Monday, 31 March 2008
i like how yunus questions the validity of macroeconomists to think of employment only in terms of jobs, rather than livelihoods people create for themselves. with the help of his microcredit programme, a substantial percentage of bangladesh has come out of poverty - without inequality rising. i also like how yunus, like amartya sen (the nobel winning economist from bengal) and adam smith (the founder of modern economic thought) before him values the different facets of a personality and recognises that we're not simply interested in profit-maximisation for ourselves.
so i think that organising homebased workers may not be the best idea, which is what my ex was doing in pakistan. but i also don't think our general academic education system is very helpful either. school would be more interesting to people if it taught them social skills, taught them about health, sex. but entrepreneurs need to come up with their own ideas for success. they're enabled if they can read other people's ideas on the internet and in magazines and autobiographies by other entrepreneurs. but i like the entrepreneurial model, i think, more than the system of education so that people can some how fit into a planned economy. the planned economies have only been working recently for the developed countries because they have developing economies to export their produce to, and when those other economies catch up, the model isn't going to look so sustainable.
i'm going to paste below three things now.
the first is the juicy parts of yunus' first two chapters.
the second is an inspiring graduation speech by maxine hong kingston, author of The Woman Warrior, on how we're to make changes to the 'marketplace'.
and the third is a link to the summary of yunus' book. his book is basically an extension of his nobel peace prize acceptance speech.
Chapter 1: A new kind of business
‘Is corporate social responsibility a force that is leading to positive change among business leaders? Could it be that CSR is the mechanism we have been searching for, the tool with which at least some of the problems can be fixed?
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
[. . . ] The philosophy seems to be: Make as much money as you can, even if you exploit the poor to do so – but then donate a tiny portion of the profits for social causes or create a foundation to do things that will promote your business interest. And then be sure to publicize how generous you are! [. . . ] In some cases, the same company that donates a penny to corporate social responsibility spends 99 cents on moneymaking projects that make social problems worse. This is not a formula for improving society!
[. . . ] There are a few companies whose leaders are sincerely interested in social change. [ . . . ] But [they run] up against a basic problem. Corporate managers are responsible to those who own the businesses they run [ . . . ] If they were to accept reduced profits to promote social welfare, the owners would have reason to feel cheated and consider corporate social responsibility as corporate financial irresponsibility.
Thus, although advocates of corporate social responsibility like to talk about the “triple bottom line” of financial, social and environmental benefits by which companies should be measured, ultimately only one bottom line calls the shots: financial profit.
[. . .]
I think things are going wrong not because of “market failures.” The problem is much deeper than that. Mainstream free-market theory suffers from a “conceptualization failure,” a failure to capture the essence of what it is to be human.
In the conventional theory of business, we’ve created a one-dimensional human being to play the role of business leader, the so-called entrepreneur. [ . . . ] He is dedicated to one mission only – maximize profit. [. . . ] Our economic theory has created a one-dimensional world peopled by those who devote themselves to the game of free-market competition, in which victory is measured purely by profit. And since we are persuaded by the theory that the pursuit of profit is the best way to bring happiness to humankind, we enthusiastically imitate the theory, striving to transform ourselves into one-dimensional human beings. Instead of theory imitating reality, we force reality to imitate theory. [. . . ] People are not one-dimensional entities; they are excitingly multi-dimensional.
Chapter 2: Social business: What it is and what it is not
If we describe our existing companies as profit-maximizing businesses (PMBs), the new kind of business might be called social business. Entrepreneurs will set up social businesses not to achieve limited personal gain but to pursue specific social gains. [. . . ]
A social business is a company that is cause-driven rather than profit-driven, with the potential to act as a change agent for the world.
'In 1962, I graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in English . . . I did not attend the ceremony. Some 30 years later, I can perhaps recover that period . . . A graduation ceremony ought to be a celebration, and I didn't feel like celebrating. I also felt like a failure; there were quite a few Cs in my major, a low GPA. In those days, according to rumour, there was a grade in the English department called a Chinese C. It meant, out of pity, go ahead and pass the Chinese Americans; they're going to be engineers anyway, and their English didn't need to, and couldn't, get any better. I had no business getting a degree in English. I'd gotten the liberal arts education of an aristocrat when I was a peasant and the daughter of peasants . . . [she talks about how she dropped out of engineering, which she didn't tell her parents] . . .
In June, with my only marketable skill, typing, I got a job as a clerk-typist at an insurance company in San Francisco. I was fired. I got another job as a clerk-typist at a property owners' association at the Claremont Hotel. I got fired from that too. I got another job as a clerk-typist at the Cal Engineering Department. I got fired from that. I was fired from the first three jobs after graduation. I give every one of you permission to get fired from at least three jobs . . .
The world is not friendly to writers. It is not friendly to English majors . . .
Today, some thirty years later, I want to suggest an idea that has taken me, in my slowness, all this time to understand that I had received the perfect education.
The teachers at Berkeley had given me the best they had, all they knew. It was a miracle of an education. In all its hodge-podge vagaries, here's what I learned: to doubt, to ask questions, to appreciate ambiguity, multi-quity, to hold multi-quity like rainbows in one's hands and clear eyes. I came away from Berkeley knowing how to doubt everything, how to deconstruct anything. The Cal liberal arts education blows away old answers, and leaves questions.
The most interesting and scary of the questions was this one: '"With this degree in English, what will I do to make a living?" Isn't that a beautiful phrase? "Make a living." A gerund, a verb form, an idiom made of two verb forms. Not a definitive once-and-for-all deadend noun like "money" or "job" . . . You create and make up new jobs that are good for a human being. You alter a cramping job so that it supports your humanity and spirit and changes the marketplace . . .
To give you short cuts and reassurances, and to save you from regrets, I want to say that after those three jobs where I got fired, I became better at inventing work. I helped found a sanctuary for AWOL soldiers from the Vietnam War. I started a drop-in school for drop-outs; I went up and down the road looking for boys with spray cans, and took those who'd collapse in the grass and bushes to my drop-in school. First I fed them; then I tried to show them that reading books will get them higher than sniffing paint.
In our culture, the education that we've gotten at Berkeley is the vision of the quest. This graduation is not the beginning or the end. In Native American cultures, the questing hero or heroine sees a vision, then brings it back as a story, a song, a dance, a weaving pattern, a painting, or a map to give to his tribe. This graduation is the middle of the quest. Now you take the knowledge and make sense of it, create its practical applications, invent human uses for abstractions, and bring gifts home to us, your community.'
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