Summary of The Support Economy

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  • Innovative
  • Visionary
  • Inspiring


This original work by Harvard professor and intellectual Shoshana Zuboff, and philosopher and former CEO James Maxmin may seem utopian. And, to an extent, perhaps it is. The book presents a fantastic future world of commerce, and does so within the strictures of an academic tone, including extensive footnotes. The authors’ ideas seem shy of practicality but quite worthwhile. Surely some businesses already serve their customers more than their shareholders or executives; of course, some companies already provide superior customer service. But even among those stars, few create commercial transactions that not only satisfy customers, but also fulfill and energize them – that’s the authors’ utopian vision. Spreading this attitude throughout the realm of business may be a fantasy, but it sure sounds good. getAbstract thinks this insightful book conveys an imaginative, fresh corporate vision. Will this consumer-based new world unfold precisely as the authors suggest? Probably not. But at least they show what could be, as well as what should be averted: capitalism in its business-as-usual, perverse, anticonsumer mode. If you’ve ever become aggravated trying to make a simple purchase, you’ll understand.

About the Authors

Shoshana Zuboff is one of the first female tenured professors at the Harvard Business School. She wrote In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power, a celebrated classic. Her husband, James Maxmin, Ph.D., is a former CEO of Volvo and Laura Ashley.



“Managerial Capitalism” Is in Trouble

People no longer trust corporations. A majority of Americans (57% in one report) assume that businesses and their representatives are dishonest. Consumers want businesses to put them first, ahead of their shareholders and powerful insiders. However, 43% of executives in one study expressed a preference for focusing on shareholders (and on themselves). People in the U.K. are equally disillusioned with corporations. By a 2:1 margin, respondents to a study said companies do not “help make things better for everyone who buys their products and services.”

Consumers have become far more individualistic. They now insist on “psychological self-determination.” They want corporations to serve their interests. Unfortunately, many consumers do not feel that businesses treat them well. The conundrum is that people have changed and expect more from business, but business – or what can be termed “managerial capitalism” – has not changed. If anything, business is doing a worse job of satisfying people’s needs than it did previously. Business must transform itself. Consumers want a new economic order and that presents a crisis for managerial capitalism...

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