Society 4.0
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Society 4.0

The Struggle Between Capitalism, Communism and Pansophism

Explaining the necessary crisis to birth Society 4.0 — an evolutionary perspective

“The globalization of humanity is a natural, biological, evolutionary process.” — Elisabet Sahtouris, The Biology of Globalization, Perspectives on Business and Global Change, Sept. 1997. Video source.

“The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.” — Winston Churchill

One of her popular talks is Celebrating Crisis, in which she explains that the natural evolutionary process of any living organism goes through seven stages, varying between competition and cooperation. She starts by showing how capitalists and communists have essentially been separated by two simple ideologies. Capitalists bought into the misunderstood Darwinian Natural Selection competition story¹ and communists preferred the Kropotkinian Mutual Aid cooperation story.

“The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.”― Gregory Bateson

She describes the seven stages as follows:

Elisabet Sahtouris’ Model of the Evolutionary Cycle from Competition to Cooperation (reworked by author).
  1. As the process continues, we next witness individuation from the unity. For example, the bacteria form into a single, multi-celled organism.
  2. The process of individuation leads to tensions and conflicts among the different self-interests that arise (the Darwinian or capitalist part of the cycle).
  3. At some point the elbowing of other members of the species out of the way becomes too energy-expensive. An increasing scarcity of energy leads to unbearable conflict, so negotiations start to happen between different species or different individuals in the same species.
  4. After lengthy negotiations, you achieve resolutions to some of the conflicts.
  5. In the best case scenarios you not only resolve conflicts, but you also develop real cooperation to stop treating each other as enemies and to work on a mutually agreeable solution (the Kropotkinian or communist part of the cycle).
  6. In rare cases, the previously conflicted species manage to build a new, more complex unity. It is at this point where giant leaps in evolution occur. It is also at this point where cataclysms can and have occurred. There have been a total of 5 mass extinctions, proving that not all species make it past stage 3 in the cycle. There is a growing school of scientific thought that the Earth is in the middle of the sixth great extinction event in its history.

Two Types of Ecosystem

Ecologists are fond of a theory called ecological succession, which is essentially a study of the process of change in species over time. The time scale can be decades (for example, after a wildfire), or even millions of years (for example, after a mass extinction).

Pioneer Ecosystem

Pioneer species are hardy species which are the first to return to an area after a disturbance, such as forest fires, floods, woodcutting, or bulldozing.

  • High consumption of scarce resources
  • Invade territory
  • Multiply wildly
  • Highly competitive
  • Juvenile

Climax Ecosystem

A climax ecosystem is one that has reached a steady state, in which all species live in relative balance with no species either increasing or decreasing in relative size to the total ecosystem.

  • Share resources
  • Share territory
  • Show concern for other species
  • Highly cooperative
  • Mature

How the Evolutionary Cycle Played Out in Past Societies

To recap the evolutionary journey of societies, we have witnessed three revolutions in humanity’s history, which resulted in three types of societies:

  • Society 2: Industrial Economy — Circa 1760–1960’s (200 years)
  • Society 3: Information Economy — Circa 1950–today (68 years)

Society 1: The Agricultural Economy

The Evolutionary Cycle from Competition to Cooperation: Hunter Gatherers

Society 2: Industrial Economy

The Evolutionary Cycle from Competition to Cooperation: Agriculturalists

Society 3: Information Economy

The Evolutionary Cycle from Competition to Cooperation: Industrialists

Where to Now — Society 4.0

We’re now at a point when humanity’s empire-building phase has become too energy-expensive. We’ve reached planetary limits (and in many cases exceeded them), in using up natural resources in the building of a Pioneer Ecosystem. We’ve created a perfect storm of crises and now is the time for us to reach the mature, cooperative phase. We desperately need the next leap to higher complexity. Since the dot-com crash we’ve experienced individuation (mainly in Silicon Valley), and there is growing tension and conflict globally. It’s unlikely that current world leaders have the wherewithal to navigate themselves out of the complexity they so desperately want to continue supporting, and so there appears to be no hope of negotiation, resolution and cooperation. Trump, for example, defiantly ended negotiation by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Watch Elisabet Sahtouris’ Talk, Celebrating Crisis



Society 4.0 is the emerging meta-society being nurtured into existence by a global network of self-directed thinkers, architects, builders, doers & supporters. We are all united by a vision of thriving, equitable, and sustainable communities within an ecologically healthy world.

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Michael Haupt

Optimistic Collapsologist. | Tentative title of upcoming book: The Art of Joyous Collapse. | Creator of LifeLegacyAI.