From Field to Plate...

Civilization: A New History of the Western World Part 6

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 @ 06:04 AM
posted by admin




PIMLICO      2007


Chapter 18: The Post-War World: From Social Cohesion to Global Marketplace (cont.)

As well as direct military spending, the 1944 GI Bill of Rights gave $13 billion for returning soldiers to enter college, enrol in training programmes or set up in business; while the government eased taxes and most people cashed in their war bonds. There was suddenly an awful lot of money around, and with an industrial sector with huge unfilled capacity, America found itself in a boom economy. The 1950s was a partial repeat of the 1920s. Legislation curtailed workers’ rights, while the revival of consumerism engendered political conservatism. In 1952 Eisenhower immediately signalled the return of big business to politics; Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was a corporate lawyer, his deputy was a former head of Quaker Oats, and the Secretary of Defense, Charles Wilson, was formerly head of General Motors, while Edward Bernays reappeared as a government adviser.

In the post-war decades, discoveries and inventions made in the 1920s, 1930s and during the war itself began to be turned into practical innovations that would alter the lives of western people. Antibiotics, television, jet engines, rocket technology, computers, quantum mechanics, nuclear fission, DNA, electronics, materials, metallurgy and plastics were all, in the short and medium term, to feed into a technological revolution of western life. Organizational refinements proved just as influential as technological changes. Mass production of cars began in America in the 1920s, but in the war years and after economies of scale, organizational efficiency and improved distribution networks combined with changing technology to make American industry and American corporations the economic powerhouse of the world.

The advertising techniques first introduced in the 1920s, in which consumers were sold happiness rather than goods, came to the fore. The booming economy made people feel that satisfying their own individual desires contributed to national prosperity. The countries that best learned the lessons of American success were Japan and Germany, the defeated nations of 1945. Faced with the urgent need to start anew, they were able to devise distinctive structures in which (in contrast to the United States) their national governments made a priority of strategically guiding investment in manufacturing industry.

The war gave American industry the chance to build a continent-sized infrastructure that pushed it beyond the reach of competition from the devastated continent of Europe. Just as government war spending revitalized American industry in the early 1940s, so federal-funded road schemes gave a huge boost to the automobile, construction and engineering industries in the 1950s and 1960s. By 1950 the United States had 39% of the world’s GDP, and built 80% of the world’s cars, while the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 committed the federal government to spending $35 billion over 14 years to build a national network of roads. The freeways signalled the end of the domination of rail; after the 1950s goods went by truck and people by car and bus. Car numbers increased vastly, making them ever cheaper to buy, while plentiful gasoline made them absurdly cheap to run. Growing prosperity meant that more homes were being built, but now that everyone (except the poor) had cars there was no need for them to be close to factories or offices or schools or shops. Homes and services spread out along highways. America was, after all, a vast country with enough empty space for everyone to have a decent-sized plot. There was no need for offices or shops to be grouped in one place either, so they began to move out of the old downtown areas and relocate on to highways where they were in easy reach of commuters and shoppers. The geographical size of a city was limited only by the distance a car-driver was willing to travel. The newly expanding cities like Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston became more extensive than anything previously seen on earth, with vast networks of freeways connecting endless suburbs.  American culture was no longer centred on settled towns and cities but on cars, trucks and freeways, and on endless movement.

The development of motorized technology produced an enormous effect that began almost invisibly but over the post-war period, brought on the disappearance of a central aspect of western life dating back 5,000 years. By the 1920s and 30s mechanized tractors, harvesters and other machinery were making small farmsteads in the United States redundant. After 1945 the machines got ever bigger, and so the fields and land holdings got bigger too. By the 1950s large machines were being put to work on the agricultural landscape of western Europe first founded in Neolithic times. Ancient landscape features were routinely destroyed as the need for efficient production over-rode the customary relations of people and land.

At the same time agricultural communities, inheritors and custodians of customs that encouraged and celebrated communal working and living, became irrelevant. As George Evans showed in a series of intimate studies, before mechanization a whole village would turn out for hay-making, or harvesting or stone-picking, but afterwards a single tractor could do the work of 50 men, women and children. Farming became a solitary occupation and the meaning of village life was irrevocably altered.

