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On Value and Values: Thinking Differently About We in an Age of Me

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On Value and Values: Thinking Differently About We in an Age of Me


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  • Copyright 2004
  • Dimensions: 6x9
  • Pages: 304
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-146125-7
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-146125-3

"OnValue and Values by Doug Smith is a radiant, intelligent, wonderfullyreadable book. It is part adventure story in the spirit of RobertPirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, part guidebook forAmerican leaders like In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and RobertWaterman. This impressive book will challenge everyone who reads it andgive them a blueprint for changing their lives. Virtually every part ofAmerican life has become a marketplace, with the pursuit of prosperitydriving out an appreciation of principle. Smith explains how ourunderstanding about the relationship between these elementary conceptshas been turned inside out. As a compelling alternative, he shows howthe pursuit of personal values we hold dear allows us to increase allkinds of value in our lives."

--Lincoln Caplan, Editor and President, Legal Affairs magazine
"In the grand tradition of Aristotle's Politics, Alexis deTocqueville's Democracy in America, and Robert Putman's Bowling Alone,Doug Smith's book On Value and Values is a passionately written,ethically informed, and carefully researched social commentary. Like hisillustrious predecessors, Smith demands that we think differently aboutwhat community means in our own times. Yet unlike most writers concernedwith building community, Smith is unburdened by nostalgia orsentimentality--this book looks forward to a challenging tomorrow, notbackwards at a lost yesterday. Based on deep thought and on an equallydeep practical knowledge of how modern organizations really work, DougSmith teaches us why we may hope for a bright future and what we need todo in order to get there. I will recommend this book to my students--as Irecommend it to everyone seeking to conjoin material success and ethicalvalues in the 21st century."

--Professor Josiah Ober, Department ofClassics and Center for Human Values, Princeton University
"Talking heads on both the Right and the Left toss around the word'community' these days without bothering to explain what they mean. NowDoug Smith has really worked through what respect, trust and opencommunication within non-hierarchical settings can deliver in terms ofproductivity, institutional responsiveness, and recovered vitality forthe polis. This is a profoundly democratic essay, written withimagination and verve, from someone who clearly cares about goodmanagement but who cares even more about the democratic promise."

--Rev. Peter Laarman, Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church, NewYork City, and founder of The Accountability Campaign
Meaning, not just money: Living better lives in a better world

Have we become half human, half dollar?

Our grandparents lived their lives in families, neighborhoods,towns, and nations. We live ours in organizations, markets, networks . .. sharing life with millions of people we know less well, yet dependupon every day. We build value . . . and worry about values.

What is the meaning and direction of our lives in this differentworld? What do we owe each other now? How do we share responsibility fora future that will not shame our children? Writing with courage, andwithout illusion, Doug Smith helps us answer questions like these . . .and offers us a clear path forward.

This book is about bringing value and values back together in ourorganizations, our markets, our networks, our entire lives. It's aboutreinvigorating old values that can still work for us . . . withoutimposing ideologies from a mythical past. It's about leading good,honorable, and fulfilling lives where we are now . . . and building abetter world out of the one we actually live in.

  • Values that work for the 21st century--Personal and organizational ethics for an age of markets in which we act as employees, consumers,investors, and networkers
  • Shared values, paths, roles, status, and fates--What we share, whatwe don't, and what it means to take responsibility for the fate of ourplanet
  • Reintegrating our fragmentary lives--How markets and organizations divide value from values--and how we can put them back together
  • Rebuilding democracy: beyond anger, apathy, and proceduralism--Healing democracy and extending it to where we really live together
Reconnecting money and values . . . in our lives, our work, our world
  • Revitalizing old values for the radically different world we actually live in
  • How money and ethics were driven so far apart--and what we can do about it
  • Living a good life in our organizations, markets, networks, and friends and families
  • Beyond individualism only: reinvigorating both the "we" and the "I" in our societies, institutions, and politics
  • Taking shared responsibility for making our world safer and saner

Our values and our realities have come apart at the seams. It's timeto put them back together. We were taught 19th century values for a lifeof neighborhoods and extended families, but we're living in 21st centuryorganizations, networks, and global markets in a world that measureseverything in money. That's why we struggle to find meaning . . . tolive a good life . . . to make our societies work. This book is aboutrevitalizing our values for our world. It's about building good andhonorable lives, stronger and more courageous relationships where we are. . . not fantasizing a return to some lost golden age. It's aboutfinding a new vision for ourselves and our institutions, so we can goforward, not back . . . and succeed morally, not just financially.

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Value vs. Values: The Organizational Split

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Table of Contents



 1. On Value and Values.

 2. A World of Purposes, not Places.

 3. The Split.

 4. Explaining Values.

 5. Shared Paths.

 6. Consumers and Employees.

 7. Investors.

 8. Ideas and Purposes, 1.

 9. Ideas and Purposes, 2.

10. Civil Society.

11. Community.

12. Democracy.

13. Governance and Problem Solving.

14. The Greatest Good and the Common Good.

15. Capital and Caring.

16. So What?

17. Illustrative Suggestions.



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As this book reaches readers in the spring of 2004, people the world over, and especially Americans, turn attention to the quadrennial presidential election in the globe's most powerful and influential market democracy. The twin towers of that democracy--individual political liberty and self-interested market economics--took root in 18th and 19th centuries bearing little resemblance to our 21st century. In 1776, the United States formed in revolt against a royal "we" whose oppressions of individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness were intolerable. Today, an opposite condition prevails. Hundreds of millions of people in market democracies across the globe are more absorbed with concerns about "me" than any "we," royal or otherwise.

