Lean Economy, The

The fabric of the Wheel of Life, supported by richly-developed social capital and culture, organised not around the market, but around the rediscovery of community. It is based on cooperation in a slack economic and social order, building on a panarchy of social groupings, from small groups and household production through the close neighbourhood and parish to the nation. It sustains solutions—lean energy, lean food, lean materials and water, along with lean economics, lean education, lean health, lean law and order, lean defence, religion, carnival and play. Guiding principles include informal logic, lean thinking and manners, underwriting the three key, linked properties of community, closed-loop systems and culture.

All these lean responses are set in the context of a key assumption: local communities will not have access to government funding for any of their needs; they will not have an income that enables them to buy in the goods and services they need from outside the local economy. The implications of this are explored by the “Lean” entries—and, inevitably, there is uncertainty about the extent to which local lean economies will be forced to rely on their own resources—with the range between deep local, where they cannot get supplies even of tools and metals, and local lite, where most, or almost all, routine needs (e.g., food) are produced locally, but the equipment needed to do this can be bought in. Lean Logic’s position on this spectrum is towards the deep local extreme, though some opportunities that would arise under less extreme assumptions are noted.

Writing of Thomas Hobbes’ famous system—the political economy of Leviathan—Michael Oakeshott notes,

If it requires great energy of mind to create a system, it requires even greater not to become the slave of the creation.L55

. . . that is, it becomes necessary to think consistently through the logic while recognising that it might turn out quite differently. The Lean Economy is not a forecast; it is a scenario.


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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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