How can we create a wealthier, fairer and more stable world? Politicians tell us that we must rely either on big business or big government or, more often than not, both. This is a terrible failure of imagination that ends up keeping the very people and organisations in charge that delivered the most serious economic crisis in eighty years.
Small is Powerful will reveal how our faith in big business, big government and big culture was manufactured in the 1900s by a group of powerful business leaders, politicians and thinkers and how it had a forceful grip on our world throughout the twentieth century.
Even if our political leaders are still in thrall to the 'big consensus' of the last century, a small revolution is already underway. Millions are choosing to set up their own small business rather than work for a giant corporation. Political and social change is increasingly delivered by many small initiatives and campaigns rather than big parties. And, more than ever, people make their own decisions about how to live their lives rather than accepting the rulings of big religious and civil organisations.
Small is Powerful argues that the small revolution must be embraced. A world where power and resources are shared out much more widely will deliver the fairer, stabler, wealthier world we want.
But it is a revolution under threat. Business, politicians and those who think they know best how we should live are fighting back. Small is Powerful is an impassioned plea for 'smallists' everywhere to stand up and be counted.
You can find a full chapter outline here.
[Thanks to Etsy and Impact Hub for additional footage.]
The notion that it was good to have vast concentrations of political power in the state, economic power in large corporations and social power in religious and civil bodies dominated the greater part of the Twentieth Century. This ‘big consensus’ was forged in the late 1800s, grew in influence during the first two decades of the twentieth century and then fundamentally shaped government, business and society from the thirties onwards.
During the 1970s tiny cracks in this consensus began to open up. Thinkers who had been questioning big power for years began to get noticed and small groups of entrepreneurs and campaigners challenged social conformity and pushed back against the dominance of corporations and government.
This was not a unified movement by any means. These ‘smallists’ knew little of each other and would have disagreed on a great deal had they met but in their own spheres they were striking blows against the big consensus in ways which were to have great consequences for the revival of a small outlook in the Twenty-first century.
Mass empowerment is a central them of Small is Powerful. Here's an article I wrote about empowerment and the Fourth Industrial Revolution - an idea that played a big part at the annual Davos meeting last week. I hope you like it and as ever feel free to comment.
Some of you may have noticed Oxfam's report a couple of days back claiming that just 62 people own as much wealth as half the world's population. As equality and the odd way we think about it is a big theme of Small is Powerful I wrote a post responding to the report and the people who have criticised it. You can find it here. I hope you like it.
So the manuscript is in and being copy edited. I can't deny it's been very hard work and taken a lot longer than expected. I have discovered that combining the writing of a book with a full time job (changing full time jobs, in fact) while being Dad to a young family is not something to be taken on lightly. Who knew?
Anyway now I am free of the drafting and looking forward to publication later…
I gave a lecture on Small is Powerful at the RSA a couple of weeks ago. It is now up on YouTube and lasts just over twenty minutes. You can find it here. Enjoy.
A very big thank-you to all the people who helped me reach the funding target for Small is Powerful. You have all been incredibly generous in your support and in your faith in my ability to write something worth reading.
Now I have to get on with it, I guess. However, I don't plan to disappear into a garret for the next few months. I will keep posting here as the research and writing progresses…
Maybe we will look back and see this as one of history’s great coincidences: Henry Ford’s first Model T was manufactured in October 1908; exactly one-hundred years later Bitcoin was launched in October 2008. What’s the coincidence, you may ask.
The Model T paved the way for mass production which underpinned the creation of the vast, centralised and hierarchical corporations that came to dominate…
I have just read Bitcoin: The Future of Money by Dominic Frisby published by Unbound. I read it in one sitting. It is a fantastic and fascinating book.
Dominic makes a compelling case that Bitcoin, or more likely one of its cryptocurrency cousins, spells the end for big government.
