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The Locust and the Bee

The Locust and the Bee: Predators and Creators in Capitalism's Future

Geoff Mulgan
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    The Locust and the Bee
    Book Description:

    The recent economic crisis was a dramatic reminder that capitalism can both produce and destroy. It's a system that by its very nature encourages predators and creators, locusts and bees. But, as Geoff Mulgan argues in this compelling, imaginative, and important book, the economic crisis also presents a historic opportunity to choose a radically different future for capitalism, one that maximizes its creative power and minimizes its destructive force.

    In an engaging and wide-ranging argument, Mulgan digs into the history of capitalism across the world to show its animating ideas, its utopias and dystopias, as well as its contradictions and possibilities. Drawing on a subtle framework for understanding systemic change, he shows how new political settlements reshaped capitalism in the past and are likely to do so in the future. By reconnecting value to real-life ideas of growth, he argues, efficiency and entrepreneurship can be harnessed to promote better lives and relationships rather than just a growth in the quantity of material consumption. Healthcare, education, and green industries are already becoming dominant sectors in the wealthier economies, and the fields of social innovation, enterprise, and investment are rapidly moving into the mainstream--all indicators of how capital could be made more of a servant and less a master.

    This is a book for anyone who wonders where capitalism might be heading next--and who wants to help make sure that its future avoids the mistakes of the past.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4665-8
    Subjects: Economics, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Chapter 1 After Capitalism
    (pp. 1-16)

    ONLY A FEW YEARS AGO the question of what might come after capitalism appeared to have been permanently parked, deemed about as sensible as asking what would come after electricity or after science. Capitalism looked unchallenged. Global markets had pulled China and India into their orbit. The medievalist fringes of Islam and the ragged armies that surround global summits jostled to be capitalism’s last, enfeebled, challenger. Multinational companies were said to command empires greater than most nation-states, and in some accounts had won the affiliation of the masses through brands, with Coke, Nike, and Google displacing the red flag and...

  4. Chapter 2 Barren and Pregnant Crises
    (pp. 17-27)

    EVERY CRISIS is different. But all crises share the same messy mix of numbness, and adrenalin, the sudden energizing of a few individuals, while others are left baffled and incapacitated.

    The financial crisis that began in 2008 didn’t have a neat beginning, middle, and end. Instead it unfolded in a series of seismic shocks. Its first phase was purely financial. In 2009, the IMF estimated that the American banking system faced losses in excess of $3 trillion.¹ Japan fell into depression. China’s pulsating economy stumbled, at least momentarily. Greece headed for bankruptcy; tiny Iceland, once a paragon of both good...

  5. Chapter 3 The Essence of Capitalism
    (pp. 28-51)

    TO UNDERSTAND what capitalism might become, we first have to understand what it is. This is not so simple. Capitalism includes a market economy, but many traditional market economies are not capitalistic. It revolves around capital—but Egyptian pharaohs and fascist dictators commanded capital and surpluses too. It includes the systematic pursuit of technological improvement—but quite a few noncapitalistic societies have done the same, and much of the investment that drives industries like computing and aerospace came from states, not private investors. It includes trade, but trade, too, long precedes capitalism.¹

    Capitalism’s etymology is not much help, either. It...

  6. Chapter 4 To Take or to Make The Roles of Creators and Predators
    (pp. 52-78)

    IF YOU WANT to make money, you can choose between two fundamentally different strategies. One is to create genuinely new value by bringing resources together in ways that serve people’s wants and needs. The other is to seize value through predation, taking resources, money, or time from others, whether they like it or not. Your choice, in short, is whether to be a bee or a locust.

    Capitalism’s advocates see only its productive potential, its brilliance as an “innovation machine,” a formidable generator of wealth and multiplier of human productivity, while the critics see only its tendencies to predation. These...

  7. Chapter 5 Capitalism’s Critics
    (pp. 79-103)

    THERE WERE MANY CAPITALISTS in the eighteenth century, when the word meant people with money, but there were surprisingly few exuberant advocates of a capitalist world. Adam Smith evangelized the virtues of free markets and laissez-faire public policies—but there was no place in his picture for large firms or concentrations of accumulated capital. The idea of a capitalist system came much later, and is generally attributed to the French socialist Louis Blanc.¹ For Blanc the word capitalism described a particularly unpleasant species of evil. All the ills that afflict society could be attributed to the pressure of competition, whereby...

