Monday, February 1, 2010

Fukuoka, Hayek, and the implications of "natural farming" for social work

To anyone who loves, appreciates, and values the natural world, Hayek's notion of a spontaneous order has a certain elegance, simplicity, and beauty to it, but it neglects the simple fact that such an order would undoubtedly replicate and extend current inequalities and injustices. I have been chewing this over, and found it wonderfully captured in this passage from Fukuoka's "One Straw Revolution":

"I settled myself on the mountain and everything went well up to the time that my father entrusted me with the richly-bearing trees in the orchard. He had already pruned the trees to 'the shape of sake cups' so that the fruit could easily be harvested. When I left them abandoned in this state, the result was that the branches became intertwined, insects attacked the trees and the entire orchard withered away in no time.

My conviction was that crops grow themselves and should not have to be grown. I had acted in the belief that everything should be left to take its natural course, but I found that if you apply this way of thinking all at once, before long things do not go so well. This is abandonment, not 'natural farming.'"

Similarly, to abandon people to the natural order of the free market is to allow the grotesque heirarchies and structures of privilege and oppression that humans have already created to flourish, to reach their "natural" conclusion - e.g., the primacy of certain groups of people over others.