Monday, 5 May 2014

The Renaissance Society

Finished May 4
The Renaissance Society: How the Shift from Dream Society to the Age of Individual Control Will Change the Way You do Business by Rolf Jensen and Mika Aaltonen

This book provides a hopeful look at the future. It posits that society will shift into a post-materialistic outlook starting with the West and followed by the East, now coming into its materialistic phase. It looks at the route societies take as they develop, with motivations moving up Maslow's pyramid to the top level of self-actualization. One example is the gradual shift from sporting brand names, to brand names that have been given an individual twist, a personalization that is yours alone. The shift in economic heft will also move from material objects to services, those that require a real human touch.
The current trend in the west to think short-term, current or next quarter will move to the "extended now", a view with more long term outcomes in mind. This will include such things as retail theatre, emotional marketing with a focus on relationships between providers and users, and a move toward green products. I found the chapter on leadership dilemmas very interesting as it looks at the relationship within organizations and the motivations that drive the employees as recognized by the leaders.
Two things I found missing. One is that the emphasis on the move to a new Renaissance with its numerous comparisons to the historical renaissance makes no mention the large loss of human life that preceded the historical renaissance, a loss that led to many of the opportunities that brought a true renaissance in thought and culture. We don't have such a population loss now, nor are the authors anticipating one preceding their posited renaissance, and no mention of what takes the place of that cause in their theory.
The second is in all their talk of the rich nations of the West and the middle class, there is no acknowledgement of the growing gap in incomes within many of those nations, and the resultant disappearance of the middle class and growth of the poor. With the large number of people facing real hardship within these rich nations, how does that impact their theory?
Lots of interesting ideas, and a hopeful outlook for the world as a whole, but not an entirely convincing package for this reader.

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