PGI Picks #12: A Four-Hour Workweek and a World Without Poverty

A series highlighting our team’s book, film, and podcast recommendations in the post growth and sustainability realms.

Austin Kleon via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Jen Hinton

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism — Muhammad Yunus

I picked up this book because I was (and still am) interested in the power of replacing the profit motive with other goals.

Social goals, environmental goals, and health goals. I had heard that the nobel prize laureate, Yunus, believes that establishing businesses based on goals beyond the profit motive will acknowledge “the multi- dimensional nature of human beings.” and that “As social businesses begin to flourish, existing free markets will begin to change in response to the new, broader model of human behavior they embody”. I was keen to learn more!

Split into three sections the book begins by outlining the social business model, moves on to detail its success in the world’s first and largest microfinance Institution (Grameen Bank, Bangladesh), and then concludes with a broader third segment on Poverty, delving into climate change, other environmental challenges, fossil fuel dependency, and other topics.

The 4-Hour Workweek — Timothy Ferriss

It was an enjoyable read, and, dipping in and out of a narrative style approach, was quite easy also. I enjoyed his thoughts on the importance of the non-loss, non-dividends companies that constitute the social business model but there were many other lessons that I took from the book that I’ve come across, but not wholly perceived in the past. Yunus writes about the importance of empowerment through self employment. How so many incorrectly believe that large bodies must create jobs in order for people to work, but in fact there are many productive pursuits that individuals can undertake if they are only empowered to make steps in those directions.

If I had to choose one word to describe this book it would be “wise”. I believe that all those heading into the aid and development space should delve into this wisdom before making some of the many mistakes that seem to be repeated globally in this space. One quote from the book comes to mind in particular; “ Paternalism, however well-intentioned, leads only to a dead end”.

WOW is probably the word that sums up this book the best. It covers so much, from confidence issues, to outsourcing your life to what to do with the free time that it’s possible for you to create.

As the title suggests, the main premise of the book is that you don’t have to work half as much as you do and, using the techniques and ideas in the book, can make your life more exciting by a factor of a lot.

“virtual assistants bring eccentric billionaire behavior within reach of each man, woman, and child. Now, that’s progress”

As the above excerpt could indicate, for me the 4-hour workweek was a bit of a “separate the techniques from the application” exercise, but what techniques they are!

This book covers ground that I didn’t know even existed, and, from the point of view of someone who thought they were a pretty efficient and effective worker (me), it was a humbling and at the same time inspiring read.

This book has given me a lot to think about and, with its lists of actions and points for further explorations, a lot to act upon as well.

In the style of Tim Ferriss, I’ll offer a guarantee; that this book has in it something for everyone. I suggest at least a speed read for those who are super time pressed (the book covers speed reading too). In fact, if you’re super time pressed, then this book is definitely for you.

Zizek on his (soft) apocalyptic vision: “We are approaching a certain zero point… we are approaching a certain point where…[with]all the cherished values of liberalism [individualism, egalitarianism, meliorism, universalism], the only way to save them is to do something more.”

At first in this animated short it may seem that Zizek is arguing against helping others-he does paint a rather dismal view of charity and charitable giving. Yet Zizek is also arguing that a specific structural/systemic type of capitalism as being a root of the problems of inequity and inequality; against blind capitalism with a cultural aspect which further ignores-or purposely disguises-what the actual outcome is of a capitalist system which still hinges upon the same inequity and inequality.

It’s not an easy idea to stomach: that those purchases, those donations, and those groups we support may actually do little more than continue to drive the system which creates the problem. I don’t think anyone gives to their local donation center, or a favorite NGO, and means to contribute not to alleviation of the issue, but to the deterioration of the global world on social and ecological levels. Yet if one acts with sympathy, rather than empathy and understanding, this is often the outcome.

It’s an interesting introduction into the ways in which capitalism as a system, as it exists today, is not only still driving inequity and inequality, but also manages to feign some sort of compassion within the system through cultural capitalism and improper charity. Food for thought about whether or not it’s enough to buy organic apples, or if maybe the real good lies in buying organic apples from a local farm, when they’re in season.

Originally published in March 2013. To Find out more about the Post Growth Institute, visit our website.

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