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School of Business and Economics Bachelors Candidate in Health Care Administration

Seminar Cultural Development I

The Hidden Connections, by Fritjof Capra (Essay)


June 2012


Introduction 3

Content ...... 4

Conclusion ..9

Bibliography 10


The author of The Hidden Connections, A Science of Sustainable Living, Fritjof Capra, had several ideas that he wanted to bring to light to its reader, by explaining the view on his new understanding in life1 (Capra, 2002) by pointing out the way the worlds socio-economic system is progressively having a negative impact by its approach to global issues. Capra presents a conceptual framework that integrates lifes biological, cognitive, and social dimensions.2 Fritjof Capra (born February 1, 1939) is an Austrian-born American physicist. He is a founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California, and is on the faculty of Schumacher College. He is the author of several books, including The Tao of Physics (1975), The Turning Point (1982), Uncommon Wisdom (1988), The Web of Life (1996), and The Hidden Connections (2002).3


(Capra, 2002)

(Fritjof Capra, 2012)


The Hidden Connections, A Science of Sustainable Living is divided in two parts. The first part starts explaining the authors theory where he outlines three concepts of his intake of our worlds reality: the nature of life, mind and consciousness. The author continues and explains: The design principles of our future social institutions must be consistent with the principles of organization that nature has evolved to sustain the web of life. A unified conceptual framework for the understanding of material and social structures will be essential for this task. The purpose of this book is to provide a first sketch of such a framework4. For the second part, that can be read independently, goes into detail of his views on the social network, systematic organization, economic globalization and nongovernmental organizations and their role in re-designing our future. Initiating with the nature of life, living organisms in their basic form, even though independent, are not self sustainable without the interaction of its surroundings. This can be easily seen the most in the food chain. Living organisms are not meant to live in isolation. The author also explains how not only our DNA programming determines our existence and way of life, but how we adapt and react to our environment physically and chemically as well. Since the 1600s the Cartesian scientific approach of mind/matter split has predominated until the Santiago Theory, developed in part by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, challenged it. Basically, the Santiago Theory

(Capra, 2002)

is defined by the perspective that cognition is a process present at other organic levels.5 The Santiago Theory has given birth to the interdisciplinary field of cognitive science. The definition of cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, memory, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions.6 Furthermore, the Santiago Theory includes the statement that organizing activity of all living systems, at all levels of life, is mental activity. 7 This means for example your knowledge of cooking; if you understand it then you can do it. This entails your appreciation in mixing ingredients, tasting discerning, monitoring of temperature and safety. If you are able to manage these processes then you would be to troubleshoot and have a good outcome in cooking, as a result adapting completely to the pertaining environment: the kitchen. Doctor Capra considered reflective consciousness involves a level of cognitive abstraction that includes the ability to hold mental images. 8 What this means is that the human ability of cognitive abstraction helps create a value system, by going through different kinds of experiences, processes and adaptations, resulting in a reaction to proceed correspondingly. Accordingly the author states: Holding a vision is central to the success of any organization, because all human beings need to feel that their actions are meaningful and geared toward specific goals. At all levels of the organization, people need to have a sense of where they are going. A vision is a mental image of what we want to achieve, but visions are much more complex than concrete goals and tend to defy expression in ordinary,

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(Santiago Theory of Cognition, 2012) (Cognition, 2012) 7 (Capra, 2002) 8 (Capra, 2002)

rational terms. Goals can be measured, while vision is qualitative and much more intangible9 Thus making we take to account a persons subjective experience instead of ignoring it as the previous Cartesian Theory suggested. Understanding how life systems function and coexist allows seeing that basically different living systems exhibit similar patterns of organization therefore our basic needs as living organisms are the same: water, food, living space and a stable environment, allows us to get organized in a similar fashion in order to develop and evolve. Since these basic needs are equal to us all we have created, and continue to create, tools and resources to be part of the global system in order to survive. These tools and resources are a social reality that places us in a social network. One of the tools our social network uses is communication. This tool lets us interact with others, exchanging knowledge to enhance and reproduce values and beliefs to contribute to generations to come thus culturally evolving. Nevertheless, our social networks are compiled by social organizations as a consequence conflicts of interest arise, due to the individuality of these organizations. Due to the nature of communication and conflicts of interest there is bound to be change: imposed or not. Capra believes humans dont resist change as long as it is not imposed on them. Being part of a community with a shared set of values and goals let us work thru changes together regardless of our identity. According to Capra, organizations cannot be controlled through direct interventions, but can be influenced by giving impulses rather than

(Capra, 2002)

instructions.10 These impulses or Meaningful disturbances are what trigger structural changes within an organization, not force.11 Meaning the participation of people within an organization in the conception of change, change will be accomplished. For Capra our environment, specifically the economic environment, is in a destroying life path. Communities and organizations, part of this economic environment, are not only constantly draining humans as a socio-economic resource, but straining our delicate ecosystem; all for economical gain.

The economic globalization refers to increasing economic interdependence of national economies across the world through a rapid increase in cross-border movement of goods, service, technology and capital.12 The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization deals with regulation of trade between participating countries; it provides a framework for negotiating and formalizing trade agreements, and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants' adherence to WTO agreements which are signed by representatives of member governments and ratified by their parliaments.13 For Capra these agreements are only unfulfilled promises which have been responsible for multitude of interconnected fatal consequences.14 The consequences of globalization, according to Capra, are:
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Social disintegration A breakdown of democracy Rapid and extensive deterioration of the environment The spread of new diseases Increasing poverty and alienation

(Capra, 2002) (Capra, 2002) 12 (Economic globalization, 2012) 13 (World Trade Organization, 2012) 14 (Capra, 2002)

Obsessive corporate mergers and acquisitions which bring enormous amounts of stress and hardships to employees without bringing greater corporate efficiency or profits. 15

One of this promises rise with Biotechnology, proposing insect free and nonperishable produce. For Capra these sound familiar to the green revolution of the 1970s that introduced fertilizer and pesticides and the practice of single crop monoculture of which we know now the long-term ill effects of these practices. Capra proposes an ecological friendly solution to these issues: organic farming. This ecological alternative preserves and sustainsecological cycles, integrating their biological processes into the processes of food production, when soil is cultivated organically, its carbon content increases, and thuscontributes to reducing global warning16. Many of the roles of Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) have included empowering people in the last decade to establish a more systemic approach to the environmental issues we have today. The steps to avoid the ill-effects of our current ecological behaviors are rewriting the rules of globalization. The appropriate approach is to apply lessons learned and design an ecological structure that in years to come be will change the current path. Sustainability is the goal. We have to gather our resources and tools and aim our efforts to a common sustainable goal. We need to understand and support the web of life. When we study living systems from the perspective of form, we find that their pattern of organization is that of a self-generating network. From the perspective of matter, the material structure of a living system is a dissipative structure, i.e. an open system operating far from equilibrium. From the process perspective, finally, living systems are cognitive systems in which the process of cognition is closely linked to the pattern of autopoiesis.
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(Capra, 2002) (Capra, 2002)

In a nutshell, this is my synthesis of the new scientific understanding of life17.


After researching and understanding about Fritjof Capra book I believe these
ideas are a supportive beginning to a positive collective change. Nevertheless it is understandable that further investigation is necessary to have a more comprehensive approach to his suggested methods of re-design. Economic globalization is a necessary part of the world system. As individuals part of communities and organization we have the need to interact. We cannot be isolated. If the current processes are producing a long term negative effect we need to rethink and redirect our tolls and resources for a more sustainable future.


(Capra, 2002)


Capra, F. (2002). The Hidden Connections, A Science of Sustainable Living. New York: Anchor Books. Cognition. (2012, June). Retrieved from Economic globalization. (2012, June). Retrieved from Fritjof Capra. (2012, March). Retrieved from Santiago Theory of Cognition. (2012, January). Retrieved from World Trade Organization. (2012, June). Retrieved from