  8. Chapter 6 Anticapitalist Utopias and Neotopias
    (pp. 104-115)

    ONE OF OSCAR WILDE’S MOST FAMOUS QUIPS suggested that “a map of the world that does not include utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.” For most of capitalism’s history there has been intense interest in what would follow it, and much utopian thinking to imagine its successors. Capitalism had grown up so quickly, almost suddenly in some countries, turning lives and assumptions on their head, that it seemed plausible that it...

  9. Chapter 7 The Nature of Change How One System Becomes Another
    (pp. 116-144)

    BUDDHISM was the first great system of thought to recognize the fluidity and impermanence of things. The Buddha warned against excessive attachment, which was bound to end in disappointment and suffering. But he saw no inherent virtue in this constant change: it was just the way the world was made.

    Capitalism is change incarnate, and the first system whose advocates came to embrace perpetual revolution, and to celebrate the idea that “everything that is solid melts into air” (Karl Marx deserves the credit for identifying this as a defining character of capitalism, but many others happily adopted the insight and...

  10. Chapter 8 Creative and Predatory Technology
    (pp. 145-171)

    THE GREAT MAJORITY of economic growth—and of human progress—has come from new knowledge and its application. Much of the legitimacy of capitalism draws on its association with a tide of new stuff that makes life easier and more pleasurable: jet planes and refrigerators, mobile phones and video games. If an earlier era of capitalism was concerned with mobilizing capital, increasingly today’s capitalism is concerned with how to mobilize, orchestrate, and channel new knowledge. But how to do so? And how to ensure that new knowledge creates genuinely life-enhancing value?

    Almost every aspect of human life has been shaped...

  11. Chapter 9 The Rise of Economies Based on Relationships and Maintenance
    (pp. 172-197)

    FOR MORE THAN FORTY YEARS, technological forecasts and futurology have highlighted the rising importance of information and knowledge, and much of my own career has been shaped by this movement of both ideas and practice.¹ The idea that a significant slice of the economy has become “dematerialized” is now commonplace, and most forecasters expect the future economy to be composed of ever more intangibles, of flows of data and knowledge, with every object fitted with transmitters, objects talking to objects as well as people talking to people. Ultimately, in some visions, every part of every human body may have its...

  12. Chapter 10 Capitalism’s Generative Ideas
    (pp. 198-229)

    CAPITALISM spread as an idea, a form of life, and a way of seeing. Its more ardent advocates could only imagine a future in which that idea simply extended and deepened. Its strident critics could only imagine mirror opposites. In this chapter I suggest how some of the defining ideas of capitalism could shape an evolution beyond it. These are ideas that make capitalism the ally of life, and which, if extended, help rein in its predatory and destructive tendencies. The capitalist imaginary is both liberating and destructive; both beautiful and ugly. We need to amplify the beauty and the...

  13. Chapter 11 New Accommodations or How Societies (Occasionally) Jump
    (pp. 230-279)

    IN 1938, a group of men gathered in the small town of Saltsjðbaden near Stockholm. Sweden was reaching a new accommodation, which turned out to be one of the most successful ever, laying the foundations for many decades of healthy growth and social success, and the global triumphs of firms like Volvo, Ikea, and Ericsson. At Saltsjðbaden, the representatives of business, government, and unions agreed to create a society with “no rich individuals but rich concerns.” The agreement hadn’t come easily. In the 1920s, Sweden had been beset by strikes and high unemployment. Pervasive class war threatened the nation’s very...

  14. Chapter 12 Outgrowing Capitalism
    (pp. 280-288)

    AN OLD STORY tells of a shaman who described himself as containing two bears, one a cruel, warlike, and violent hunter, the other caring and compassionate. A young boy asks him which will win out, and the shaman replies: whichever one I feed.

    Capitalism has triumphed, crashed, adapted, triumphed, and crashed once again, and then bounced back: mainly because of choices made to feed it. Even when it runs into the sand, most want nothing more than that it should get moving again. The economic system that dominates the world economy has penetrated our culture, our politics, and perhaps even...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 289-320)
  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 321-322)
  17. Index
    (pp. 323-335)