THE AGE OF PARADOX by Charles Handy


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 As a graceful and challenging follow-up to The Age of Unreason (1990), Handy makes a pitch for more humanely adaptive responses to the convulsive transformations he says are in store for the industrial West. The author, a consultant, concedes that socioeconomic change has proceeded at an appreciably faster and more deranging pace than he had anticipated, creating a fresh new series of puzzlements. One paradox is that organizations and institutions are becoming simultaneously larger and smaller (e.g., the reorganization of IBM into component companies). Many companies have obliged workers to become more flexible and to act with a previously discouraged level of independence. Among the consequences that Handy admits he failed to foresee are that opportunities for personal fulfillment would be complicated by demands for ever greater efficiency, that the price of success would rise to intolerable levels, and that welcome new freedoms would be achieved at the cost of old equalities. This time around, the author examines a wealth of possibilities for reconciling the apparent contradictions of a brave new world in which megacorporations have been cut down to size and have pared their payrolls to subsistence levels, imposing onerous burdens on layoff survivors. Among other proposals for achieving a kinder, gentler workplace, he commends the existential enterprise (a philosophic extension of the stakeholder concept, which holds that companies should serve a host of constituencies as well as their investors) and subsidiarity (Handy's alternative to the still trendy notion of empowerment). He also addresses such knotty issues as the difficulties involved in establishing ownership of intellectual property, putting a price on knowledge, and the implications of what he terms ``portfolio careers''--the increasing number of freelance contractors in a service economy. While he urges individuals toward self-reliance, Handy also calls for innovative means to chase the ends of a more just polity and more inclusive sense of community. Anecdotal antidotes to the discontents and discontinuities of the present fin de siäcle from a lively and open mind. (First printing of 30,000)

Pub Date: March 31st, 1994
ISBN: 0-87584-425-1
Page count: 304pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1994