The biggest break with the past was the abandonment of the strident nationalism that had brought catastrophe to the continent of Europe. Both French and German political leaders recognized the cycle of retribution that had marred their countries’ relations, and set about building indissoluble ties. In April 1951 the European Coal and Steel Community, comprising France, Italy, West Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, was established and, through the work of French politicians Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, was turned into an economic community covering all areas of trade, formalized in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome. In Britain’s voluntary absence France and Germany formed an enduring partnership, building a vision of European integration.

Nationalism was subsumed in the formation of other international bodies, including the United Nations in 1948, and NATO in 1949. Even before the end of the war, the Bretton Woods agreement of  1944 tied the economic destinies of western countries together under an American umbrella. Harry Dexter-White and John Maynard Keynes devised an international system of finance based on the dollar, whose value was fixed against gold and against all other major currencies. The agreement, which also set up the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and International Trade Organization, was designed to create stability and growth and open up the world to greater trade. In reality it opened up the world to American capitalism.

Apart from multilateral cooperation and defence against communism, the other great international movement of the immediate post-war years was the retreat from empire. Any possible benefits were now outweighed by the unaffordable costs of policing increasingly assertive local populations, many of whom had fought for their imperial masters during the war. In 1947 India was granted independence from Britain, with Pakistan and Ceylon given status as separate states. Britain managed to extricate itself from the ensuing communal violence but was to become entangled in colonial wars in Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya and Egypt, while avoiding conflict in most of its other African and Caribbean colonies. In retrospect the biggest failure was in the Middle East, where Britain handed the mandate of Palestine to the UN in 1948, after being unable to resolve the claims of European Jews wanting a new homeland with the rights of the indigenous Palestinian population.

By 1946 French troops were already fighting rebellions in Algeria, Syria, Madagascar and Indo-China. After nine years of guerrilla warfare, the French army was lured into a trap at the remote outpost of Dien Bien Phu, and in 1954 France was forced to surrender North Vietnam to its people. An eight-year war of independence in Algeria came close to bringing down the French government, with independence finally granted in 1962.

The world might have hoped that Europeans would, in the light of the Nazi death camps, be reluctant to use violence for political ends. But torture and brutality were routinely used by the British army against the Mau Mau in Kenya, where detention camps were employed, and by French soldiers against the FLN in Algeria. By the 1970s the remainder of France’s possessions, along with the Dutch, Belgian and, latterly, Portuguese empires, were liberated. Only a handful of small possessions were left from a set of empires that, only 40 years previously, had covered much of the world.

The western powers may have withdrawn from direct political control of the rest of the world but their legacy and influence was felt everywhere. Modern Europeans had no concept of governance beyond the centralized nation state; so as they withdrew from their colonies they created a host of new nations. Some were based on ethnic or religious groupings (India and Pakistan; Ireland); others combined different ethnic or religious groups (Hausa, Ibo, and Yoruba in Nigeria; Kurds, Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq); in many, ethnic groups were divided among different states (Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Turkey); and in some the boundaries between states depended on the colonial powers (west Africa) or on the persuasive skills of local leaders (the division of Kuwait from Iraq). But in all cases the political structures were based on the relatively recent western concept of the nation state. This swept away any vestiges of the customary intricate ways of allowing and restraining authority, and instead handed enormous power to whichever individual or small group could control its centre.

  • Intimations of change and of challenge to the consensus of the immediate post-war years came first through cultural expression.
  • The catastrophe of the conflict and the genocidal murder of six million Jews left European artists with little to say.
  • But in America, in the years from 1947 to 1960 Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller produced a series of plays, including All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, A streetcar Named Desire and Sweet Bird of Youth, that exposed the mismatch between the intricacies of personal and community life on the one hand, and the imperatives of social conformity and economic success on the other.
  • When Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery, Art of This Century, opened in New York in 1942, abstract American painters like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell were feted in their own land.
  • William de Kooning explained that his work, with its slipping planes, visual ambiguities and lack of reference points, was a deliberate analogy of the sense of disorientation of mid-century America and the world.
  • The spirit of the outsider who refuses to conform found expression in the work of Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, all of whom stood in frank opposition to the mainstream values of American society; while intimations of rebellion were seen in movies like The Wild One (1953) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955).
  • The anti-hero was born.
  • The most explosive expression of rebellion against mainstream American life came in popular music.

