The Support Economy
by Shoshana Zuboff and James Maxmin
458 pages

The Next Episode of Capitalism

Shoshana Zuboff, a renowned scholar and the author of In the Age of the Smart Machine, and business leader James Maxmin, have examined the history, social psychology and economics of modern business and have concluded, "People have changed more than the organizations upon which their well-being depends." They call this chasm between corporations and consumers the transaction crisis. The Support Economy offers observations and insights that provide ways individuals and organizations can work together to create a stronger economy.

Instead of offering quick fixes for the symptoms of the crisis, the authors critically examine its cause. They write that managerial capitalism has outlived the society it was originally designed to serve. Although it has effectively achieved the mass production of goods and services, individuals still crave more. The authors explain that the next great step in wealth creation depends on the creation of a new form of capitalism, a "distributed capitalism" that is capable of fulfilling the needs of individuals, while exploiting the full revolutionary capacities of digital technology.

Economic Challenges

The authors have divided The Support Economy into three parts. The first addresses the challenges that face our current economy. In it, they explore the structures of the economic revolutions that have taken place over the last century and the rise of standard enterprise logic. The authors investigate the rise of the new society of individuals, individuated consumption, and the new markets for deep support. These new developments present numerous challenges to the status quo of managerial capitalism and the opportunities for wealth creation they represent.

The second part of The Support Economy focuses on the crisis that faces the current economy and what happens when individuals in their roles as consumers confront old organizations. The authors explain how this confrontation creates a transaction crisis, and investigate why standard logic has been unable to tackle the problems that have developed. Along the way, they explore the social psychology of the modern organization, particularly as it helps explain the adversarial relationships that have developed between the world's consumers and producers. The authors also look closely at the range of recent innovations that are supposed to transform organizations and their relationships with customers, and their pitfalls.

The New Enterprise Logic

The third part of The Support Economyis called "Emergence: The New Enterprise Logic." Here, the authors address the opportunities for economic revolution that can be found in the commercial inventions that are intended to help individuals satisfy their need for support. They look into the recent history of electronic commerce for clues about how new technologies can improve the connection between companies and individuals and help to build a support economy. Several "metaprinciples" are offered that redefine the purpose of commercial activity. These include, "All value resides in individuals," and "Relationship economics is the framework for wealth creation." The authors describe the structure and benefits of a new distributed capitalism and the kinds of commercial inventions that could meet the demands of new markets and offer new possibilities for wealth creation.

Why We Like This Book

Looking closely at consumer complaints and examining their deep-seated origins, the authors seriously consider the problems we all face when dealing with technological problems, and offer better ways for companies to help consumers get what they want in work and life. Their historical perspective makes this a well-conceived, thought-provoking book that digs deep into the problems of our current economy and offers a new social movement that could make all of our lives easier and more productive.

Copyright © 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries