It’s suddenly become the Zeitgeist
Updated: Jan 27, 2022
When I was writing the manuscript for the book during the 2020 lockdown (seems an age
ago now), I wondered whether the subject matter would catch on. Would there be interest
in looking at business as a political player and the role of business leaders as a political as
much as an operational one? Or would it all be dismissed as something being pushed by
someone with a hobby horse?
Well, it seems that the subject is now a fully-fledged part of the Zeitgeist.
The 14 th January edition of the Financial Times’s Moral Money column was titled “Why
businesses are becoming more political.” The January 15 th edition of The Economist has as its cover title “Beware the bossy state” and a whole special report on how states have become more interventionist and expecting business to participate in delivering what they see as political imperatives. There is much that is true in the Economist’s coverage. But, by continuing to look at the world through the obsolete lens of neoliberalism, the newspaper also, in my view, misinterprets what is happening at core.
Here is a copy of the letter I wrote to the editor in response (we’ll see whether they choose
to publish it):
Your Special Report about the changing relationship between business and the state is right on point. We have indeed entered a new era in state-business relationships. It is, however, mistaken to describe this as an era of the bossy state just as it is incorrect to describe what it is replacing as & liberal capitalism.
The globalised, laissez faire, neoliberal Washington Consensus has resulted in an era of
financialized capitalism where business developed too narrow a view of its role - to funnel
financial wealth to shareholders - whether that wealth was truly created or simply
transferred from social and environmental capital to financial capital increasingly
concentrated in fewer hands.
What we are seeing is a socio-cultural re-evaluation that calls for a much more
significant role for business: to contribute to the creation of a better society. What
constitutes a better society is a purely political question making state involvement not only
inevitable but essential to democratic legitimacy.
The emerging Cornwall Consensus prioritises a politics that moves proactively to shape
markets to deliver a better political economy. We are witnessing the development of a new
In true liberal tradition, your newspaper should welcome change to the ageing status quo
and abandon the false neoliberal/statist dichotomy.”
Finally, 18 th January 2022 and Martin Wolf in the Financial Times writes ($) his usual
trenchant commentary in an article titled “Business leaders have to play a better political
role” with a sub-heading ‘Like it or not, they are potent players in our fragile democratic
politics and in global decision-making.’
Business and politics are inseparable. The relationship is as complex as it is dynamic. And it
is becoming ever more relevant to sustainable business success. These are the central
messages from the book. And it seems I needn’t have fretted too much as to whether that
idea would get traction or not. But I guess all authors fret as to whether what they’re
writing about will get any traction or simply fall flat.
I look forward to others’ ideas on the subject as they emerge.