New electric guitars were coupled with the traditional brass instruments of jazz and swing to produce a new kind of sound, while the lyrics became more sexually explicit, wittier and more self-consciously sophisticated. Joe Turner, Muddy Waters, Wynonie Harris, Julia Lee, Fats Domino and Little Richard, among many others, gave their music an extraordinary, unbelievable energy. This was music for adults who wanted a good time, this was rhythm and blues, or jump jive, or ‘race music’. Whatever you called it, it was the most instantly intoxicating, joyous, infectious, delirious sound anyone had ever heard.

  • Through Elvis Presley, a white southerner steeped in gospel and race music, black music hit the heart of white America.
  • Rock and roll made everything European seem dreary and old-fashioned; from the 1950s on, ‘modern’ meant American.
  • American culture had the ability to speak for those who could not speak, and to articulate the life of the inarticulate. It swept the world precisely because it seemed to speak for everyone.
  • While much European culture remained tied to traditional forms – novels, poetry and theatre – European cinema began to find a distinctive voice, principally through Italian and French auteur-directors like Rossellini, de Sica, Antonioni, Fellini, Carné, Truffaut and Chabrol, and the Swedish film-maker Ingmar Bergman.

By the 1960s, citizens of western countries began to shake off their fear of change. The new generation of politicians they elected, such as John Kennedy, Harold Wilson and Willy Brandt, reflected a new optimism; the contrast between the dull but steady Eisenhower and the dynamic, dashing Kennedy, and between the patrician Douglas-Home and the state-educated Wilson could hardly have been greater. Economic recovery in Europe allowed the full spirit of American consumerism to crash into a continent used to thrift and making do.

To be continued

The Search for a Just Society Part 19

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 @ 07:04 AM
posted by admin



GEORGE RONALD                       1989



Chapter 28: Preparing for a Just Society (Cont.)

The Family

Beyond the individual comes the family. As in the other great religions, the idea of family is upheld in the Bahá’í Faith, where it is seen as a basic building-block of society. Accordingly, men and women are enjoined to marry if they can find the right partner, and professional celibacy is deplored. The purpose of marriage and family is two-fold: (1) to produce children, and (2) to promote the spiritual development of all family members. Thus marriage is described as ‘a fortress of well-being and salvation’. It is within the bosom of the family that a child learns to have a loving relationship with others, and it is this habit which enables the child to have such an attitude when he or she grows up and goes out into the wider world.

Each member of the family has special rights and duties. One of the most important duties of parents is the education of their children:

It is enjoined upon the father and the mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son, to nurse them from the breast of knowledge and to rear them in the bosom of sciences and arts. Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord. This (to fail to educate a child) is a sin unpardonable, for they have made that poor babe a wanderer in the Sahara of ignorance, unfortunate and tormented; to remain during a lifetime a captive of ignorance and pride, negligent and without discernment.

Parents are responsible for all aspects of their child’s education, physical, mental and spiritual, of which the most important is the spiritual. Spiritual education should start at an early age and is then a particular responsibility of the mother because of her closeness to the child at that time in its life. Bahá’ís base their moral education on the teachings of the Faith, but children are also taught about other religions and philosophies as well, so as to increase understanding  of and sympathy with others. There is no pressure put on children to follow their parents’ faith for traditional reasons; it is recognised that each person must chooses his own philosophy of how to live. Great emphasis is also placed on that aspect of intellectual education which will be of benefit to all society:


Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone. The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth, and not those which begin with words and end with words.

Bahá’ís try to raise their children with a balance between kindness and firmness, emphasising the encouragement of good qualities rather than focusing on faults, the father and mother trying to give a good example by their own behaviour and to be consistent. Parents should not beat their children or abuse them verbally: this will only make the children hate their home and so defeat the family’s main purpose.

In view of the importance of the family as an instrument for the creation of the just society, it is not surprising that the Bahá’í Writings provide means for ensuring the strength and lonegevity of marriage, at the core of the family. The first principle of Bahá’í marriage is monogamy, a principle clearly related to the teachings about the equality of men and women. The fact that this is the first time in history that a great religion has been specific on this issue is perhaps another indicator that the time has come when there will be no more wars: polygamy has been justified in the past by the frequent shortage of men from deaths on the battlefield.

