Support Economy : Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2002-10-14
  • Publisher: Viking Adult

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Todays managerial capitalism has grown hopelessly out of touch with the people it should be serving. "The Support Economy" explores the chasm between people and corporations and reveals a new society of individuals who seek relationships of advocacy and trust that provide support for their complex lives. Unlocking the wealth of these new markets can unleash the next great wave of wealth creation, but it requires a radically new approachdistributed capitalism. "The Support Economy" is a call to action for every citizen who cares about the future.

Author Biography

Shoshana Zuboff, Ph.D., is the critically acclaimed author of the classic work In the Age of the Smart Machine. Called "the prophet of the information age," she is a chaired professor at the Harvard Business School. She has been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, Business Week, and many other publications.

James Maxmin, Ph.D., has been the CEO of Volvo, Thorn EMI, and Laura Ashley. He founded the investment company Global Brand Development and is currently advisory director to Mast Global. He has been featured in The Financial Times, Business Week, and many other publications.

Zuboff and Maxmin are married and live with their two children.

Table of Contents

Preface xiii
Bridging the Chasm
PART ONE Challenge: New People, New Markets
Dreaming Economic Revolution
How Managerial Capitalism Made New People
The New Society of Individuals
The Individual as History's Shock Absorber
The Individuation of Consumption
PART TWO Crisis: Old Organizations Meet New People
The Transaction Crisis
Organizational Narcissism: Products, Pyramids, and the Legacy of Contempt
Rediscovering the End Consumer, Over and Over Again
PART THREE Emergence: The New Enterprise Logic
The Digital Bridge
Conceptualizing the New Enterprise Logic: The Metaprinciples of Distributed Capitalism I
The Inner Workings of the New Enterprise Logic: The Metaprinciples of Distributed Capitalism II
Notes 385(62)
Index 447


ONE Bridging the ChasmPeople have changed more than the business organizations upon which they depend. The last fifty years have seen the rise of a new breed of individuals, yet corporations continue to operate according to a logic invented at the time of their origin, a century ago. The chasm that now separates individuals and organizations is marked by frustration, mistrust, disappointment, and even rage. It also harbors the possibility of a new capitalism and a new era of wealth creation. THE CHASMIn the second half of the twentieth century a new society of individuals emerged-a breed of people unlike any the world has ever seen. Educated, informed, traveled, they work with their brains, not their bodies. They do not assume that their lives can be patterned after their parents' or grandparents'. Throughout human history the problem of identity was settled in one way-I am my mother's daughter; I am my father's son. But in a discontinuous and irreversible break with the past, today's individuals seek the experiences and insights that enable them to find the elusive pattern in the stone, the singular pattern that is "me." Their sense of self is more intricate, acute, detailed, vast, and rich than at any other time in human history. They have learned to make sense of their lives in unique and private ways, to forge the delicate tissue of meaning that marks their lives as their own. In all other times and all other places, psychological individuation was unimaginable. It was, at best, the emotional precinct of an elite group of artists and spiritual seekers-rare, elusive, precious. But today that unique human capacity for individuation has been put within the reach of millions of people. Their individualism, long regarded as the basis for political self-determination, has also become the foundation for the one sure thing they have in common: a deep and abiding yearning for psychological self-determination. The new individuals are remaking their societies as they demand the right to psychological sovereignty, but they continue to be invisible to the commercial organizations upon which they must routinely rely. Long distant from the land and far removed from age-old traditions of household production, the new individuals protect, sustain, and nurture themselves and their families in the only way that is available-through the modern processes known as "consumption." But corporations continue to be dominated by a commercial logic based on assumptions about human beings and their approach to consumption that is more than one hundred years old. That commercial logic, known as managerial capitalism, was invented for the production and distribution of things. It has been uneasily adapted to the delivery of services. But neither goods nor services adequately fulfill the needs of today's markets. In search of psychological self-determination, the new individuals want something that modern organizations cannot give them: tangible support in leading the lives they choose. They want to be freed from the time-consuming stress, rage, injustice, and personal defeat that accompany so many commercial exchanges. As a result, a chasm has opened up between the new individuals and the world of business organizations. Too many people, consumers and employees alike, feel that businesses are failing those whom they should be serving-capitalism's past is in bold confrontation with the realities of human life today. Companies invest billions in endless cycles of quick fixes to "rediscover" their end consumers. But the chasm that separates the new individuals from their commercial organizations cannot be bridged within the terms of today's business models. Instead, we will argue, that chasm reflects an enterprise logic that has outlived the society it was once designed to serve. It matters little whether companies think of their end consumers as wallets, eyeballs, anonymous mar

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