August 25, 2008 § 1 Comment
I recently read the book Slackonomics by Lisa Chamberlain. The book covers the growing pains of Generation Xers, the tumult of the economy in the past 20 years, and Xers place in it.
For the first few chapters, I was thoroughly engaged as Ms. Chamberlain holds a mirror up to Generation X’s experiences socially, economically, and politically. It was an easy read and made me feel not so lonely on my somewhat unconventional professional and personal journey. But as the book went on, I found myself wondering aloud about what her ultimate point is. When she finally got there, she makes some interesting leaps, not all of which I am sure are completely founded by her set-up, but interesting nonetheless.
It goes like this:
• We are in an era of intense economic Creative Destruction (economic transformation through radical innovation), with Gen Xers leading the charge. This is good and shows our willingness to take risks and innovate. For example, think of Google, Amazon, iTunes, and countless other new companies and innovations.
• The free market is falling into Supercapitalism, which ultimately pits individuals’ needs against the common good (e.g. the worldwide plundering of natural resources; we shop at places like Wal-Mart yet complain about their low wages and union busting). This is bad.
• Far too few Gen Xers are engaged in the public marketplace that reconciles individual needs with the common good. This engagement is fundamental to a healthy democracy.
• If we don’t step up, we risk losing democracy. (For example: China’s Communist-Capitalistic Political-Economic structure shows that democracy and capitalism aren’t mutually dependent.)
• Fixing the situation isn’t going to be fun, but it’s necessary and Gen X has
all the tools to fix it.
These are some serious leaps of logic, obviously written by somebody who has read up quite extensively on economic and political theories—maybe even someone who takes them for granted. This creates the problem that Ms. Chamberlain doesn’t truly take the time to parse out her argument a bit more. Instead, she keeps the book fairly light content-wise (which has its merits), but if you’re going to tell me that democracy is buckling under the weight of capitalism, especially in such a grand fashion in the last chapter, I want some more information. Please.
In spite of these shortcomings, Slackonomics is a short enough read that you aren’t going to be heavily invested time-wise and the return of investment on that time is high. Which is nice. And it certainly made me wonder about design on the highest levels—government, power structures, leadership—which is also nice. But I would’ve gladly given a few more hours of my time for a little less mirror and a little more meat.