Another group of teachings relate to the preparation for marriage. Those searching for a marriage partner are advised to look first for spiritual qualities, because though physical attraction is important that alone will not ensure a lasting marriage. The qualities to be sought are loyalty, faithfulness, honesty, trustworthiness, generosity, absence of a jealous, possessive or domineering spirit, a willingness to work hard, and a balanced attitude to family economics, that is, being neither a spendthrift nor a miser. Such a person will have the strength to successfully handle the hard times as well as the good times. A sign of maturity is a sense of humour and an ability to laugh with others, not at others. A marriage relationship has the best chance of success if each partner is appreciative, sensitive, fundamentally at one with himself or herself, and if there is an understanding that what comes out of marriage will depend very much on what is put into it.

There are two important requirements relating to the marriage ceremony. The first is that the future man and wife state: ‘We will all verily abide by the Will of God.’ This means that the marriage is a spiritual contract involving God as well as the two partners, and that each partner submits to the will of God, not one partner to the will of the other! The second requirement is that prior assent to the marriage be given by both the two individuals concerned (not always the practice in the East, even today) and by all living parents (frequently not the case in modern Western society). This law helps to better assure that the partners are well suited by widening the number of those who have to make a decision. This is a responsibility which the parents are enjoined to take seriously. The law also serves to strengthen the wider family relationship and acts as a counter to the modern narrow nuclear family, where much of the richness of real family life has been lost, to the cost especially of the children.

After marriage, the partners (and later the children) are encouraged to consult and pray together regularly and to avoid the autocratic style of family relationships which in the past has crushed both love and the spiritual development of parents and children alike. The sexual relationship between the parents is seen as a healthy and desirable means of strengthening the ties of marriage. For this reason, as well as the obvious danger of sexual promiscuity has in promoting the lower or animal side of our nature, men and women alike should confine their sexual activity to marriage. The Bahá’í view of chastity goes beyond just abstinence from the physical act to include thoughts (which can often be detected by others), manners, posture, and style of dress. Sexual promiscuity only serves to create destructive comparisons and undermines trust. Predatory sexual attitudes not only affect the marriage partners but create division and mistrust in the wider community. It should be added that homosexuality is abhorred: however, the Bahá’í attitude is not one of self-righteous condemnation, but rather one of helping, in a loving way, someone who is in need of medical assistance and has a particular problem, which if addressed resolutely will lead to great spiritual growth. Divorce is permitted in the Bahá’í Faith but is strongly discouraged. It should be considered only when there is complete aversion between the marriage partners and in the light of the teaching that those who cause a divorce bear a heavy spiritual responsibility. If, after every effort, a couple feel unable to continue a marriage, they may apply to Bahá’í institutions for a divorce which will be granted after a year of patience during which they live in separate households and final opportunities are available for reconciliation.

Collective action

The third dimension of the Bahá’í programme for a just society (to be continued)

Civilization & the Life of the Soil Part 3

Monday, April 2, 2012 @ 05:04 AM
posted by admin




UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS                       1991




Chapter 3: The fertile Substrate

Chapter 4: The Vital Fluid

Chapter 5: The Dynamic Cycle

Chapter 6: The Primary Producers

Chapter 7: The Tenuous Balance



Chapter 8: Human Origins

History does not merely resurrect a dead past. In the words of Thucydides: “Knowledge of the past is an aid to interpretation of the future.” If we can truly learn from past experience, we may be better able to improve our current use of the environment. If we focus our attention exclusively upon the predicaments of the moment, however, we may find ourselves repeatedly surprised by a host of bewildering problems seeming to come out of nowhere, without a past and hence without direction. How did these problems arise? Chances are, the seeds of the phenomena we witness today were planted some time ago by our predecessors, as indeed we are planting the seeds of the future – perhaps unknowingly – at this very moment.

  • The story of mankind begins more than three million years ago, when a genus of primates evolved to the point where it became recognizably humanoid.
  • Over extended periods of time, biological evolution appears to proceed very slowly by a long series of small, almost imperceptible, changes.
  • Then, periodically, thresholds are reached that trigger seemingly sudden transformations, due to chance occurrences of genetic mutations, or to shifts in environmental conditions, or – more likely – to combinations or sequences of these.
  • Ever since Charles Darwin first elaborated on the possible circumstances of human origin in his 1871 book, The Descent of Man, anthropologists have been speculating on the sequence of events that gradually brought about the astonishing metamorphosis of a tree-dwelling, quadripedal, herbivorous ape into a ground-dwelling, bipedal, tool-making, omnivorous hominid.
  • A crucial step appears to have been the shift from four-legged to two-legged locomotion.
  • This was followed by further structural and functional evolution. The eyes were adapted to stereoscopic vision for judging distances.
  • The hands developed a capability for the precision grip used in making and employing tools.
  • The brain grew in size and function as it developed the ability to process more information and to generate complex logical thoughts.

Our species’ birth place was apparently in the continent of Africa, and its original habitat was probably the subtropical savannas which constitute the transitional areas of sparsely wooded grasslands lying between the zone of the humid and dense tropical forests and the zone of the semiarid steppes. We can infer the warm climate of our place of origin from the fact that we are naturally so scantily clad, or furless; and we can infer the open landscape from the way we are conditioned to walk, run, and gaze over long distances.

  • Fossil discoveries in East Africa during recent decades have revealed facts that have added dramatically to our knowledge of human origins.
  • For at least 90% of its career, the human animal existed merely as one member of a community of numerous species who shared the same environment.
  • Humans neither dominated other species nor brought about any fundamental modification of the common environment. They were gatherers, scavengers, and hunters.
  • They diversified their diet to include the flesh of animals as well as nuts, berries, fruits, seeds, succulent leaves, bulbs, tubers, and fleshy roots.

The story of how humans ascended from their humble apelike origins to venture far from their birthplace, and range over a variety of climates and landscapes, is a remarkable saga of audacity, ingenuity, perseverance, and adaptability. In fact humans have proved to be the most adaptable of all terrestrial mammals. Their mode of adaptation was not entirely genetic or physical: there was not enough time for that. Rather, their adaptation was in large part behavioural. Instead of relying on physical prowess, they had to use inventiveness to survive the elements and to compete successfully against stronger animals. In the course of their migration and expansion, our ancient forebears therefore had to develop and mobilize all the cunning and intelligence that eventually made them – and us – so unique a species. The increase of brain size and manual dexterity, as well as the invention of various stratagems, gradually enabled humans to overcome the constraints of their ancestry.

  • By 1 million years ago, hominids had become taller (about 1.5 meters in height), and had acquired a larger brain.
  • Some evidence has been found in Southern and Eastern Africa of repetitive occurrences of brush fires, apparently set by humans nearly a million years ago, signifying the beginning of human manipulation of the earth’s ecosystems.
  • The use of fire became even more important when humans moved out of the tropics into colder climes.
  • By about 250,000 B.P. (Before the Present), humans had evolved into the type that anthropologists call Homo sapiens, and had spread to Europe and Asia.
  • Some time before 50,000 B.P., a race of humans called Neanderthals, who lived during the last Ice Age, were making cutting tools with flaked flint.
  • By about 40,000 years ago, modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens), evidently indistinguishable from us today in physical features and in intelligence, had gained dominance.
  • Clad in garments made of animal skins, able to make and use a variety of implements, and armed with a growing array of weapons – including spears and bows and arrows – humans were able to range and settle in locations and climes far from their ancestral home.

All the while they continued to evolve biologically through genetic change and natural selection, increasingly aided by cultural and technological development. To survive the harsh winters of colder climates, they had to find or construct shelters, and to huddle in family or tribal groupings for mutual assistance and the rearing of their slow-growing offspring. In their leisure time, they painted animals on cave walls and carved ritual objects. They also had to contrive increasingly sophisticated methods of obtaining and storing foods, including the selective gathering, processing, and preservation of biological products, and eventually the domestication of plants and animals.

