The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest

Overview

What do Wikipedia, Zip Car’s business model, Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and a small group of lobster fishermen have in common? They all show the power and promise of human cooperation in transforming our businesses, our government, and our society at large. Because today, when the costs of collaborating are lower than ever before, there are no limits to what we can achieve by working together.

For centuries, we as a society have operated according to a very ...

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The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest

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Overview

What do Wikipedia, Zip Car’s business model, Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and a small group of lobster fishermen have in common? They all show the power and promise of human cooperation in transforming our businesses, our government, and our society at large. Because today, when the costs of collaborating are lower than ever before, there are no limits to what we can achieve by working together.

For centuries, we as a society have operated according to a very unflattering view of human nature:  that, humans are universally and inherently selfish creatures. As a result, our most deeply entrenched social structures – our top-down business models, our punitive legal systems, our market-based approaches to everything from education reform to environmental regulation - have been built on the premise that humans are driven only by self interest, programmed to respond only to the invisible hand of the free markets or the iron fist of a controlling government.
 
In the last decade, however, this fallacy has finally begun to unravel, as hundreds of studies conducted across dozens of cultures have found that most people will act far more cooperatively than previously believed.  Here, Harvard University Professor Yochai Benkler draws on cutting-edge findings from neuroscience, economics, sociology, evolutionary biology, political science, and a wealth of real world examples to debunk this long-held myth and reveal how we can harness the power of human cooperation to improve business processes, design smarter technology, reform our economic systems, maximize volunteer contributions to science, reduce crime, improve the efficacy of civic movements, and more.
 
For example, he describes how:
 

   • By building on countless voluntary contributions, open-source software communities have developed some of the most important infrastructure on which the World Wide Web runs
   • Experiments with pay-as-you-wish pricing in the music industry reveal that fans will voluntarily pay far more for their favorite music than economic models would ever predic
   • Many self-regulating communities, from the lobster fishermen of Maine to farmers in Spain, live within self-regulating system for sharing and allocating communal resources
   • Despite recent setbacks, Toyota’s collaborative shop-floor, supply chain, and management structure contributed to its meteoric rise above its American counterparts for over a quarter century.
   • Police precincts across the nation have managed to reduce crime in tough neighborhoods through collaborative, trust-based, community partnerships.
 
A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of cooperation in 21st century life, The Penguin and the Leviathan not only challenges so many of the ways in which we live and work, it forces us to rethink our entire view of human nature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"For the last several centuries, many of our deeply held beliefs have been shaped by the view that human beings are fundamentally motivated by self-interest. In his latest work, Benkler (The Wealth of Networks) challenges this long-held view, asserting that the spirit of human cooperation is stronger than selfishness a view that will likely revolutionize business, economics, technology, government, and human interaction in the future... His pertinent examples bring his ideas to life."
Publishers Weekly

"Yochai Benkler is the smartest thinker we have on the effects of the internet on society. In The Penguin and the Leviathan, he lays out the ways that larger, looser, freer collaborations are transforming how we think about work and about the value we give and get from each other."
—Clay Shirky, bestselling author of Here Come Everybody and Cognitive Surplus

"Benkler speaks the truth on every page -- presenting a brighter vision of human nature that we keep insist on denying for no good reason." 
—Tim Wu, bestselling author of The Master Switch and professor, Columbia Law School

"...a solid swipe at blind adherence to "free market" dogma. Comprehensive and provocative."
-Kirkus

Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385525763
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/9/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 309,174
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 5.92 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Yochai Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard University. Since the 1990s, he has been a leading scholar in the role of collaboration in information technology, business, society, and culture, and his work has been featured in The Economist, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Time Magazine. His previous book, The Wealth of Networks, was named best business book about the future by Strategy + Business Magazine.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The Penguin vs. the Leviathan 1

Chapter 2 Nature vs. Culture: The Evolution of Human Cooperation 29

Chapter 3 Stubborn Children, New York City Doormen, and Why Obesity Is Contagious: Psychological and Social Influences on Cooperation 60

Chapter 4 I/You, Us/Them: Empathy and Group Identity in Human Cooperation 81

Chapter 5 Why Don't We Sit Down and Talk About It? 101

Chapter 6 Equal Halves: Fairness in Cooperation 119

Chapter 7 What's Right Is Right-or at least Normal: Morals and Norms in Cooperation 142

Chapter 8 For Love or Money: Rewards, Punishments, and Motivation 169

Chapter 9 The Business of Cooperation 202

Chapter 10 How to Raise a Penguin 236

Acknowledgments 251

Index 257

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