New Year, Thinking Anew?

2 January 2015

How’s the new year going so far?

We ended last year with a summary of my new book Rebalancing Society. Since we live in times of great continuity (as indicated in the TWOG of November 11), we begin this year by juxtaposing pairs of passages from the book, to give a livelier sense of what’s wrong and how to think about making it right.

America did not invent democracy so much as give impetus to a particularly individualistic form of it…. In the name of liberty, we are now suffering from individualism: every person and every institution striving to get the most for him-, her-, or itself, over the needs of society and a threatened planet.
… a democratic society balances individual needs for consumption, collective needs for protection, , and communal needs for affiliation, attending to each adequately but none excessively.
There’s a tea party going on all right, for big business, under the slogan “No taxation with representation.”
So why not complete the American Revolution by establishing renewed checks on the private sector—globally and locally--for the sake of balance across all the sectors?
This book challenges the dogma that sees all of us driven to compete, collect, and consume our way to neurotic oblivion…. Dig beneath two foundations of economic theory—our right to consume whatever we can afford and to slough off the externalities—and have a look at the behaviors that are crawling underneath.
So let’s try to do what we haven’t yet done, by looking forward socially instead of backward economically.
Community figures hardly at all in a prevailing dogma that favors economic scale, no matter what the social consequences….
In a robust economy, growth is judged by the qualities enhanced, not just measured by the quantities produced. Such an economy does not merely expand; it develops, qualitatively and socially.
Communism taught us that a society with hardly any private property cannot function effectively. Capitalism is teaching us that a society with hardly anything but private property is not much better.
Common property is making a comeback. Good thing, because it can allow common knowledge to replace the patent nonsense associated with much of “intellectual property.”
“A despot easily forgives his subjects for not loving him, provided they do not love one another.” (de Tocqueville, 1840)
…let’s make room for collaborative communityship in the space between individual leadership and collective citizenship.
How can we bring lofty ideals to bear on the lowly deals?
We need more than occupation movements; we need slingshot movements, to challenge on three fronts: the practices that are plainly destructive, the entitlements that lie behind these practices, and the dogma used to justify these practices.
We have an enemy in common, and that is our problem: the enemy is us—specifically, our own individuality, self-interest fatefully misunderstood.
Hence the place to start confronting the exploiters of this world is in front of our own mirrors.

Back to mirrors in next week’s TWOG, but in a very different way.

© Henry Mintzberg 2015. Rebalancing Society can be ordered on Berrett-Koehler,,, Barnes & Noble, also can be accessed after January 5 on the home page of this site (

© 2015 Henry Mintzberg