A Personal Perspective on Conscious Capitalism


[Seven years ago I wrote a short retrospective about the term “conscious capitalism” and my relationship with the phrase. I posted it on my blog at the Global Dialogue Center. Here is an adaptation of that June 2010 article.]

One of the joys of growing older is perspective, or perhaps it has more to do with growing consciousness.  Regardless, I am moved to share a perspective on “conscious capitalism,” a phrase I started using in the early 1990s when I was Editor-in-Chief of New Leaders Press. This was to be the title of a book to be edited by Willis Harman and Joel Kurtzman. Harman, then President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, was my colleague and friend. Kurtzman was then Business Editor for The New York Times, soon to become editor of Harvard Business Review.

The nascent book was to be a collection of essays published as an anthology by various thinkers on the potential of our economic system if we made it more conscious, sustainable and less destructive. Kurtzman had recently published The Death of Money, a sobering reminder of how fragile and dysfunctional we have allowed our economic system to become. For several reasons the Conscious Capitalism book was never fully developed nor published in any form by New Leaders Press, but I loved the title.

A few years later, 1998 as I recall, a colleague, financial advisor and would-have-been contributor to the above planned anthology,  David Schwerin, published a book of the same name.  Amongst other things, his book provided David a huge opportunity to make several trips to China where his ideas were eagerly embraced.

Around 2006, my friend Patricia Aburdene published Megatrends 2010 in which she identified the birth of conscious capitalism as one of the megatrends. She even used the phrase in the book’s subtitle – The Rise of Conscious Capitalism.

 My most recent encounter with the phrase was just a year or so ago [2009]. Whole Foods founder John Mackey and academic Raj Sisodia started using the phrase in their writings which gave rise to the founding of the Conscious Capitalism Institute. Since then, Conscious Capitalism chapters have been sprouting up all over the world.

No doubt there are many other applications of the phrase but these all were close to me, or in some way touched me. I’ve had a “crush” on the concept for almost twenty years now. Other writers may know what that means – to be enamored of a word or phrase –even to the point of thinking it’s your baby. There’s nothing quite as ego-busting as hearing your word or your phrase used elsewhere and thinking “they can’t do that, that’s MY word!”

Because I was involved in book publishing I am aware that titles cannot be copyrighted but my experience is that most people don’t know this. It seems counter-cultural to them in this era of patents and trademarks and branding. For me, it is a lesson in attachment and, once recognized, an opportunity to let go of any emotional, mental or imagined claim of ownership.

The funny thing is that someone probably used it long before I did. That’s the beauty of words. They defy ownership, and are free to land in the hearts and minds of anyone anytime.

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