Middle Voice

Verbs in English take either the active voice (I love) or passive voice (I am loved). Many other languages, including Classical Greek, have a “middle voice” which is half way between the two, and has properties of both.

This is a useful idea in the context of the Lean Economy, because it has special relevance to key principles such as presence and practice. A securely-developed skill is neither entirely voluntary nor entirely involuntary; there is a middle ground, intrinsic to skills—both responsive to the will of the craftsman and shaped by the practised technique, both active and passive. This middle voice applies, for instance, to dance—in part active participation; in part passive, with the person being swept up in it. The dancer, encountering a skill, both grasps it and is grasped by it—or, to use the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s word for it, she “prehends” it.M14

And the same applies to a person’s dedication of her skill to the making and sustaining of community. It is neither voluntary nor involuntary. There is interconnected intention and practice. Like a brain.


Related entries:

Modularity, Complexity.

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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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