Progressive Utilization Theory
Progressive Utilization Theory, also known by the acronym PROUT, is a collection of socioeconomic and political ideas propounded by Indian philosopher and spiritual leader Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. Considered an integral part of his spiritual philosophy, Sarkar formulated the theory of his Ananda Marga movement in 1959 and summarized it in the fifth chapter of his book Ananda Sutram.
According to a description by Terry Irving and Rowan Cahill, PROUT "envisages a decentralized, community-based world economy of self-sufficiency for the poor; economic democracy; small business; and limits on the accumulation of wealth." Sohail Inayatullah stated that the philosophy "attempts to balance the need for societies to create wealth and grow with the requirements for distribution." David Skrbina characterized PROUT as a "model of social development... which advocates a 'small is beautiful' approach to society." Economics instructor Mark Friedman places Sarkar's economic thought in the tradition of Monsignor John A. Ryan, E.F. Schumacher and Herman Daly in Sarkar's incorporation of spiritual values into economic goals.
Sarkar positioned it as an alternative to communism and capitalism. It has been characterized as a form of "progressive socialism" as well as a "socialist theory". PROUT recognizes all material goods as common property and seeks the rational and equitable distribution of that property to maximize the physical, mental, and spiritual development of all people. It seeks to guarantee what it recognizes as the five minimum requirements of life for human beings: food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care.
PROUT describes a social order consisting of four classes of people that cyclically dominate society: shudras (labourers), kshatriyas (military–minded individuals), vipra (intellectuals) and vaishyas (capitalists). To prevent any social class from clinging to political power and exploiting the others, he proposed the concept of "spiritual elite" sadvipras (etymologically sad – true, vipra – intellectual) who would determine who held political leadership. Sarkar thought that the first sadvipras would be created from disgruntled middle class intellectuals and military-minded people. He called for sadvipras to be organized into executive, legislative, and judicial boards which would be governed by a Supreme Board. They, according to Sarkar, would be responsible for the application of force necessary to change the order of dominance within the social order, with large amounts of force akin to revolution.
PROUT's economic model advocates a three-tiered approach to industrial organization where key industries or public utilities are non–profit, a decentralized industry run by sociolinguistic unions provide people's bare minimum necessities, and most of the economic transactions are through producers' and consumers' cooperatives. It distinguishes itself from communism by proposing an incentive based economy where surplus in the society is distributed to people who serve the society.
Cooperative communities have been established by Ananda Marga in an attempt to provide ideal models for the society outlined in PROUT. A few intellectuals support the philosophy, but it has not achieved widespread implementation.
Sarkar founded the Ananda Marga organization in 1955 and four years later founded PROUTist Universal to advance his social, political and economic ideas. While the organizations have separate goals, members of each interviewed by researcher Helen Crovetto "considered themselves to be members of a large family" headed by Sarkar and could be assigned to either organization.:29 At its peak, PROUTist Universal had several international chapters.
Professor Narasingha P. Sil describes Sarkar's ideas of the social cycles that underlie PROUT as having "little originality or historical validity", having been derived "with some feeble adjustments" from traditional Hindu caste structure. Ravi Batra used the ideas of PROUT in his bestseller The Great Depression of 1990 and other books. In reviewing the book for the Los Angeles Times, economist Paul Erdman described the work as "a strange mixture of voodoo historical theories and sound economic analysis".
- Crovetto, Helen (August 2008). "Ananda Marga and the Use of Force". Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. University of California Press. 12 (1): 26–56. doi:10.1525/nr.2008.12.1.toc. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
- Crovetto, Helen (2011). "Ananda Marga, PROUT, and the Use of Force". In Lewis, James R. Violence and New Religious Movements. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 9, 258–263. ISBN 9780199735631. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- Hayden, Jeffrey K.; An, Angela (2010). "Ananda Marga Yoga Society". In Melton, J. Gordon; Baumann, Martin. Religions of the World, Second Edition: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices (2nd ed.). Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc. p. 105. ISBN 9781598842043. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- Irving, Terry; Cahill, Rowan J. (2010). "The Conspiracy Against Ananda Marga". Radical Sydney: Places, Portraits and Unruly Episodes. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. p. 316. ISBN 9781742230931. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- Inayatullah, Sohail (2003). "Planetary Social and Spiritual Transformation: P. R. Sarkar's Eutopian Vision of the Future". In Shostak, Arthur B. Viable Utopian Ideas: Shaping a Better World. New York: M. E. Sharpe, Inc. pp. 208–216. ISBN 9780765611055. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- Skrbina, David (June 1992). "NEO-HUMANIST ECOLOGY by Acarya Avadhuta". International Journal on World Peace. 9 (2): 96.
- Friedman, Mark (March 2008). "Living Wage and Optimal Inequality in a Sarkarian Framework" (PDF). Review of Social Economy. 66 (1).
- Ellwood, Robert S. (1993). "Appendix 2: The 1960s and After". Islands of the Dawn: The Story of Alternative Spirituality in New Zealand. University of Hawaii Press. p. 230. ISBN 9780824814878. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- Onwuka, Ralph I.; Olayiwola Abegunrin; Dhanjoo N. Ghista (1985). The OAU/ECA Lagos Plan of Action and Beyond. Lawrenceville, Virginia: Brunswick Publishing. p. 185. ISBN 9780931494581.
The main question however is not who owns the property (the individual or the state), since in PROUT the universe is our common patrimony, but how the property is rationally and equitably utilized.
- Jones, Constance A.; Ryan, James D. (2007). "PROUT (est. 1959)". In Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Encyclopedia of World Religions. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 335. ISBN 9780816075645. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- Sil, Narasingha P. (1988). "The Troubled World of the Ananda Marga: An Examination". The Quarterly Review of History. 28 (4): 3–19.
- Erdman, Paul (August 16, 1987). "(Review) The Great Depression of 1990". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 30, 2013.