Weekly Reflections: From secular economics to spiritual economics

The spiritual element of utility maximization is always honoured in the psychic behaviour of economic agents.


By Dr Abdul Saboor


In the dynamic world of economics, secular thoughts dominate not only the political systems but social scenarios as well. The inherent defects in the very principles and theories of traditional economics are going to appear on the surface. Its secular approaches based on elitist capitalism and oligopolistic trends of markets are likely taking their last breaths. The artificiality of international financial institutions has been exposed to the world the echoes of which can be heard from some Noble Laureates in the field of Economics. One the one hand, there are Bubble Economies vulnerable to internal and external shocks while on the other hand, income and wealth inequality is seriously deteriorating the prospects of sustainable economic growth. The greed of the rich seems to be capturing even the basic needs of the poor. The subject matter of Economics has thus taken the shape of a new religion which is neither supportive of Divine religions nor backed by the narratives of any existing religions of the world.

Such a dreadful scenario calls for a ‘constructive destruction’ in the form of thinking of ‘Spiritual Economics’ as an alternative arrangement for the welfare of humanity. As human beings all economic agents are carrying a soft fabric of Spirit or Soul in their chemical bodies which has either been consciously or unconsciously ignored in the treatment of fundamental economic principles in the secular world. Emotional considerations charged by the Spirit are equally important in the domain of rational considerations. Spiritual economics is thus closely associated with the psychic behaviour of mankind where normative choices and preferences are made. Such normative stuff is cognizant to the satisfaction of Soul. The spiritual experience of economics in this material world is neither altogether material nor wholly non-material. And it is equally a befitting case for the true followers of all religions.

Divine Wisdom always ushers a complete code of life for the welfare of humanity. Economics cannot be an exception. On the one hand, the minimum threshold of our livelihood is guaranteed as the Creator has already promised for it. On the other hand, the tangible and intangible stuff of welfare of mankind act as complementing units with each other. A good chunk of environmental economists is conscious of arithmetic increase in Carbon and Water Foot Prints much of which are implicitly outcome of the race of filling Greed Basket rather than Need Basket. Deaths due to over-eating are significantly higher in the world than that of lack of food. When the seminal work of a good chunk of secular economists particularly those who are working in Welfare Economics are reviewed, it comes up that their narratives have lost secular flavour to a great extent. They have started moving towards the spiritual discourse of economics.

In the domain of Secular Economics, the only intellectual discourse of humans is taken into consideration while both intellectual and intuitive discourses of humans make their place in the domain of Spiritual Economics. The secular dimension of economics is merely based on material things in the very temporal sense while the spiritual dimension of economics focuses both on the material as well as non-material elements irrespective of spatial and temporal facets. Being a materialistic agent of Secular Economics, people become slaves of their desires. At some occasions, they act as ‘slaves of the slave’. Secular Economics is not less than gambling in which the poor are always the loser while the rich acts a winner. Being a non-materialistic agent of Spiritual Economics, people may become well-wishers of all other economic agents. Their utility maximization becomes a sum of their own satisfaction and the satisfaction of everyone around them. Moreover, this utility maximization is the sum of whole satisfaction not associated with the material world where we are living and but the world hereafter as well.

All human needs are wants but all of the human wants are not necessarily their needs. There is a challenging question to see how much proportion of our Basket of Goods constitute needs and how much of that makes the genuine wants. There are two components of wants. One is a necessary want which is actually required for the physical, chemical, social and spiritual survival of consumers while other is not a necessary want which leads us away from ‘Point of Satiety’. Ultimately, the end up is realized in the shape of a secular behaviour of consumers as we generally observe around us which promote nothing good but greed. Secular Economics thus gains momentum in the ambit of greed rather than need. Thus, we need to differential between secular demand and spiritual demand. In a similar fashion, the spiritual supply of goods and services would need to be accounted for in the whole economic system

Maximization of utility in the consumption of goods and services to be used by people and their loved ones is to be realized in total. Some of us may contend with little wealth but many may not be happy with a huge chunk of money. There might be another class who is always happy to give others rather than taking from others. The spiritual element of utility maximization is always honoured in the psychic behaviour of economic agents. The human mind is naturally keen on enhancing the stock of long term benefits. Such long term dividend can only be enjoyed if the spiritual stuff is activated to the tune of humanity. By activating this spiritual software, we can capitalize on our true human potential. Once the capability of gaining this potential is attained, the functionality does not remain an issue for the welfare of humanity. The narratives of some development economists are fairly qualified.

We should not lose sight of the forest that traditional economics is secular in nature and character which makes the economic players materialistic and secular-minded. Mere worldly rationality in the pattern of science detracts us from the spiritual path where hearts are keeping the spirit of doing good for humanity for attaining eternal satisfaction. Secular economics does not account for the soul of consumers in most of its narratives. Rather, in some form or the other, it may damage the inner power of excellence of humans. There are inherent needs of our souls like that of the needs of the physical body. So the construction of Spiritual Economics is the natural requirement of the physical and meta-physical assembly of human bodies.

The players of spiritual economics enjoy a variety of benefits. They always feel as if the purchasing power (Barkat) of their nominal income has been increased. They see their businesses flourished. They find their foresight of trade and commerce enhanced.  There hardly face any kind of risk and uncertainty which could not be treated in an organized way. In the very advanced stages, they get unmatchable comprehension in the knowledge that further soothes their economic life. They start striving for higher causes of life which ultimately strengthens and sustain the edifice of Economics.

Being the capacity consumers and producers human beings may come across many tests and trials in their economic lives the solution of which lies in spiritual treatment rather than secular treatment. Spiritual battery needs to be recharged again and again through the appetite of honesty and integrity. By developing socio-behavioural skills and adaptation to changing and challenging situations, we arrive at spiritually charged rationality rather than secularly charged optimality. The fundamental principles of Spiritual Economics ensure the adaptation of economic men in all kinds of situations. The world of secular economics has not faced mega-issues like the Financial Crisis or the Great Depression.

Having faith in oneself implicitly reflects the human mind, which keeps the image of some supernatural power. Though a specific name is not given for the lack of foresight and vision. In this respect, economics itself is not a religion. Yet, as a religious person, one has a complete package of economic principles, which are to be activated through spiritual means. Spirituality, in its various forms, needs to be familiarized, institutionalized and systemized in all state organs exactly in the same way as Confucian ideas have been incorporated in the Chinese social and political systems.

If we are really interested in making Economics more human, Spiritual Economics may be the right choice as it is completely compatible for all sects and religions of the world and even to a great extent for secular and atheistic mind who are also holding human souls. We must know that the construction of our ego is quite complex and it is sometimes oddly charged by Satan which creates hurdle in the way of spiritual development. So, a great deal of spiritual progress is required for apprehending the human narratives of the emerging discipline of Spiritual Economics.


Dr Abdul Saboor is a professor of Economics and works as Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, PMAS Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi