The Penguin and the Leviathan: The Triumph of Cooperation over Self-Interest

Yochai Benkler. Crown Business, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-52576-3
For the last several centuries, many of our deeply held beliefs have been shaped by the view that human beings are fundamentally motivated by self-interest. In his latest work, Benkler (The Wealth of Networks) challenges this long-held view, asserting that the spirit of human cooperation is stronger than selfishness a view that will likely revolutionize business, economics, technology, government, and human interaction in the future. To make his point, Benkler draws on the philosophy of 17th-century scholar Thomas Hobbes, whose seminal book, Leviathan, used the metaphor of the Leviathan, a monstrous biblical sea creature, for his image of a strong sovereign power protecting a selfishly motivated society. In today's world, however, says Benkler, there is considerable evidence that self-interest and the failure of Leviathan-like governments have actually led to the collapse of our economic systems. Instead, he asserts, individuals are more likely than ever to act altruistically and actually prefer a culture of collaboration. Benkler maintains that we already see the rise a new cooperative economic structure, and he cites as evidence the explosion of social media, open source software, and new business models like Zipcar or the NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.) joint venture between General Motors and Toyota. While Benkler has a distinctly academic point of view, his voice and tone are conversational, and his pertinent examples bring his ideas to life. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
Ebook - 115 pages - 978-0-307-59019-0
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-96911-8
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