The Art of Economy

‘An artist is not a special type of person, rather every person is a special type of artist.’ – Ananda Coomaraswamy

Like many people, I have never considered myself an artist. I don’t draw very well, my piano lessons never reached concert potential, and as a dancer I’d rather move between than stand out in the spotlight. I don’t make paintings, songs, or poems, my work doesn’t sell in galleries. I am an economist, my diploma says Masters of Science.

Despite my profession, I have always questioned the scientific-ness of my field. The economics that have dominated the last century – and certainly dominated the courses of my degree – are founded on worryingly simplistic assumptions, allowing economists to describe society’s value system numerically and in 2- dimensional diagrams. Rather than approaching the economy as an evolving social structure – made up by people with a diversity of cultures, beliefs and personalities – economic theory seemed obsessed with creating equilibrium outcomes by universalising people into 1-size-fits-all, values-free decision makers. In the attempt to make the study resemble a ‘hard science’, the dynamics of these models were then called the ‘laws’ of economics. Continue reading

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Life Mosaic, the social art of economy

One of the sources of inspiration for Beautiful Economy is the Alhambra in Granada. Last October we visited this 1000-years old marvel of Islamic architecture, and almost every day I remember being inside its walls, surrounded by art, science and spirituality. Feeling at ease, at peace, and with a strong sense that this place has something to teach us.

The Alhambra was designed to reflect the beauty of Paradise. And indeed, the gardens, palaces and waterways all breathe heavenly quality. In spite of receiving thousands of visitors each day, the place has maintained a serenity. It allows you to slow down while drifting along the endless patterns of arabesque, woodwork and tile tessellations. To be taken away by the detail and by the entirety.

Titus Burckhardt explains that ‘the islamic designs do not imprison the gaze and direct it to some imaginary world, but rather free it from all the impediments of thought and imagination. They produce in us no fixed idea, but an existential condition, a feeling of tranquility combined with an inner sense of vitality.’

It made me wonder: ‘If a physical structure can evoke the experience of peace and vitality, what about a social structure, the economy?

Continue reading