Sunday, April 14, 2013

Exposing the Ugly Truth about Innovation Propaganda

In "Asia: 'The Explosive Transformation,'" in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, Pankaj Mishra uses a review of three satirical books about financial success in Asia to expose many of the myths being pushed by those who promote, as I previously put it, "the Kool-Aid of prioritizing technological innovation above all other matters." Mishra is almost painfully explicit in distilling his argument to a single paragraph:
Innovation and originality don’t take you very far—and indeed there are few rags-to-riches stories coming out of India, where old, established business families and active investors in property development, construction, and mining dominate the economy. What is most lucrative for disadvantaged outsiders in this context is calculated conformity with the model of success—once it has been identified. Achievement doesn’t lie so much in the goods or services a businessman offers as in his projection of an appropriate personality. Hence, the rapid proliferation of certain types—the manufacturer of knockoff goods, the huckster, the fixer, and the middleman—who now make up an entire social class in Asia’s still largely informal and unorganized economies.
It would appear that, in a consumerist society motivated only by greed, the very concept of value is yet another casualty in Max Weber's prediction of loss of meaning.

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