Published on:

23rd Jan 2023

Self-Reliance in the 21st Century By: Charles Hugh Smith

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Just as no one was left unaffected by the rise of globalization, no one will be unaffected by its demise. The only response that reduces our vulnerability is self-reliance.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote his famous essay Self-Reliance in 1841, the economy was localized and households supplied many of their own essentials. In our hyper-globalized economy, we’re dependent on distant sources for our essentials.

Emerson defined self-reliance as being our best selves—thinking for ourselves rather than following the conventional path. Self-reliance in the 21st century means reducing our dependency on fragile supply chains and becoming producers as well as consumers.

Self-reliance is often confused with self-supporting (making enough money to support yourself) and self-sufficiency—the equivalent of Thoreau’s a cabin on Walden Pond. But self-reliance in the 21st century isn’t about piling up money or a cabin in the woods; it’s about humanity’s most successful innovation: cooperating with trustworthy others in productive networks.

This book explores the mindset of self-reliance and 18 principles that advance self-reliance in the 21st century.


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Charles Hugh Smith,SelfReliance,Self-Reliance in the 21st Century,Russell Newton,NewtonMG

ldo Emerson’s advice in his:

For Emerson, self-reliance means thinking independently, trusting your own intuition and refusing to take the well-worn path of conforming to others’ expectations.

This celebration of individualism is the norm today, but it was radical in Emerson’s more traditionalist day. What’s striking about Emerson’s description of self-reliance is its internal quality: it’s about one’s intellectual and emotional self-reliance, not the hands-on skills of producing life’s essentials.

Emerson doesn’t describe self-reliance in terms of taking care of oneself in practical terms, such as being able to build a cabin on Walden Pond and live off foraging and a garden like his friend Thoreau. (The land on Walden Pond was owned by Emerson.)

n the largely agrarian, rural:

The economy of the 1840s was what we would now call localized: most of the goods and services were locally produced, and households provided many of their own basic needs. Global trade in commodities such as tea and porcelain thrived, but these luxuries made up a small part of the economy (one exception being whale oil used for lighting).

Even in the:

Households sold their surplus production of homemade goods and family businesses offered small-scale production of specialty goods (metal forging, furniture, etc.) and services (printing, legal documents, etc.).

For example, Thoreau’s family business was manufacturing pencils and supplying graphite (pencil lead). Before he took over this business on the death of his father, he earned his living as a surveyor.

Households obtained what they needed from local networks of suppliers who were known to them. If some item was needed from afar, the local source had their own network of trusted suppliers.

The government’s role was also limited. The government provided postal, judicial and basic education systems and collected tariffs on trade, but its role in everyday life beyond these essential services was modest.

The conditions of Emerson and Thoreau’s day—localized hands-on self-reliance was the norm and the elevation of the individual was radical—have reversed: now the celebration of the individual is the norm while few have practical skills. Our economy is globalized,

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Voice over Work - An Audiobook Sampler
Audiobook synopsises for the masses
You know that guy that reads all the time, and always has a book recommendation for you?

Well, I read and/or produce hundreds of audiobooks a year, and when I read one that has good material, I feature it here. This is my Recommended Listening list. These choices are not influenced by authors or sponsors, just books worthy of your consideration.

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