Categories: Credit Crunch / PR issues / Reviews

3 March 2010

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Capitalism 4.0: The big coming debate

Thanks to Richard Edelman I’m flagging an upcoming book every PR should read Capitalism 4.0 by The Times economics analyst Anatole Kaletsky. Here’s a preview.

Promoting his book in The Times Kaletsky says that after the recent crash capitalism is in a period of transition comparable to the 1930s and 1970s. As a leading US diplomat told him:

“Since the crisis, developing countries have lost interest in the old Washington consensus that promoted democracy and liberal economics. Wherever I go in the world, governments and business leaders talk about the new Beijing consensus — the Chinese route to prosperity and power. The West must come up with a new model of capitalism that’s consistent with our political values. Either we reinvent ourselves or we will lose.”

Kaletsky remarks that at Davos the world’s leaders were in denial. Instead of thinking about the future, it was easier to focus on the past, to quibble about regulations and argue about who was to blame.

Kaletsky thinks governments everywhere will interefere more on economics and maybe less on welfare.

I agree. There’s some big changes coming and it is time we discussed the choices we face.

It strikes me that Kaletsky’s book could be the catalyst that sparks the debate about issues such as:

  • How will the West compete with China and India?
  • Is Kaletsky right that the world has to choose either a Chinese or a Western model of capitalism?
  • Will China remain overtly nationalistic and the West broadly globalising?
  • How does AGW fit into this?
  • How will the West define optimum state economic interference?
  • Will the governing elite find economic policy hard to sell to voters?
  • Will international competition lower the chances of bells-and-whistles CSR?

Richard Edelman I fear is on the wrong track when he predicts that Kaletsky’s findings fit well with the dominant messaging emanating from CEOs at this year’s Davos:

“The new expectation of business is as a social actor, doing well while doing good. There is a continuum for business executives, from sole reliance on philanthropy to a more complex change of business process to incorporate sustainability into operations.

My first observation is that CEOs were in denial when they belittled the importance of shareholder value and shareholders. My second is that change is about instability and that does not fit well with sustainability. My third is that the good that business does is business done well. The Edelman approach separates “doing good” from “doing well” as if there was something wrong or embarrassing or negative about the core function of business. The Chinese, on the other hand, have no such doubts about the virtue of business done well.

But we are agreed that things are about to happen. We are agreed that there’s a great debate to be had. And once again, even when I disagree with him, I say hats off to Richard Edelman for raising our horizons and for being at the forefront of discussion. The debate has begun. Watch this space.

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