  • This series of changes has been termed the Paleolithic (Early Stone Age) Transformation.
  • Gradually, as they continued to elaborate and perfect their tools of wood, bone, and stone, as well as their techniques and social organization, humans assumed an increasingly active and eventually dominant role in shaping their environment.
  • Each modification of the environment entailed additional human responses, which in turn further modified the environment, so that a process of escalating dual metamorphosis was instigated.
  • Human intelligence and culture were both cause and effect in that fateful interplay. The peculiarly dynamic and progressive evolution of human ecology is the true history of our species.
  • In time, the practice of clearing woodlands and shrublands by repeated firings also set the stage for the advent of agriculture.
  • As vegetation is affected by fire-setting hunters, so are soils. Following repeated fires and deforestation, soil erosion and landslides often result in the greatly increased transport of silt by streams, and in the deposit of that silt in river valleys and estuaries.
  • The gradual intensification of land use continued throughout the Paleolithic period, so that by its later stages nearly all the regions of human habitation had experienced some anthropogenic modification of the floral and faunal communities.

Humans recognized nutritional and medicinal plants, observed their life cycles, and learned to encourage and take advantage of their natural propagation patterns. They learned to build rafts and boats of various type and thereby to exploit aquatic resources. As they became more mobile, the rivers and lakes that were once barriers became arteries of travel and transport. They developed implements for grinding and cooking vegetable and animal products, and weapons for hunting larger game animals. Success in these endeavors provided them with the leisure to develop social and cultural activities: music, dances, rituals, ceremonies, storytelling, rites of passage, creative arts, and the crafting of useful and decorative articles. Their success also brought about a growth in population, which in turn induced further geographic expansion and intensification of land use in quest of additional sources of livelihood.

Chapter 9: The Agricultural Transformation


Rethinking the Future

Sunday, April 1, 2012 @ 07:04 AM
posted by admin




NICHOLAS BREARLEY PUBLISHING                        1997


Front cover

This book is a meeting place of minds. It provides a unique opportunity to gain insights into tomorrow from today’s most highly regarded business thinkers.

Rethinking The Future brings together a list of luminaries that reads like a ‘hall of fame’ –

Charles Handy, Stephen Covey, Michael Porter, C.K. Prahalad, Gary Hamel,

Michael Hammer, Eli Goldratt, Peter Senge, Warren Bennis, John Kotter, Al Ries and Jack Trout, Philip Kotler, John Naisbitt, Lester Thurow and Kevin Kelly.

Their cutting-edge thinking has helped to guide many thousands of corporations through the changing landscape of business.  Now, in a series of original and inspiring contributions, they define the new paradigm that will revolutionize business and society in the 21st Century.

Everywhere we look today, powerful new forces are reshaping the world that we thought we knew. Traditional boundaries between industries, disciplines and countries are rapidly blurring, and the old rules of management no longer make sense in a post-industrial world.

Rethinking The Future is about a world of increasing uncertainty in which the very nature of work, of organizations and of economics is changing. It is about the move away from traditional hierarchies and the democratization of power. It is about giant nation states and corporations giving way to global networks. Tomorrow’s executives will need to understand business at a far more global and synergistic level than ever before, and to feel comfortable leading people who have learned to manage themselves. This is a book for those executives.

The book looks at how organizations can be redesigned to survive and thrive in tomorrow’s hyper-competitive global environment. How they can learn to adapt to change and dramatically improve their performance. And how they should be ‘managed’, if at all.

Rethinking The Future examines the changing role of the leader and the powerful influence of corporate culture. And it probes the universal principles and values that ultimately govern the success of any leader or organization. It also looks at strategies for creating tomorrow’s competitive advantages and tomorrow’s markets, which will be driven by new demographics, new global structures and new technology.

Most importantly of all, the book gives readers a framework for understanding the big picture. It provides a panoramic perspective that puts all the pieces together in a coherent and easily understandable context. In fact, it represents an entire bookshelf condensed between two covers – a business education for the 21st Century. Rethinking The Future is essential reading for anyone concerned with business success beyond the next quarter.

About the editor

Rowan Gibson is an independent business consultant who works in close association with EURO RSCG – Europe’s largest advertising agency network. He spends most of his time creating international marketing strategies and making top management presentations. Born and educated in London, he lives today with his German wife and two sons near Düsseldorf in Germany.

