Systems of Survival

Systems of Survival

A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics

Book - 1992
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The author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities looks at business fraud and criminal enterprise, overextended government farm subsidies and zealous transit police, to show what happens when the moral systems of commerce collide with those of politics. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Publisher: New York : Random House, c1992.
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780394550794
039455079X
Branch Call Number: 174/.4/Jac 43mb 01
Characteristics: xiii, 236 p.

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mikemarotta
Dec 31, 2017

Systems of Survival was in the form of the Dialogues of Plato: guests at dinner parties discussed the topic at hand. The leader of the chat presented current newspaper clippings to illustrate her points. As they argued the pros and cons, the symposiasts created two tallies: the Guardian Syndrome and the Commercial Syndrome. As the treatise developed these were presented as hierarchies.

Loyalty is the primary virtue of the guardian. For the trader, meeting strangers is the essence of their calling.

Honesty for the Merchant is analogous to Honor for the Warrior… but not quite the same thing. The Guardian will deceive for the sake of the task. (Cops lie to suspects in interrogations as a matter of routine.) On the other hand, the Merchant will dissent to achieve the task at hand. Consider the formation of dozens to hundreds of Silicon Valley firms by “traitors” who left one firm to create another. The “task” was always to create the better system: if your employer would not, then form your own firm to serve the needs of the customers.

Jacobs pointed out that we get corruption and moral failures when the two modes are confused and intermingled. Cops must not sell favors. Businesses must not start wars.

h
hari8
Jun 11, 2012

This idiosyncratic little book was recommended to me when first published by the owner of Siliconnections. It is, by far, the most influential 'business' book I have ever read. Yet it is anything but a 'business' book.

ser_library Jul 23, 2010

challenging to read, but worthwhile. i have remembered some of the ideas for more than 20 years.

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