10. Functional Collaboration For a New Political Economy

To succeed, we must constantly remind ourselves that markets on their own are not going to solve [economic] problems…. That this is so has been proved time and again over the last century and a half…. We should not let ourselves be deceived again by overly-simplistic models that suggest otherwise.1G. Ackerlof, D. Blanchard, D. Romer, J. Stiglitz, What Have We Learned? Macroeconomic Policy After the Crisis (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014), 344.

— G. Ackerlof, D. Blanchard, D. Romer, J. Stiglitz. What Have We Learned? (2014)


We do not know what the next new meta-idea analogous to the new type of university spawned in the 19th century [will be]…. But it is not too soon to start considering possibilities for comparable innovation in the 21st century.2Paul Romer, “The Deep Structure of Economic Growth” (February 5, 2019),   https://paulromer.net/deep_structure_growth/. Accessed May 28, 2019.

— Paul Romer, “The Deep Structure of Economic Growth” (2019)


Educators have yet to realize how deeply the industrial system is dependent upon them.3John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), 375.

— John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State (1967)


10.0   The Need for New Kinds of Collaboration

Not unlike Mendeleev’s achievement in chemistry, some scholars are now recognizing that Lonergan’s breakthrough in economics was Lonergan’s Discovery of the Science of Economics.4Michael Shute, Lonergan’s Discovery of the Science of Economics (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010).

The two-flow circuits are present in all economies. However, the challenge is to implement that structure intelligently and responsibly, in sustainable ways that work for everyone. There is, then, “the need of a bent towards a fresh normative interpretation both of the [ebb and] flow of one’s own life and the [ebb and] flow of the economy.”5Philip McShane, Futurology Express (Vancouver: Axial Publishing, 2013), 102.

It goes without saying that adverting to the two-flow structures will need to be part of the solution. But, as ranges of concern and expertise reveal6There are emerging groups of artists, ecologists, economists, educators, and scholars in numerous fields who are exploring avenues of innovation and leadership., knowing something about the structure of economic processes will only be part of the solution. A larger problem remains, touched on in the early chapters of CWL21, For a New Political Economy. In 1965, Lonergan broke through to what he called “functional specialization.”7See note 15 in Preface. It is a principle of omnidisciplinary collaboration that is yet to be implemented in the academy.8Eventually, academic institutions will function as a concrete, efficient and effective hub for sustainable progress in human living. It is increasingly apparent, however, that functional collaboration will provide guidance needed for making progress in economics’ new standard model.


10.1    What is functional specialization?

Lonergan’s discovery of functional specialization was a major scientific breakthrough. So, we can only provide some first impressions9See our earlier introductory descriptions in Journeyism 19-21 and A Very Brief Introduction, sections 5.1 and 5.2..

There are eight functional specialties, and they will be drivers for a newly-effective global collaboration that would make life more livable with its communal cycling through these eight tasks.. Here, then, we call it functional collaboration.

To get a first sense of what the functional specialties are, we can begin by noticing an already established division of labor in (what are often called) the natural sciences. Some researchers mainly work on looking for data that might be important. In physics, for instance, think of work being done at the world’s particle accelerators and astronomical observatories. But there is also the work of understanding data. Progress in theoretical physics has provided us with the electromagnetic field equations, special and general relativity and, more recently, the current Standard Model in particle physics. But, of course, that is not all. Using traditional naming, there is also what is called “applied science.” This leads to, for example, new ways of building things and new technologies, from large-scale hydro-electric dams to small-scale microprocessors in personal computers.

The effectiveness of a “three-part” division of labor speaks for itself. But, Lonergan identified eight main tasks. For now, we simply name them and provide brief descriptions for each.

What Lonergan discerned is a double-structure, the first four tasks are a special way of looking back. Four complementary tasks are a special way of looking forward10John Benton, Alessandra Drage and Philip McShane, Introducing Critical Thinking (Vancouver: Axial Publishing, reprint of 2006 edition), 211.. A common concern throughout, however, is (or will be) moving results forward in order to ultimately have street-value.

The names that Lonergan used for the first four tasks are: Functional Research; Interpretation; History; and Dialectics. The forward tasks are: Functional Foundations; Doctrines; Systematics; and Communications.11The adjective “functional” points to the fact that these are special names.

Briefly, these can be described as follows:

  1. Research: finding relevant data, written or other.
  2. Interpretation: reaching the meaning of such data, the meaning of those that produced it.
  3. History: figuring out the story, connecting the meaning of the writings and the doings, etc.
  4. Dialectic: coming up with a best story and best basic directions so far12Economics for Everyone, 3rd ed., 111-113. (Recall the family problem of sorting out different versions.) .
  5. Foundations: expressing the best fundamental (in the sense that they are not tied to age, time, etc.) directions.
  6. Policies: relevant basic pragmatic truths, somewhat like the core of national constitutions or of tribal legends.
  7. Systematics (Planning): drawing correctly and contrafactually on the strategies of the past to envisage ranges of time-ordered possibilities.
  8. Communications: local collaborative reflection that selects creatively from ranges of possibilities.


10.2    Imaging Functional Collaboration

This image shows the functional specialties in their central cumulative ordering. The symbol C9 represents all other communities of the world.

Figure 10.1: Cumulative and progressive functional specialties. This diagram is a simplified version of a diagram invented by Philip McShane.13Philip McShane, “Ærconomics 5” (“Structuring the Reach towards the Future,” for The 3rd Peaceful Existence Colloquium, Helsinki, Finland, June 13–14, 2019), http://www.philipmcshane.org. Accessed April 16, 2019.


10.3   Evidence

We invite you to attend to three sources of evidence, or experience: (1) personal; (2) familiar communities; and (3) academic collaboration generally, including economics.

The task is yours.

(1) Autobiographical writing involves Research. There is, for example, the work of retrieving or obtaining potentially significant data on past experiences (in memory, family photos, journals, and such). There is a further task of understanding what those images mean. We leave it as an exercise for the reader to make beginnings in discerning the other two “past-oriented” tasks. Implicit in the effort of writing autobiography is the possibility of practical purpose.14A wider context reflection is given by McShane’s family story allegory. See, Economics for Everyone, 110-114.

(2) Consider, for example, what goes on in the world of soccer. In this example, C9 refers to: street soccer in slums, organized leagues, all ages and levels, players and coaches, the entire sport and profession, including its businesses and organizations. The presence of the eight tasks contributes to the advancement of the sport.

(3) In the bibliography we list several works where authors draw on their experience in various fields including, for example, musicology, ecology, language studies, philosophy, physics, economics, and more. We are not asking that you merely believe our claim that there are eight distinct tasks. Evidence of the eight tasks can be obtained by working in some field, and by reflecting on one’s experience.

References   [ + ]

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