Foreword by Alvin and Heidi Toffler

Not since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution have managers had more to learn (and unlearn) about the art of business leadership. And seldom have they been offered so much diverse and confusing advice. The reason for the current upheaval in management thinking is the arrival on the world scene of a revolutionary new ‘system for creating wealth’. Historians can slice the past into countless slivers. But in terms of transformational change, there have been only a few true turning points in history, each associated with the emergence of a different system for wealth creation.

The invention of agriculture provided the human race with a new way to convert the earth’s resources into wealth, and almost everywhere launched a ‘First Wave’ of change in civilization that gave rise to peasant-centered economies and eventually supplanted hunting and foraging as the primary means of human subsistence.

Similarly, the Industrial Revolution triggered a ‘Second Wave’ of change that gave us a factory-based system for wealth creation. In turn, this led to mass production, the drive for larger and larger markets, and the need for bigger, ever more bureaucratic business organizations. Until very recently, most of what was taught in management texts and in schools of business reflected ‘Second Wave’ thinking.

Based on assumptions of linearity and equilibrium, and heavily quantified, the dominant management paradigm paralleled the mechanistic assumptions of western economics, which, in turn, attempted to parallel Newtonian physics. This multileveled parallelism – the belief that management ‘science’ fitted perfectly with economic ‘science’ and that both were compatible with what was known about physics – made the industrial management paradigm enormously persuasive.

Indeed, all three of these disciplinary ‘layers’ formed parts of an even larger set of epistemological and philosophical ideas which has elsewhere been described as ‘indust-reality’ – reality as perceived through the eyes of people reared in an industrial culture. In short, the dominant business paradigm of the Second Wave era was part of a much larger architecture of thought.

In 1970, we publicly attacked the prevailing paradigm for the first time in our book Future Shock, and suggested that businesses were going to restructure themselves repeatedly and move ‘beyond bureaucracy’; that they would have to reduce hierarchy and take on the character of what we termed ‘ad-hocracy’. At the time, all this sounded sensationalist to many readers. We had a similar experience in 1972, when we delivered a consulting report to AT&T, then the world’s largest privately held corporation, saying that it would have to break itself up. For years, that report was literally kept hidden from the very managers who needed to prepare the firm for the break-up which, in fact, came 12 years later – the biggest and most excruciating corporate break-up in history. And when in 1980, in our book The Third Wave, we coined the term ‘de-massification’ to describe the coming move beyond mass production, mass distribution, mass media and socioeconomic homogeneity, we again were thought by some to be too visionary.

We suspect that many of the contributors to this volume have faced comparable skepticism. The reason is simple: anyone who attacks a dominant paradigm too early can expect to be regarded with suspicion by the reigning intellectual and academic establishment. But paradigms – including management paradigms – are not permanent. And the industrial era management model, especially in the US, is now blowing its bolts and rivets.

Today’s knowledge revolution, having launched a gigantic ‘Third Wave’ of economic, technical and social change, is forcing businesses to operate in radically new, continually shifting ways that stand Second Wave notions on their head. The industrial faith in such things as vertical integration, synergy, economies of scale and hierarchical, command-and-control organization is giving way to a fresh appreciation of outsourcing, minimization of scale, profit centers, networks and other diverse forms of organization. Every shred of industrial-era thinking is now being rescrutinized and brilliantly reformulated.

It is precisely when an old paradigm crumbles and the new one is not yet fixed in place that we get great bursts of creative thinking. This is such a moment, and some of today’s most innovative thinking about management is reflected in these pages.

Of course, as in any collection, some contributions are better than others, some fresher and more pioneering than others. But the overall thrust of this volume is exciting. It offers us a work-in-progress picture of a new business paradigm in the making.

What is still missing from this paradigm is a strong link between emergent Third Wave management thinking and Third Wave economics. One reason for this is a disparity in the relevant rates of change. While business theorists and management consultants like those in this book are exploring many aspects of the new business reality and rapidly reporting their findings, economists, with some notable exceptions, remain imprisoned by their own previous successes, seldom venturing into Third Wave territory.

A good example of the current disparity has to do with knowledge – the primary factor of production in the new system for wealth creation. An increasing amount of work is being done by consulting firms on questions of knowledge management – the assessment of knowledge assets, new approaches to organizational and individual learning, attempts to create a metric for dealing with knowledge. By contrast, mainstream economists, for the most part, ignore or underestimate knowledge as a factor of production.

