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Curious about what comes after the currently waning economic paradigm? In a book called "When is enough enough" I have set out my arguments for what I think will happen.
A recent article in U.S. News and World Report brings this book nicely to the point: "Why doesn't progress add up to satisfaction?" Or, as I would put it, "Why does civilization only end up giving us headaches?" The answer is not a joke, but deceptively simple: We are wearing the wrong glasses through which we try to make sense of what goes on around us. The wrong glasses? Yes, figuratively speaking. Humans have always pondered five big and age-old questions: "Will I have to go to sleep hungry because there is no food?", "Who am I?", "How do I behave?", "What is my purpose?" and "What do I leave behind?". Those are the questions of subsistence, identity, relation, purpose and legacy. They are age-old because they have always been with us, and chances are, they will also be with us in the future.
In one way or the other we have been able to answer them, in order to keep our sanity. To do so, we have constructed worldviews, frames - glasses, if you will - through which we interpreted what went on around us. Historically and culturally independent, there have been four: the heroic, religious, scientific and economic frames.
It is within these frames that we answered the five big questions: in the context of our lives, which most of the time was material poverty, often abject misery. We died often, young and randomly: from hunger, from inexplicable disease, from violence and war. And since that context did not change for thousands of years, we developed lasting answers that made sense relative to that context. But in the last fifty years or so, that context has changed, radically. And just as swim vests are of very limited use in a desert, so our earlier answers are of little use in the world we live in now. No wonder, we are anxious, lost and confused - and get headaches.
The book unravels the mystery of the new context - where it comes from, what it looks like, what it feels like and of ways of creating it ourselves. It is about the new language and concepts we need in it, and about some of the implications for us as humans: alone, in groups, in organizations and in businesses. It is about what will matter more and what will matter less in the future.
The book is personal. I was raised by two people - my parents - who still had first hand experience of hunger and deprivation, of lack and poverty, of misery and hard work. As I am about to turn fifty, I live a life where I have never needed to pay attention to where my next meal would come from, where, when I am ill, I go to the doctor, fully expecting to be cured and being able to afford the service, and where the age-old purpose in life - that I will provide my children with an easier life than I had - is no longer true.
The motivation, then, is intensely personal; I would like to make sense of my life. But I have also met many people, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, who are similarly lost and puzzled, and my aim is to set out - not the answers, for that is and remains a personal task - but to offer my reflections about the context, the language and the implications of the worlds to come.
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