Is global capitalism on its last legs? Is the era of American leadership over? Has the West begun a decline into a new Dark Age? Does American civilization deserve to survive? These are the unnerving questions raised by the Great Crash of 2009.
This book presents a radically new answer, insisting that global society has only begun to realize its full potential. Author Howard Bloom argues that there’s a hidden mandate beneath the surface of capitalism: "It’s struggling to whisper and rumble its message to you and me. That hidden imperative can lift us from economic crisis, can make us a leader in the next-generation economy, and can dramatically upgrade our ability to empower our fellow human beings." Bloom sees crisis as opportunity, opportunity for the whole human race.
In more than eighty short, fast chapters, insights appear suddenly, like the quick bursts of flashbulbs, taking the reader on a sweeping tour of human history, from the Stone Age to the present. Every chapter conveys a radically new way to see the astonishing mechanism we call "Western Civilization." Bloom marvels at how humans have turned toxic waste into food and fuel, trash into treasure, and garbage into gold. He shows how we've produced material miracles based on immaterial things—passion, persistence, and fantasy. He shows that what many regard as the end is just the beginning. The beginning of something you've never before imagined.
The author explains why the secret to capitalism’s next great leap does not lie in new financial tricks, but in tapping things right under our noses in radically new ways—that is, tapping our imagination, our desire to feel useful, our desire to help others, and our desire to be recognized for contributing to the welfare of humanity. The key to next-generation capitalism lies in a big-picture view that's utterly unlike anything you've previously perceived. A big-picture view that will startle you. A big-picture view with which you can ignite the world, get a new handle on your life, and help transform society.
This brilliant, inspirational work of daring ideas and breathtaking research offers more than hope. It offers unseen levels of understanding. Understanding that can literally redefine what it means to be a human being.
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From the Trade Paperback edition.
Read an Excerpt
THE GENIUS OF THE BEASTA RADICAL RE-VISION OF CAPITALISM
By HOWARD BLOOM
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2010 Howard Bloom
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDOES SOUL BELONG IN THIS MACHINE?
Why does capitalism need a radical re-vision?
The first decade of the twenty-first century gave the Western world one skull-cracking slap after another. The attacks of 9/11 and the downing of New York's World Trade Center, the slog in Iraq, the Great Crash of 2008, the implosion of major corporations like General Motors, Chrysler, Merrill Lynch, and Citibank, and the growth of China to superpower status-these were wake-up punches. They handed you and me-CEOs, researchers, artists, students, and thinkers-what may be our greatest opportunity and our greatest responsibility since the Great Depression and the Nazis threatened to topple the Western way of life in the 1930s.
Our civilization is under attack. But many of us don't want to defend it. Why? There's a void in our sense of meaning. We've been told that the "Western system" is one in which the rich stoke artificial needs to suck money, blood, and spirit from the rest of us. We've been told that the barons of industry work overtime to turn us from sensitive humans into consumers-mindless buyers listlessly watching TV while growing obese on the artificial flavors, the chemical preservatives, and the cheap sugars of junk food. And some of that is true.
But the problem does not lie in the turbines of the Western way of life-it does not lie in industrialism, capitalism, pluralism, free speech, or democracy. The problem lies in the lens through which we see.
Emotional flows have powered our past and will drive our future, too. But we've never had the perceptual lens to bring them into view. Capitalism works. It works for reasons that don't appear in the analyses of Marx or in the statistics of economists. It works clumsily, awkwardly, sometimes brilliantly, and sometimes savagely. The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism attempts to show us why.
The Genius of the Beast seeks to reveal the deeper meaning beneath what we've been told is crass materialism. It probes the mystery of how our obsessive making and exchanging of goods and services upgrades the nature of our species, gives us new powers, and endows us with the equivalent of new arms, legs, eyes, and brains.
The Genius of the Beast probes an untold secret of the Western system-we're not mere digits in a numbers game. We're feeling people woven in emotional exchange.
What is the beast? It's Western civilization. A monster with a peculiar metabolism-capitalism. Capitalism is a word that has become, to many, a curse. But beneath the surface, capitalism and the Western system hide astonishing abilities.
The Genius of the Beast stares a blunt fact in the face. Many of today's corporations are creatively and morally asleep. But you and I can wake them in a most ironic way-through a strange but vital upgrade in the richness of our lives.
Every culture needs a creation myth, a vision of how it came to be. That creation myth defines a culture's values and its aspirations. The Genius of the Beast is an attempt to provide a radically new creation myth-a factual creation myth, a creation story based on history and science. The Genius of the Beast is an attempt to give you and me a radically new way to understand our society.
The Genius of the Beast is a quick soar through a jet stream of stories that tell the tale of the rise of a strange creature-Western civilization-and of its capitalist digestive machinery. The Genius of the Beast explores the startling flipside of familiar tales-the way stone tools remade our genes, the way Paleolithic rouge and beads upgraded our ability to think, the way we invented the city, the king who invented money, the secret wonders of Phoenician trade, and the strange ways in which William Shakespeare, P. T. Barnum, J. D. Rockefeller, and the soap and cotton revolution upgraded humanity. Taken together, these episodes reveal an untold story of our origins, a new key to the quandaries of work and daily living, and a new view of our future in a world of instant change. The Genius of the Beast is designed to give you pleasure. But if it succeeds in its mission, it will also give you something extra-a radically new way to see.
Excerpted from THE GENIUS OF THE BEAST by HOWARD BLOOM Copyright © 2010 by Howard Bloom. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
I THE MYSTERY OF MANIC-DEPRESSIVE ECONOMIES....................25
II THE BIRDS AND THE BEES OF BOOM AND CRASH....................57
III HOW PASSIONS POWER THE EVOLUTIONARY SEARCH ENGINE....................95
IV TRUTH IN THE CORRIDORS OF POWER....................147
V THE GREATEST HITS OF HISTORY ... AND HOW THEY GOT TO BE THAT WAY....................175
VI THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF FANTASY....................217
VII JACKING UP THE SYMBOL STACK....................265
VIII THE TRANSCENDENCE ENGINE....................297
IX EMOPOWER: THE LIFT OF GENEROUS SELFISHNESS....................317
X AN EXTRA TWENTY YEARS OF LIFE?....................377
XI IS GOSSIP GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH?....................411
XII THE ROCKET FUEL OF EMPATHY....................453