The vision of the Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT) is to create a society where every individual can fulfill their potential and where all resources are utilized in an efficient and sustainable manner. The PROUT model offers an integral approach to social change and justice, including people-centered economics, environmental sustainability, and a new model of prosperity. The PROUT economy favors cooperation and a strong ethical leadership, placing the vital needs of people and planet ahead of corporate and individual profit. PROUT’s socio-economic system is community focused, decentralized and sustainable, while also embracing the challenges of globalization. PROUT’s economic development model aims at turning corporations into worker-owned cooperatives, while maintaining a thriving small business sector as well as an efficient government serving the needs of people and the environment.
The Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT) was formulated in 1959 by P. R. Sarkar, an Indian social thinker, activist and philosopher. Recognizing the deficiencies of existing social and economic models, Sarkar proposed a new socio-economic system dedicated to meeting the needs of both people and planet.
The PROUT Economy
PROUT supports a market economy that meets the diverse needs of individuals and of society as a whole, without compromising our ecological balance. While capitalism is focused on the maximization of profits to benefit a few, PROUT’s economy seeks to build wealth for everyone. Its goal is to raise the standard of living so that people can meet their basic needs as well as access resources for satisfying their higher intellectual, artistic, and spiritual aspirations.
To achieve such a thriving economy, PROUT relies on the principle of maximum utilization and rational distribution. Maximum utilization is the adequate and sustainable supply of products and services for human consumption by using the most cost-effective and efficient means possible. This includes the use of advanced, eco-friendly, cradle-to-cradle technologies for higher productivity in order to maintain a balance between human demand and healthy ecosystems. It also comprises of coordinated local economic planning to avoid duplication and to maximize cooperation.
Rational distribution refers to the demand side of the economy. According to PROUT, a healthy economy must provide employment for 100% of the working population so that they can acquire basic goods and services in the marketplace. Additionally, adequate wages and earnings are essential to sustain the growing demands and needs of the population. To ensure a dynamic economy, PROUT suggests an incentive system to motivate and reward highly capable and industrious workers. Finally, rational distribution also includes dispensing resources to those with special needs who are incapable of participating in the labor market.
Implementation of PROUT
Economic decentralization is a key feature of PROUT to build a healthy economy from the bottom up. Local economies, or socio-economic regions, are designed around common economic potential, cultural similarities, and shared geographical features. These local areas are further divided into smaller planning units, or blocks.
Local residents are empowered to manage local economic planning boards from the block-level upwards. These type of policies will ensure that self-sufficient, local economies, meeting the current and future needs of their populations, can grow in healthy and sustainable ways. Guided by the principles of economic democracy, blocks and regions will prioritize local enterprises over outside business interests which tend to extract wealth from local economies. To further achieve 100% employment, jobs are prioritized for all “local” residents.
PROUT suggests a complete restructuring of the economy through its three-tiered economic system, which plays an essential role in decentralizing the economy. In this system, each region develops 1) small, privately-owned businesses, 2) networks of production, distribution, and consumer cooperatives, and 3) state-operated key industries (e.g. electricity, gas, etc.). This structure provides opportunity for entrepreneurship and innovation for small businesses while establishing value chains of cooperatives that create ample employment, democratize the workplace, support the communities, and build self-sufficiency in the regions. The publicly run key industries support the local economy by offering affordable utilities and raw materials.
Key Features of PROUT
PROUT expands the concept of humanism beyond a concern for human welfare to a concern for the welfare of all living beings.
PROUT is a holistic alternative to materialist philosophies such as anarchism, socialism, and capitalism.
PROUT is designed to serve the whole expression of human nature—humanity’s physical, mental and spiritual needs—in a balanced and integrated way.
PROUT transcends the left-right political spectrum and acknowledges the positive contribution of many social philosophies.
PROUT’s idea of progress is not solely based on material and technological change but on improving the integrated welfare of human beings.
PROUT affirms that the well-being of individuals lies in the development of the collective, and that collective well-being lies in the development of individuals.
PROUT supports a decentralized economy and proposes a fundamental shift in the locus of economic, social and cultural power from transnational corporations and nation-states to local and regional levels.
PROUT rejects profit as the core motive for economic activity. While businesses need to be profitable, their main objective should be providing goods and services that meet the changing needs of society.
PROUT is neither a free market nor a command economy; it advocates a regulated and planned market economy.