I LOVE THIS TITLE, BUT IT DIDN’T ORIGINATE WITH ME. It came from Raj Sisodia, professor of marketing at Bentley University and formed part of the title from his book, Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit From Passion and Purpose.

Sisodia is a firm believer that modern capitalism has departed from its early tenets and principles and is suffering a global meltdown in reputation as a result. He co-founded the Conscious Capitalism Institute in order to promote a dual message that capitalism has gone off course but that its recovery is essential if humanity is to progress.

His is a voice we need, in part because we have too frequently castigated capitalism as the great culprit of all our ills when in reality we have also been blessed by it. In our search for solutions as citizens we have taken to simplifying our problems. We have done with capitalism what we did with church, politics, and the media – been so universal in our condemnation that we forget the better qualities of people involved in such institutions. Before we go completely overboard in such an outlook we need to bear in mind some history of what the capitalist movement has accomplished. Consider:

  • Since 1800, average income per capita globally has increased 1600%. The standard of living for average Westerners has increased 10,000% in that time.
  • 200 years ago, 85% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty – a number now reduced to 16%.
  • In that same period, as a result of better material lives, the average life expectancy across the world has increased to 68 years from its historical average of 30 years or less.
  • In the past 40 years, the percentage of undernourished people in the world has dropped from 26% to 13%.
  • In 1800 almost the entire world was illiterate. Today, 84% of adults globally can now read.

All of this forms something of a revelation to many of us and we have overlooked the part the capitalism has played in such development. Today, it is popular to pit capitalism against democracy, but lets remember that it was only 120 years ago that no one lived in countries with governments elected by universal suffrage. As of this year, 53% of people now live in such countries. Most researchers give a large portion of the praise for this development on the economic freedoms provided by capitalism itself.

Clearly there are significant problems in the modern capitalist movement that have had almost universal tragic effects on humanity – environment degradation, the resurgence of the widening gap between rich and poor, the refusal to respect standards and legislation. These are the things that so much define capitalism today and our communities are feeling the effects. Our task should be to call for the reformation of the financial order as opposed to merely condemning it.

These recent posts on the need for such a new enlightened age for capitalism have been predicated on the belief that there is much inherent good yet within the system and that conscientious workers, leaders and investors are attempting to make change – just like churches, democratic parties, governments, and media contributors.

We must begin the process of finding out just who these companies and their leaders are and joining their efforts for a more responsible and community-centered way of doing business. Those seeking reform from within civil society itself must locate and partner with those inside the business community fighting for the same ends. It’s time to stop falling back on the adage that time changes things. Things are so serious at the moment, and the implications so ominous, that it’s time we changed them ourselves.