Trending Toward the End of Greed

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A review of MEGATRENDS 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism

In their 1982 title Megatrends, Aburdene and her former husband John Naisbitt talked about the birth of the Information Economy; in Megatrends 2000, published in 1990, they predicted the networked, technology-driven Internet era. The coming megatrend, Aburdene asserts, will not be driven by external, social, or technological forces so much as “the internal dimension of change” that will reinvent free enterprise. And she’s predicting that this spiritual megatrend will take firm hold of the American way of business by, say, 2010.

In seven chapters, her new book MEGATRENDS 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism identifies the major facets of the new megatrend, including:

        • The Power of Spirituality — From Personal to Organizational

        • The Dawn of Conscious Capitalism

        • Leading from the Middle

        • Spirituality in Business

        • The Values-Driven Consumer

        • The Wave of Conscious Solutions

        • The Socially Responsible Investment Boom

Along the way, Aburdene offers many intimate portraits of the people behind the spiritual evolution in business, from meditating CEOs to value-driven consumers and socially responsible investment counselors.

In “Leading from the Middle,” Aburdene suggests that conscious capitalism will spell an end to the era of high-profile CEOs who are outrageously overpaid not only to provide symbolic leadership of corporations, but to take virtually all the credit and blame for their companies’ fortunes.

What drives business is customers and consumers, of course, and Aburdene spends a chapter noting how consumers themselves are increasingly driven by social values, not just by getting the best value for their dollars. Citing a New York Times report, Aburdene reveals that “By 2000 the market for values-driven commerce, from organic food and eco-tourism to Earth-friendly appliances and alternative medicine, had reached $230 billion . . . and was growing by double digits every year. No wonder the Times called it, ‘The biggest market you never heard of.’”

The question is what this and all the other “conscious capitalism” trends really portend for the future of American commerce. To Patricia Aburdene, this future will be one in which “the spiritual transformation of capitalism” will shift the American way of doing business “from greed to enlightened self-interest, from elitism to economic democracy, from the fundamentalist doctrine of ‘profit at any cost’ to the conscious ideology that espouses both money and morals.” If the author is overly optimistic, one hopes that she’s not too far off the mark. In a time when natural disasters and accelerating environmental decline are colluding with exceptional political ineptitude to stress the great American experiment as never before, it might just be the approaching enlightenment of capitalism that illuminates a sane, sustainable path ahead for us all.

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D. Patrick Miller