BOOKS: Not as Original as It Thinks

Management Today, December 18, 2002 | Go to article overview

BOOKS: Not as Original as It Thinks


Thoughtful and interesting though its author seems, this volume is let down by distracting gimmickry. John Kay blames the publisher

Capitalism is Dead: Peoplism Rules

By Alec Reed

McGraw Hill pounds 19.99

This book would have benefited greatly from skilled professional editing. A good editor would have told its author not to begin with a glossary of made-up words, such as idea-lisation, 'the process by which creativity is brought about', and intuitive intelligence, 'the ability to think rapidly and decisively without relying on traditional methods of logic, demonstrating a preference for the unknown and unconventional...'.

There is already a good word for idea-lisation - imagination. There is also a good colloquial word for intuitive intelligence - bullshit. The English language has words to express most ideas, even new paradigms. Please spare us peoplism.

But a good editor would have done more than keep the language in check. He or she would have helped impose organisation and structure on the book. If capitalism is dead, then we need to be clear what that capitalism is, or was, which features of the environment have changed, and, if 'peoplism' has replaced it, what distinguishes peoplism from capitalism. I think I know what Reed has in mind when he says that 'capital is not the most important factor of success', but I'm not sure it ever was.

Tangible capital - plant and machinery per head - continues to rise steadily in advanced economies, lately as a consequence of information technology. Intangible capital per head may have gone up even faster. We don't know.

This divides into two main kinds: the knowledge and skills of individuals, which they can charge firms to access, and attributes and assets that are identified with the organisation - brands, the reputation of the firm, and the relationships within the organisation.

Defining terminology to clarify issues is useful; introducing novel terminology to exaggerate the originality of what is being said is not. The proper job of an editor is to encourage the author to mark clearly what is new and to ensure that both what is original and what is not are related to what others have said. …

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BOOKS: Not as Original as It Thinks
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