He makes the point that the huge expansion of the state in the last century was funded through taxation, borrowing…
I had an article published in the London business paper City AM today. It's here. The article is pretty much a summary of the key themes of Small is Powerful but one issue I cover at the end is how larger organisations, particularly corporations, might have to change to respond to the rise of smaller organisations and networks. It's a theme I'll return to in the book and here in my Unbound 'shed'…
If you read the excerpt from Small is Powerful published on this site, you'll know how important E.F. Scumacher is as an inspiration for the book. Even the title is an homage to his popular work Small is Beautiful.
So I was really pleased to be asked to write a post about the great man for The Schumacher Institute. You can find it here.
I do hope he wouldn't be offended but I've been arrogant…
A quick link to a blog post with the above title which I wrote a couple of days ago for Etsy. Etsy is a very succesful on-line marketplace for arts and crafts micro-businesses and it could easily be a case study itself in how small is discovering new sources of power in the 21st Century. The post seems to have generated a lot of comment from the entrepreneurs who use Etsy. Enjoy!
I was delighted yesterday to see a very nice article by one of my favourite economists Paul Ormerod discussing the themes of Small is Powerful. It appeared in the newspaper for City of London types: City AM. You can read it yourself here.
Just posted this over on my RSA blog. I'll be exploring these themes in more detail in the chapter on 'Small Politics' in Small is Powerful. For me the key is to develop a vision and practice of democracy which escapes the dominance of the 'big' institutions of the twentieth century, in particular, the main political parties.
Britain is in the early stages of a crisis of democracy. Westminster…
China is a grim relic of the Twentieth Century. It is big not just in land mass and population but, more importantly, in its profound attachment to big power. The Chinese revolution happened in 1949 - a time when the love of the big state, big corporation and big, conformist culture was at its peak both in West and East.
This was an era when it was widely assumed that big was more efficient, more…
Just came across another striking quote showing how much the American revolutionaries understood that small is powerful. This one is not from some great historical figure but from a humble petition presented to Congress by the inhabitants of Kentucky in 1784 seeking redress for what they felt was an emerging injustice. It speaks for itself:
Numbers of monied Gentlemen in the settlement, who…
Just posted over at my RSA blog about what a campaign for small politics across the rest of the UK might look like. Feel free to comment. It's here.
It's not just because independence is in the air!
A really important aspect of Small is Powerful is the historical analysis. I am hoping to argue that the 'big consensus' that developed in the twentieth century (the idea that big government, big business and big culture were good) not only grew during the nineteenth century but also represented a major break with how we thought about freedom and…
I've just posted over on my RSA blog about how the psychological shock of a Yes vote in the Scottish referendum should lead to a very different type of politics where people rather than politicians get to shape the major decisions. It's the sort of thinking I hope to develop in the chapter of the book that deals with 'small politics'.
I spoke yesterday at the Imagination Festival in Glasgow in a session cheekily entitled by the organisers 'Size Isn't Everything'. I spoke about the relationship between small power and equality and used this marvellous quote from John Adams, the man who more than any ever helped shaped the US Constitution. For me it sums up a lot about the small vision. In particular, the way small, distributed power…
Before I start posting here properly, I thought I'd point supporters of Small is Powerful to two posts I have written elsewhere about the book.
The first is a synopsis but a lot longer than the one on the Unbound pitch. It's called "Small is Powerful: Escaping the 20th Century love of big power".
The other explains why I think the leaders of the American Revolution had a far better understanding…
To my utter amazement, people have already pledged real money for my book and it's only been up a few hours. A huge thank-you if you have pledged. I'll be posting regularly here in my shed with some formed and, more likely, unformed thoughts about the book as the research and writing continues. Really looking forward to engaging with you generous people.
Small is Powerful: why the era of big government, big business and big culture is over (and why it’s a good thing)
Contents and Structure
Chapter 1: Introduction
Our world will be more free, stable, fair and creative when power and resources are less concentrated in big organisations and more widely distributed amongst smaller organisations…
These people are helping to fund Small Is Powerful.