Identity and Capitalism


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Business cycles tended to be relatively tame, and the gap between rich and poor shrank as more Americans joined the middle class. Then something went wrong. The demise was due to a combination of global competition, managerial complacency and hierarchical bureaucracy. The marketplace changed and management needed to change with it. This was done ostensibly to better align their own economic fortunes with those of other shareholders. The result has been the opposite, as the C-Suite has increasingly run the firm for the benefit of the C-suite, at the expense of shareholders.

Once making money becomes the goal of a firm, companies and their executives start to do things that not only lose money for the firm but cause problems for the economy. Even entrepreneurial capitalism suffers from this disease, because upstart entrepreneurial firms like Microsoft [MSFT] quickly become slow-moving bureaucracies, which are then vulnerable to other upstart entrepreneurs.

The life expectancy of firms practicing entrepreneurial capitalism is short. Customer capitalism involves a shift the focus of companies to delighting the customer and away from shareholder value, which is the result of delighting the customer. The shift to customer capitalism does however require fundamental changes in management.

The command-and-control management of hierarchical bureaucracy is inherently unable to delight anyone—it was never intended to. To delight customers, a radically different kind of management needs to be in place, with a different role for the managers, a different way of coordinating work, a different set of values and a different way of communicating.

The shift to customer capitalism also involves a major power shift within the organization. Instead of the company being dominated by traders and salesmen who can pump up the numbers and the accountants who can come up with cuts needed to make the quarterly targets, those who add genuine value to the customer have to re-occupy their rightful place.

Because Customer Capitalism is built on continuous innovation, it is much less vulnerable to changes in the marketplace than other forms of capitalism. Pearlstein suggests that Romney now offers the country a mix of shareholder and financial capitalism aka Robber Baron Capitalism.

Romney rejects the managerial capitalism of his auto executive father but he lacks the desire to create great products that animates entrepreneurial capitalism. The shareholder capitalism that he offers is thus more likely to be C-suite capitalism. Neither candidate has yet grasped the potential of Customer Capitalism or the implications of the Creative Economy. As a result, the ongoing political food fight of charge and counter-charge fails to deal with the real issues. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

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Consumerism, Capitalism, and Personal Identity

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People want homes, jobs, a future: no wonder they distrust capitalism now | Larry Elliott

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Resolving The Identity Crisis Of American Capitalism

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