Today, political liberties are consumed in self-interested markete conomics. This year's presidential contest plays out in markets. A profound 18th century innovation--building a nation in which all are created equal--is today vulnerable to 21st century market, economic, and technological forces that have catapulted concern for value, money, and winning above concerns for political liberties, social equalities, religious faith, environmental stewardship, technological access, medical fairness, and the rule of law. Those other values have note vaporated or disappeared. They pervade and trouble our lives. But, with the exception of religious faith, they have retreated in the face of extreme fundamentalism centered on value and individualism.

Beyond friends and family, we have lost a center of gravity joining value with values. If we look hard enough, we see why: the fragmenting of traditional "we's" in which people share fates because of the places they live together. The split between value and values is a corollary of "I's" who have spun out of orbit from "we's." Those of us who live in markets, networks, nations, and organizations no longer belong to place-based traditional "we's." Therefore, we must learn to think differently about "we" in this age of "me" if we are to have any chance of putting "me" back into "we's" that are real.

This book is a guide for our efforts. Chapters 1 through 3 describe the world in which so many of us live: a world of markets, networks, nations, organizations, friends and family. I call this a world of purposes and contrast it to the world of places our parents and grandparents inhabited. Billions of people on the planet continue to live--and to share fates--because of places. But not us. What we share with others--fates, ideas, roles, relationships--depends more on the purposes we bring to markets, networks, and organizations than the places we reside. Chapters 1 through 3 draw this world of purposes to help you figure out how and why purpose and place shape the values you share with others.

The characteristic ethical challenge in our world of purposes is rejoining value and values. Chapters 1 through 3 recount how concerns for value (money and wealth) have split off and subordinated concerns for other values. Strongly shared and predictable beliefs and behaviors--shared values of all sorts--arise among people who sharer elationships, roles, status, ideas, and, especially, fates. In a world of places, these sources of shared values reinforced one another to produce highly predictable beliefs and behaviors that were sometimes excellent, sometimes atrocious, sometimes indifferent. Our new world of markets, networks, nations, organizations, friends and families has transformed the operation and effects of the sources of shared values.Our shared relationships differ, our shared roles differ, our shared ideas differ. We share fates with other people in friends, family, and organizations, not places. Chapters 4 through 9 describe how humanity's sources of shared values--relationships, roles, ideas, fates--have morphed in markets, networks, and organizations to foster powerful forces with which we must contend if we are to build shared values.

Chapters 10 through 15 recount our contemporary experience of the twin towers of market democracies--political liberty and self-interested economics--as well as a series of corollary values. What we believe and how we behave with regard to liberty and civil society (Chapter 10), community (Chapter 11), democracy (Chapter 12), problem solving and governance (Chapter 13), the common good and the greatest good (Chapter14), and capitalism and caring (Chapter 15) play out in markets, networks, nations, and organizations, and among friends and families, instead of places. We encounter our most fertile experiences of such values in organizations that, in turn, have become the most crucial and real "we" beyond friends and family. Chapters 10 through 15 help us see that, by using organizations to think differently about "we," all of us can act to restore value to the house of values in our world of purposes.

Chapter 16 lays out a five-part strategy for blending value and values in how we live our lives. It delineates a framework for ethical action through which we can reconnect making a good living to leading a good life. Chapter 17 describes a number of specific suggestions fortaking action within the ethical framework of Chapter 16.

That we must find the courage to act is, I think, what Thomas Jefferson would have called self-evident and Adam Smith prudent. The twin towers of 21st century market democracies rise from the works authored by these two men in 1776. That year The Declaration of Independence and The Wealth of Nations launched humanity on a journey toward "I's" and "we's" who could fulfill the best in our natures. That path is now gravely threatened. An extreme individualism equating happiness with value alone now trumps choices and policies made in markets of all kinds, political and otherwise. "We" are in retreat because so many place-based "we's" in which we once experienced shared fates have become the imaginary "we's" of small towns, neighborhoods,and communities in which we don't. Value and "I" can never migrate back into a sustainable blend with values and "we" unless "we's" are realinstead of imagined. Those of us who live in a world of purposes must think differently about the real "we's" of our lives--especially our organizations--and purposefully blend value and values in those "we's" inways that will not shame or condemn our children.

Jefferson and Smith, along with so many others, left us a legacy of celebrated, excellent values. We must act to preserve and extend those values. The twin towers of political liberty and self-interested market economics are our responsibility. Oddly, though certainly, our legacy depends on rediscovering how "we's"--real "we's"--give life to the freedom and happiness of "I's" if we are to save the "I" from self-destruction.We must work together, learn together and pray together in real "we's"so that peace and prosperity spread to all the world, and our children inherit a bountiful and good future to pass on to their children. We must act. But, first we must see who and when we are a real we capable of shared purpose and shared action because the twin towers of freedom and happiness--and the fate of the planet--now belong to us.


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