…I realized another problem. The students who believed in the radical view were also convinced that large corporations were so powerful that nothing could be done about them. Instead of inspiring my students to radical activism, I had taught them to be cynical and resigned about the prevailing economic dysfunction and injustice. If they couldn’t do anything about it, they figured, why not at least get rich by becoming an investment banker?
Then I learned about the spiritual principle of non-reaction. When you react to someone you are letting them determine your behavior rather than choosing it yourself. My teaching was largely reactive: by centering on a critique of the text I was continually “reacting” to the book rather than achieving my goal of demolishing mainstream economics – in my students’ heads and in the world. My radical critiques of large corporations were also a reaction, and only emphasized corporate power to such a degree that it made my students feel helpless.
I began to evolve a new way of teaching that focuses less on mainstream economic theory and powerful, profit-motivated corporations. Now we being the term identifying problems and the global warming crisis. I point out the problems associated with consumers, workers and firms acting in self-interested and materialistic ways. I present, discuss and give examples of the emerging “solidarity economy,” which is based on socially responsible or “high road” economic values, practices and institutions: ethical consumption, fair trade, socially responsible corporations. This puts materialistic competitive consumerism and traditional profit-motivated corporations on the defensive. From this point of view one wonders why anyone ever believed that a solely profit-motivated corporation, dedicated to serving its owners (the stockholders), would be able to do right by its other stakeholders: consumers, workers, suppliers, government and the environment. Or why anyone would imagine that buying more and more material things would bring true fulfillment.