“Thinking the Twenty-First Century: Ideas for the New Political Economy” is a multi-disciplinary analysis of human thinking and change in the 21st Century. Malcolm McIntosh in this revolutionary book envisages a commercial world with the community as its central stakeholder and discusses the global evolution of humans as a species. Capitalizing on the 2012 UN report entitled “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing” that suggested a new political economy, he cogently introduces five transitional, nascent, ineluctable, and necessary system changes that are forming the evolution of humanity though a new global political economy for sustainable development (UN, 2012). Professor McIntosh wrote his magnum opus based on the ideas of a multidisciplinary pool of great thinkers and polymaths of the past centuries such as Charles Darwin, Peter Drucker, James Lovelock, Rachel Carson, Peter Higgs, Karl Marx, William Shakespeare, etc. to present a new model for political economy in the 21st century.
He criticizes the blind pursuit of unsustainable growth and financial profit of neoliberal economics where “everything is financialized” and says that this model “enslaves humanity” and “rapes the Earth” and asserts that a new political economy is needed (Piketty , 2014). He distinguishes five system changes that are the integral part of this new political economy, a new form of capitalism. These five system changes are Rescuing Globality (sustainable development and earth awareness), rebalancing science and awe (the evolution of knowledge or the balance of knowing and not knowing), co-existence, peace and feminization (rise of empathy, social cohesion, and decision making feminization), re-organizing institutions and the political economy (changing the way we organize ourselves as humans, our organisations, and our institutions), and the quiet leadership: evolution, adaptation, and learning (surviving based on our ability to learn). He addresses these five interconnected issues collectively and in connection with one another as suggested in systems thinking.
At the age of Anthropocene, a geological era when humans are being recognized as a major source of change in the world, we must undergo a change of consciousness (i.e. Globality or Earth awareness) in preparation for what he calls the planetary or cosmological age (i.e. interdependence) “in order to survive as a species”, he says. As the second change, the author argues for a paradigm shift in thinking, a re-recognition of narrative, awe, or mystery besides hard science. As the third change, Professor McIntosh introduces the concept of feminization that he describes as adopting a softer, more caring and nurturing approach rather than a masculine, demanding, and aggressive which exists today. This new approach considers not only economic issues but also emotional, social, and environmental concerns. The fourth change is about the reorganization of institutions which are not ready for the new age of political economy in light of the previous three changes. The final chapter explores the new political economy, its features, and how it is going to replace the current political economy which is based on neoliberalism with a unique perspective towards evolution, adaptation and learning.
One interesting feature of the book is its cover picture featuring the Antony Gormley magnificent sculptures at the Crosby Beach which has been selected quite ingeniously representing business, environment, technology, and most importantly human reflection. “Thinking the 21st century” is an unputdownable read, not only because of presenting impeccable and diverse ideas, which it does so beautifully, but also for the writer’s audacity to speak the truth as he take us on a journey of his concerns and our world’s predicaments.
To read the academic version of the review please visit:
Piketty, T., 2014. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
UN, 2012. Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing, s.l.: UN.
Amir Hossein Rahdari
CSR and Sustainability Researcher and Consultant
Author: Malcolm McIntosh, Publisher: Greenleaf Publishing
Pages: 260, Published: April 2015