pick only one book to save and pass along to future generations, this would be that book.
I haven’t even listened to this conversation yet, but I had to get my personal review of Lean Logic out there. That’s how strongly I feel about it. I literally have not been able to put it down since picking it up.

Fleming pointed out where we were in this cycle – the “conservation” stage of complex systems, in which they invest most of their energy in maintaining the status quo. The next point is a collapse of the existing order, followed by reorganization. I like Orlov’s 5 stages and find some value in them, but the challenging thing with them is applying them to a society like ours that has already completely undergone cultural collapse, but has not yet hit economic/financial collapse.

"What I especially like about Fleming's approach is not his analytics, but his viewpoint. Fleming has jumped overboard. The waters are fine he says. Swimming is not so hard after all. He invites us to join him and avoid the rush and chaos of the crash. By doing so we can learn the skill to survive without the ship."
I love this description. I hope you don't mind if I "borrow" it when evangelizing Fleming's work to others. ;-)

“Surviving the Future” is a great introduction to “Lean Logic” (Lean Logic Lite) with good advice on how to think about and prepare for the coming ‘climacteric’ events related to industrial human civilization.
As a musician, author, and keen follower of social trends, I found the “Carnival” chapter most informative and inspiring. It opens with the statement: “Celebrations of music, dance, torchlight, mime, games, feast and folly have been central to the life of community for all times other than those when the pretensions of large scale civilization descended like a frost on public joy.” The author goes on to explain that “the making and sustaining of community requires deep engagement and empowerment.” Carnival—this ‘concentrated opportunity for play’—is one of the few activities that families and community members of all ages, abilities, and socioeconomic levels can interact in together as a group, as equals. The residual effects of this group play helps bond a community together and create order. (And order is a primary element of beauty!
Unfortunately, our current extremist market economy—where financial capital dominates all other conceptions of value—suffers from ‘play-deprivation.’ And as the author notes, loss of play (carnival, music, etc.) in our community invites the bleak question, “What’s the point?” (Nietzsche characteristically cut right to the chase: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”) A less fun society is a society prone to high levels of loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and depression. There is no reminder of the ‘teeming vitality’ just below the surface of everyday people. The music of carnival gives community its life, its joy, its release, and its connections.
As described in “Lua’s Way: Ten Tips on Health and Well-Being for Mainlanders” [ ‘Go(o)d Vibrations’ ]:
“Music enhances our lives and gives them deeper meaning. It creates moments of lightness and grace in an often hostile world. It bestows well-being and compassion. And above all, the musical experience is an experience of connection and of love: love of self, family, friends, strangers, and Nature.
Sadly, in modern Western civilization, music has become a commodity and just another product for mass consumption. The ancient world had a very different relationship with music. It had real power and was used in healing and ritual on a regular basis.
It was the most effective way to connect people to the rhythmic universe they lived in where everything alive spins and oscillates with varying rhythms. The rhythmic patterns of complexity—that delicate life-creating and sustaining balancing act between the extremes of order and chaos—seem to be the standard building blocks of Nature. Rhythms tie together so much of the external phenomena outside our direct control, but integral to our lives: the seas, the winds, the heavens, the stars, the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.
As far as we know, no human culture has ever existed without music. It seems to be inseparable from our humanity—and not just for survival or entertainment. It fills needs at the center of our being. Perhaps it is the very thing that makes us human.”
Surely a future worth fighting for is a future where ‘social capital’ regains its rightful place in society, and at its center - Carnival!

DarkOptimism wrote:
A great line, yes smiley Think it might have been John Michael Greer originally:

THAT’S the one. Excellent find!

I was struck by this concept in the interview, not because I hadn’t ever heard of it before – but rather because I heard it described in simple, ecological terms in a different podcast.
In an episode of The Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann, the interview subject was Ethan Hughes of the Possibility Alliance in rural Missouri. Ethan and his clan there live 100% off-grid without electricity or running water, living a very rich life on less than $10,000 per year for the entire community. Short story, Ethan voluntarily lived a life below the poverty line in order to avoid paying federal income tax and, by extension, not supporting military expenditures. Then, he came into a good sum of money as an inheritance – and gave it all away. His explanation was, the oak tree doesn’t hoard its acorns – it “lets them fly” in the understanding that the ecosystem will know what to do with them.
Later, when Ethan and his wife had decided to settle down and start a farm (that would become his current homestead), they let their entire network know about their intentions – and were rewarded with gifts from those contacts that covered the cost of the land they purchased. The intention they put out into the world by giving gifts came back to them when they needed it.
You can find a link to the first interview with Ethan here, in which he tells the story of how he got to this point:

What a comforting interview. It was so good to feel affirmed about experiencing the depths of grief (while hoping/looking for new options). It’s a good time to be alive. Thanks.

