A Harvard professor offers an alternative to the dog-eat-dog, winner-take-all system of governance that dominates American culture.
Successfully employed organizational models eschewing “carrot and stick” incentives for more cooperative efforts have succeeded in everything from resuscitating failed automobile plants to putting President Barack Obama in the White House. Benkler (The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, 2007, etc.) even argues—much like an evolutionary psychologist—that cooperation is hardwired into human DNA. The author closely examines the very nature of cooperation in a clearly enthusiastic yet scholarly tone. Far from a panacea, cooperation does entail risks, and Benkler doesn’t shy away from any of them. That demonstration of intellectual honesty gives weight to his argument: There is something better than the outdated, top-down system of governance to which so many still cling. Readers hopscotch through Zipcar, Magnatune, Southwest Airlines, the NUMMI automobile plant in California and other boardrooms where the changeover from compliance to cooperation has translated into cash. The “triumph” indicated by the book’s subtitle is somewhat muted, however, because readers are never left in any one place long enough to gain a palpable sense of the cooperative philosophy in action. Nonetheless, Benkler provides a solid swipe at blind adherence to “free market” dogma.
Comprehensive and provocative.