I was in Shoreditch on Friday, and passed by an installation called “Capitalism Works for Me”, part of the 2 Degrees festival. You have a think about the question, maybe have a chat, press a button to vote, and get a sticker.
The artist, Steve Lambert, has been asking people across London whether Capitalism works for them – here’s his video from that day of the installation:
We had a chat about the nuanced set-up of the question when I was there; does it work for me?
At one level, you can quite readily think about ‘me’ as the immediate things that affect you; your job, circumstances, monthly pay packet, career prospects. Things that form the immediate relationship between the system and you. But the further away things get from you, the more subjective judgement becomes on exactly what capitalism is doing for you. Perhaps as a broad rule of thumb, if you’re doing well, you’re probably in favour. If you’re disadvantaged, you’re probably after some form of change.
Resolving the tension between the two things in sustainable ways is what keeps everything ticking along, of course. Elizabeth Warren encapsulates that best, perhaps:
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
What it does demonstrate is that it’s hard to view a system objectively whilst you’re a part of that system, no matter how well intentioned or honest you are.
Beyond the broader economic/political perspective, this has made me satrt thinking about when I’m working with a company from the outside; what does ‘me‘ mean in the context of a company that you might be working in and looking to improve?
What’s the equivalent of building the roads and an education system that will benefit the business long after you’ve left? How do you make sure your people are thinking about long-term benefits rather than short-term personal KPIs?
In short, what if you asked a question as punchy and provocative as Steve’s, but inside your own company?
“Is Our Strategy Working For Me?”