We are living in a world which is out of balance, and the consequences are proving dreadful. We, as citizens, are concerned about the trends that we observe around us: i) Enough of the imbalance that is causing the degradation of our environment, the demise of our democracies, and the denigration of ourselves; ii) Enough of the pendulum politics of left and right which is proved somewhat dysfunctional; iii) Enough of the economic globalization that undermines our sovereign states and local communities. Moreover, have we not exploited enough of the world's resources, including ourselves as "human resources"? Many people are concerned about these problems, far more than have taken to the streets. We really need an unprecedented form of radical renewal. But, we are inundated with conflicting explanations and contradictory solutions.
In his book "Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right, and Center", Henry Mintzberg (John Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University, Canada) offers a new understanding of the root of our current crisis and a strategy for restoring the balance so vital to the survival of our progeny and our planet. He presents a comprehensive framework, to suggest a dynamic way forward. Mintzberg argues that a healthy society is built on three balanced pillars: a public sector of respected governments, a private sector of responsible enterprises, and what he calls a plural sector of robust voluntary associations (nonprofits, NGOs, etc.). The contents of the book are grouped into five main parts: 1) The Triumph of Imbalance, 2) From Exploiting Resources to Exploring Our Resourcefulness, 3) Three Pillars to Support a Balanced Society, 4) Radical Renewal, and 5) You, Me, and We in This Troubled World.
When the communist regimes of Eastern Europe began to collapse in 1989, Western pundits declared that capitalism had triumphed. Henry Mintzberg thinks that they were wrong - balance triumphed. Communism collapsed under the weight of its overbearing public sector. While the communist regimes were utterly out of balance, with so much power concentrated in their public sectors, the successful countries of the West maintained sufficient balance across their public, private, and another sector - that Henry calls the plural sector. But a failure to understand this phenomenon has been throwing many countries out of balance ever since, on the side of their private sectors. However, the plural sector, the author observes, remains surprisingly obscure, having been ignored for so long in the great debates over left versus right.
Henry Mintzberg puts great emphasis on regaining balance in the society. But, how can we regain balance in our societies? Some people believe that the answer will have to lie in the private sector, namely with corporate social responsibility. This is certainly to be welcomed, but it might compensate for the corporate social irresponsibility that we see around us. Other people expect democratic governments to act strongly. That they must do, but will not so long as they continue to be overwhelmed by private sector entitlements, global as well as domestic. This leaves but one sector, the plural, which is not some "them", but you, me, and we, acting together. We need to engage in social movements and social initiatives that challenge imbalances as well as destructive practices and replace them with constructive ones. Professor Henry Mintzberg rightly reminds us: "We have to leave behind the divisive politics of left versus right, to realize that a healthy society balances a public sector of respected governments with a private sector of responsible businesses and a plural sector of robust communities."
The writer is an independent researcher. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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