If ‘thinking outside the box’ has become a buzzword among smart business people and their advisers, economists do so at far greater risk to their reputations in the profession. As a result, Third Wave economics is still in its pre-natal stage, and the intellectual framework that might unify management theory and economics is not yet in place. The task of creating that framework still lies ahead.

What business practitioners – as well as their economists and advisors – will need, however, is an even more comprehensive model of the oncoming Third Wave reality, not just focusing on economics and management issues, but showing how these must respond to social, technological, political, cultural and religious shocks – of which there will be plenty in the years immediately ahead.

Many of these can be anticipated, as can their impact on business, and they need to be taken into account, since a sudden massive swing in any one could wreak as much havoc on a company or industry as could economic change. Unfortunately, these broader issues still lie outside the frame of reference of most business thinkers and economists alike.

Nevertheless, the distinguished contributors to these pages provide important conceptual components out of which the next business paradigm will be built. The chapters teem with provocative, illuminating ideas, good questions, fresh insights and alternative ways of thinking about the competitive/cooperative combat to come. As the Third Wave system for wealth creation spreads, marked by hypercompetition, successive technological revolutions and social dislocation and conflict, it is creating high unpredictability and non-linear conditions. Business leaders and strategists who wish to flourish in so turbulent and revolutionary an environment will ignore this book at their peril.

Index to postings in March 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012 @ 07:03 AM
posted by admin


The Search For a Just Society by John Huddleston Part 13               March 1

Barbarism & Civilization: A History of Europe in Our Time

by Bernard Wasserstein                                                                      March 2

Stone Mulching in the Garden by J.I. Rodale Part 3                          March 3

The Whistle Blower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman

By Peter Rost MD Part 2                                                                    March 4          

Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How

 to Keep It From Happening to You by Sydney Finkelstein,

Jo Whitehead, Andrew Campbell                                                       March 5

The Search For a Just Society by John Huddleston Part 14               March 6

Civilization: A New History of the Western World by Roger

Osborne Part 1                                                                                                March 7

Stone Mulching in the Garden by J.I. Rodale Part 4                          March 8

The Whistle Blower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman

By Peter Rost MD Part 3                                                                    March 9

Leading With Purpose: The New Corporate Realities by

Richard R. Ellsworth                                                                          March 10

The Family Virtues Guide: Simple Ways to Bring Out the

Best in Our Children and Ourselves by Linda Kavelin Popov           March 11

The Search For a Just Society by John Huddleston Part 15               March 12

Civilization: A New History of the Western World by Roger

Osborne Part   2                                                                                  March 13

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

by Michael Pollan Part 1                                                                     March 14

Leadership and the Quest for Integrity by Joseph L.

Badaracco, Jr. and Richard R. Ellsworth                                           March 15

Responsible Restructuring: Creative and Profitable Alternatives

to Layoffs by Wayne F. Cascio                                                           March 16

The Search For a Just Society by John Huddleston Part 16               March 17

Civilization: A New History of the Western World by Roger

Osborne Part   3                                                                                  March 18

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

by Michael Pollan Part 2                                                                     March 19

Peace Research: Theory and Practice by Peter Wallensteen             March 20

Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil by

Daniel Hillel Part 1                                                                             March 21

The Search For a Just Society by John Huddleston Part 17               March 22

Civilization: A New History of the Western World by Roger

Osborne Part   4                                                                                  March 23

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

by Michael Pollan Part 3                                                                     March 24

A Pace of Grace: The Virtues of a Sustainable Life

by Linda Kavelin Popov Part 1                                                          March 25

Harvard Business Review on What Makes a Leader 

by Harvard Business School Press                                                      March 26

Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil by

Daniel Hillel Part 2                                                                             March 27

The Search For a Just Society by John Huddleston Part 18               March 28

Civilization: A New History of the Western World by Roger

Osborne Part 5                                                                                                March 29

Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing

by Caroline Myss Part 1                                                                      March 30

A Pace of Grace: The Virtues of a Sustainable Life

by Linda Kavelin Popov Part 2                                                          March 31