Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition

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Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth. Today, these trends have reached their extreme—but in the wake of their collapse, we may find great opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological, and sustainable way of being.
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Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition

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Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth. Today, these trends have reached their extreme—but in the wake of their collapse, we may find great opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological, and sustainable way of being.
This book is about how the money system will have to change—and is already changing—to embody this transition. A broadly integrated synthesis of theory, policy, and practice, Sacred Economics explores avant-garde concepts of the New Economics, including negative-interest currencies, local currencies, resource-based economics, gift economies, and the restoration of the commons. Author Charles Eisenstein also considers the personal dimensions of this transition, speaking to those concerned with "right livelihood" and how to live according to their ideals in a world seemingly ruled by money. Tapping into a rich lineage of conventional and unconventional economic thought, Sacred Economics presents a vision that is original yet commonsense, radical yet gentle, and increasingly relevant as the crises of our civilization deepen.

Sacred Economics official website:

About the Imprint:
EVOLVER EDITIONS promotes a new counterculture that recognizes humanity's visionary potential and takes tangible, pragmatic steps to realize it. EVOLVER EDITIONS explores the dynamics of personal, collective, and global change from a wide range of perspectives. EVOLVER EDITIONS is an imprint of North Atlantic Books and is produced in collaboration with Evolver, LLC.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Sacred Economics:

"This brilliant and beautifully written book is an indispensable must-read for all those who believe our economic system is terminally sick and in need of radical, sacred rehaul. Charles Eisenstein has the great gift of being able to make complex ideas both thrilling and inspiring. I hope this book begins a serious, worldwide conversation on how we can reinvent our attitude to money."
—Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism

"While political pundits, financial analysts and Occupiers fumble on how to transcend the intensifying global financial crisis, Eisenstein is trailblazing bold new ideas and possibilities for how we conduct monetary exchange."
—Jonathan Phillips, Huffington Post blog

"If you want a convincing account of just how deep the shift in our new axial age is and must be, look no further than this brilliant book by Charles Eisenstein, one of the deepest integrative thinkers active today."
—Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation

"With his breadth of knowledge, enthusiasm, commitment, diligence, and sensitivity, Charles has become a beacon of hope for others. Your heart and mind will be opened by this treasure of a book that shines with wisdom of crucial importance to our troubled world today."
—Kamran Mofid, founder of the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative

“[Sacred Economics] meticulously explains why our current system will inevitably give rise to cyclical and worsening economic crises. [Eisenstein] exposes the myths and lies that sustain power structure, the social and spiritual devastation in which we are all complicit, and lays the foundation for a way of thinking that can restore hope and help us emerge to a positive future. … Eisenstein’s book provides some of the most creative and hopeful ideas out there.”
New Consciousness Review

“[Charles Eisenstein] puts his money where his mouth is. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition is published under a Creative Commons copyright. … This arrangement, similar to that of open-source software, is a tiny sample of the economic system that Eisenstein predicts for our future. … Of course, a new economy means the old one needs to go. That would be scary news if not for Eisenstein’s optimistic way of describing the transition. He effectively argues that when we dismantle monetization, we give birth to community. Together, we can help noble impulses become profitable enterprises. Money may have caused our biggest problems, but redefining it could help us solve those same problems.”
Grid Magazine

"'If anything is sacred in this world, it is surely not money.' So says Charles Eisenstein, who believes that people can act outside of the money economy, despite the power it has over their lives."
Foreword Reviews

"Eisenstein is no revolutionary or anarchist. In fact, he’s an evolutionary. While reading Sacred Economics, I realized I had not achieved an objective relationship with our money system. I don’t have money. It has me."
Common Ground

Also by Charles Eisenstein:
The Ascent of Humanity:

"Brilliant and original, with great depth of insight and understanding, Eisenstein's Ascent of Humanity easily ranks with the works of such giants of our age as David Bohm, Julian Jaynes, Jean Gebser, Whitehead. It is a profoundly serious, indeed somber portrait of our times, even as it opens a door of honest hope amidst the dark destiny we have woven about us. Accept the challenge of this major accomplishment and discover the light shining within it."
—Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, Magical Child, Evolution's End, and The Biology of Transcendence
"Quite marvelous, a hugely important work... This book is truly needed in this time of deepening crisis."
—John Zerzan, author of Future Primitive and Elements of Refusal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781459630581
  • Publisher: ReadHowYouWant, LLC
  • Publication date: 10/19/2011
  • Edition number: 16
  • Pages: 702
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Eisenstein is a teacher, speaker, and writer focusing on themes of civilization, consciousness, money, and human cultural evolution. His writings on the web magazine Reality Sandwich have generated a vast online following; he speaks frequently at conferences and other events, and gives numerous interviews on radio and podcasts. Writing in Ode magazine's "25 Intelligent Optimists" issue, David Korten (author of When Corporations Rule the World) called Eisenstein "one of the up-and-coming great minds of our time." Eisenstein graduated from Yale University in 1989 with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, and spent the next ten years as a Chinese-English translator. He currently lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and serves on the faculty of Goddard College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Part I The Economics Of Separation 1