Stephan Molyneux. philosopher, says that the collapse started 150 years ago with the abandonment of Western Values…

It is great that we are having this kind of conversation, and also sad and pathetic that we need to have this kind of conversation. From the fringe, never having bought into the mainstream narrative, never wanted a big house, truck, boat, etc. watching the rest of society finally wake up from their drunk, well what do you do with that. Yes, don’t answer the question, lets just live it. Thank you, for joining the “dark night of the soul” where I live, it actually isn’t dark in here, its where the light is.

Yes, Treebeard (re: #15). Embracing one’s own “dark night of the soul” is the first step toward the light.

drbost wrote:
What a comforting interview. It was so good to feel affirmed about experiencing the depths of grief (while hoping/looking for new options). It's a good time to be alive. Thanks.
You're welcome. First I want to appreciate all those who chimed in saying how much they have been enjoying the big tome of Lean Logic. Truthfully, I have not and would not have gotten it simply because of its size. My bedside table already has a stack of 12 books on it, more seem to arrive each week, and obtaining another one at 656 pages, as large and as long as any two other books in the stack was inhibitory. But the glowing recommendations from trusted sources has changed my mind. So thank you all for providing your feedback. Second, managing our emotions and building emotional capital are among the most important things we can attend to during 'normal' times and absolutely essential during times like those that are coming. Why? Because the point of life is to enjoy it, and to be connected and feel alive. My personal litmus test now is to do things if they make me feel more connected and alive. Some things energize and nourish me, and others don't. So I minimize the things that don't and maximize the things that do. Quite paradoxically and surprisingly to me was discovering, only rather recently in life, that grief is the twin partner of love. By limiting grief because it was uncomfortable or 'bad' and to be avoided, I was limiting my capacity to experience love. Hunh. Such a strange finding. For me. After a bit of experience in expanding my emotional range and ability to feel more and more without shutting down or drinking, I discovered a new appreciation for the magic of being alive that I no longer need an amazing sunset to feel amazing...I can be utterly astounded by the cup of hot liquid I am holding. So maybe it's not a coin with grief etched on one face and love on the other side, but a triangle with grief, love and awe all in some sort of complicated relationship? I don't know, I'm still working on this theory. What I'm saying is that the gift that has come to me as a consequence of having confronted the circumstances of our time is an ability to live more fully, with more meaning, and feeling more connected and alive. A good portion of my energy for the work of carrying the PP message out to the world comes from the desire to assist more people in their own process of waking up into their current lives, finding their own gifts by whatever path gets them there, and engaging more fully with the profound mystery and beauty of being alive. Quite tactically, this also serves the mission of creating a world worth inheriting. Awake, happy, connected people are far more likely to need fewer material things, and to tread more lightly on this planet and learn to appreciate that all life has a purpose, not just their own or human life. My awakening has come with an ever increasing humility. I used to know a lot, now I know almost nothing because I realize that everything has another layer of depth to it and each layer comes with a myriad of relationships and associations to other things. Instead of condensing the world because I named and categorized things, the world become ever more complex to the point that I am 'reduced' to marveling at the intricate beauty of it all and to then trust that it all has some meaning and purpose simply because it's there in the first place. And with that, my morning sermon is over. :)

As I’ve said before, I’ve noticed the reduction in bugs as well. Mosquitoes are less of a problem than they were decades back. It is worrisome, even though it doesn’t necessarily portend a bug extinction event. Bugs almost always weather extinction events quite well. It’s the critters that eat bugs I’m concerned about.
We are, once again, in Arizona for the winter. Over the last few days, we have had a couple of cockroaches crawl up out of the bathroom drains. They thrive in the sewers down here. Concerns not withstanding, I could personally live with a few less cockroaches, ticks and mosquitoes.

That I can identify is that it is all procedurally generated.
I hope that I can remember that on the ocean.
( I was greeted by a ballet of over- enthusiastic boy dolphins at Kangaroo Island, and one shy little girl dolphin looking up at me as I prepared to drop anchor.
Becalmed one morning I found myself in the company of false Killer whales.
Albatrosses everywhere showing me how to really fly.)