The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business by Umair Haque, Harvard Business Review Press, 221 pages, $26. 95, Hardcover, January 2011, ISBN 9781422158586 There have been many books released over the last two years about the financial crisis that shook the foundations of our economic system a short time ago, but none have addressed how weak those foundations really are—that maybe, after over 200 years, the very cornerstones of industrial-age capitalism as unstable and badly in need of repair. In The New Capitalist Manifesto, Umair Haque lays out how they can be, and are already beginning to be, rebuilt.
While recognizing that "there's no single, simple definition of capitalism," Haque distills the current paradigm into five foundational cornerstones that are "so familiar to CEOs and clerks alike that they are invisible fixtures of everyday economic life:"
Value chain as the means of production, value proposition as the means of positioning, strategy as the means of competition, protecting marketplaces as the means of advantage, and inert, fixed goods as the means of consumption.Addressing what he sees as The Great Imbalance in that system, a system that "shifts costs and borrows benefits from people, communities, society, the natural world, or future generations" to appear profitable, he lays out a blueprint for a sustainable new foundation. He devotes a chapter to each of the traditional cornerstones and how to rebuild them, replacing "Value Chains" with "Value Cycles," "Value Propositions" with "Value Conversations," "Strategy" with "Philosophy," "Protecting a Marketplace" with "Completing a Marketplace," and "Goods" with "Betters"—all to build a new, Constructive Capitalism.
While the picture I've painted of the book so far may sound like pie-in-the-sky idealism, it has everything that you'd expect from a Harvard Business School title—solid research, insightful analysis and thoughtful conclusions. And while Haque's language is by turns ominous and inspirational, his approach is entirely pragmatic, showing that Constructive Capitalists—big and small, old and new—have a competitive edge in the kind of value they are able to create, in both the short and long terms.
Haque also understands that this "manifesto" is not about him, but for the reader, writing in the preface that his "insights matter less than your vision, ambition, and passion." And, most importantly, he has produced a wonderfully written book that helps readers become the change they want to see, declaring that "Though the pages that follow are filled with examples ... I don't want you to follow an example, but to be the example."