Chapter 1 The Gift World 3

Chapter 2 The Illusion of Scarcity 19

Chapter 3 Money and the Mind 33

Chapter 4 The Trouble with Property 49

Chapter 5 The Corpse of the Commons 69

Cultural and Spiritual Capital 70

The Strip-Mining of Community 75

The Creation of Needs 79

The Money Power 88

Chapter 6 The Economics of Usury 93

An Economic Parable 95

The Growth Imperative 100

The Concentration of Wealth 104

Wealth Redistribution and Class War 111

Inflation 117

More for You Is Less for Me 121

Chapter 7 The Crisis of Civilization 125

Chapter 8 The Turning of the Age 141

Money: Story and Magic 141

Humanity's Coming-of-Age Ordeal 148

Part II The Economics Of Reunion 157

Chapter 9 The Story of Value 159

Chapter 10 The Law of Return 173

Chapter 11 Currencies of the Commons 185

Chapter 12 Negative-Interest Economics 203

History and Background 206

Modern Application and Theory 214

The Debt Crisis: Opportunity for Transition 228

Thinking for the Future 231

More for Me Is More for You 242

Chapter 13 Steady-State and Degrowth Economics 249

Sustainability Reconsidered 249

Transition to Steady-State: Bump or Crash? 252

Shrinking Money, Growing Wealth 258

Disintermediation and the P2P Revolution 262

Chapter 14 The Social Dividend 267

The Paradox of Leisure 267

The Obsolescence of "Jobs" 272

The Will to Work 277

Who Shall Remove the Garbage? 283

Chapter 15 Local and Complementary Currency 291

The Catch-22 of Local Currency 294

Experiments in Local Money 303

Reclaiming the Credit Commons 308

Chapter 16 Transition to Gift Economy 317

Chapter 17 Summary and Roadmap 331

1 Negative-Interest Currency 332

2 Elimination of Economic Rents, and Compensation for Depletion of the Commons 334

3 Internalization of Social and Environmental Costs 336

4 Economic and Monetary Localization 338

5 The Social Dividend 340

6 Economic Degrowth 342

7 Gift Culture and P2P Economics 344

Part III Living The New Economy 347

Chapter 18 Relearning Gift Culture 349

Chapter 19 Nonaccurnulation 365

Chapter 20 Right Livelihood and Sacred Investing 379

The Dharma of Wealth 379

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul 382

Old Accumulations to New Purposes 390

Right Livelihood 396

Chapter 21 Working in the Gift 401

Trusting Gratitude 401

Business in the Gift 406

The Sacred Professions 412

Chapter 22 Community and the Unquantifiable 419

Chapter 23 A New Materialism 427

Conclusion: The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Tell Us Is Possible 437

Appendix: Quantum Money and the Reserve Question 447

Bibliography 459

Index 465

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 5, 2011

    It's worth $20,000, if not a million

    I read a book a day, run a Body Mind Spirit Book Club, spent half my earnings in book stores, but I have never written a book review until now. If you still don't see how important this book is to me, maybe you should know I wrote off a $20,000 debt someone owed me and asked nothing of him in return except to read this book. And I have to add that I don't really have that sort of money to throw away. This is how bad I want everyone to read it, because on its pages are not words but a vision of hope for the future of humanity.

    I will keep this short because the average person don't have time to read long reviews. I have no intention to summarize what the book is about, not just because that is a bit beyond me. The ideas the book covered are so radical and with so many ramifications that it will easily be dismissed by most as impractical and over-idealistic if read only in snippets. Half way through my reading of it, I was still skeptical if ignorance, social conditioning and resistance could ever be overcome, but every chapter took me one step closer to believing that it's really the answer I had been waiting for. It's a manual for the future ! I have my work cut out for me. Everyone has a part to play and that's why everyone should read it. And like a manual, it has to be read from cover to cover !

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2012

    Perhaps the most influencial book I've read. No hyperbole whatsoever.

    For years I looked on the ways of the world and of money and thought, "Something isn't right." I felt there must be a better way, so I began theorizing alternatives to competition and "me first" thinking. Ten pages into writing my own ideas out, I picked up a copy of Sacred Economics, and subsequently abandoned my writing efforts. Eisenstein said with far greater detail and eloquence everything I had hoped to say. Instead, I now focus my efforts developing software to implement some of Eisenstein's ideas.

    I wound up buying this book twice. First I bought a physical paper copy. Then I wanted to loan it to friends, so I bought a copy to read on my Nook while the other was gone. That's how important i feel this book is. Sacred Economics, without one iota of hesitation, receives my full recommendation.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2011

    A very timely book - intriguing and thought provoking

    Sacred Economics is well written and engaging. The author makes you step back and take a look at the big picture issues regarding economics, growth, philosophy, and government policy. While the book has a socialist bent, it is worth completely reading and thinking through the implications even for conservatives. The premise that we need to change our system of money and economics is very timely given the 2008 meltdown and ongoing monetary distress. The book takes a bit long getting to suggestions and some suggestions are not completely developed. I still gave it 5 stars because this is exactly the type of discussion that we should be having, whether one completely agrees with every recommendation or not.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    A breathtaking and enlightening perspective on the current state

    A breathtaking and enlightening perspective on the current state of the economy and how to better it!  He also discusses how to live in abundance as a community as opposed to scarcity.  

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2012

    very disappointing

    I was attracted to the title and a brief video that the author had made but I found the book unhelpful. The concept of "gifting" may occur in his imagination but it is naive to think that this idea fits the marketplace of the last 200 years or the present. For a book that does make sense and is filled with used facts and conclusions I recommend THE EMPATHIC CIVILIZATION by Jeremy Rifkin.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2012

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