It was amusing, and more than a little disheartening, to see the swarm of commentators putting digit to key in recent weeks in response to the latest Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum – a list ranking the world’s nations from most economically competitive to the worst.
From the ‘Top 10 competitive economies’ to ‘the worst economies in the world’, analysis tended more towards either celebration or recrimination over a nation’s respective placement on the list. ‘Are we more competitive than last year? If not, who’s to blame and what can we do about it?’
Absent as always from the discussion was any reflection on what this race for competitiveness actually means. Why has competitiveness become the major measure of value for national performance? What happens if we follow the race to it’s conclusion? Who or what gets left behind when economic competitiveness is pursued more vigorously than, say, climate change agreement or tax regulation?
In my latest piece for the Huffington Post I seek to address some of those questions, and look towards a more cooperative alternative.
I was recently invited to give a guest lecture at the University of Oslo on the role of the global market in undermining national democracy.
In it I described how the national emphasis on economic competitiveness compromises the capacity of political leaders to act on global problems or, indeed, to represent the interests of their citizens. The consequences of this destructive international competition can be felt in all spheres – from the environment to human rights, to tax regulation etc.
It is to these consequences that the work of Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen, who I was fortunate enough to meet following my lecture, is directed. A research director at the Department of Social Anthropology at UiO, Eriksen’s ‘Overheating’ project is an in-depth ethnographic study of the crises of globalisation – including environmental issues, financial and cultural sustainability.
The project, which includes work in Australia, Sierra Leone and Peru, offers some fascinating insight and tangible examples of the negative impacts of globalisation as a process on people and the environment around the world. From it, it is not hard to extrapolate how destructive international competition might have a hand in exacerbating those negative effects.
In this classic TED talk, Eve Ensler proposes that there is a girl cell in us all, one we’ve been taught to suppress.
What Eve calls a ‘girl cell’ describes the vulnerable, creative, emotionally open part of ourselves. What place does that aspect of all of us, men and women, have in our globally competitive world? Could it be the key to rethinking our approach to global change?
In coming months I’ll be thinking and writing more about the relationship between gender, competitiveness, and our aspirations for global governance.
Watch the video in full below…
My article for The Good Men Project – ‘Why I Don’t Want to Be a Mighty Man‘ is now live.
As a businessman I was (and am) aware that the competitive pressure of being a Mighty Man sometimes demands decisions that run contrary to my values. With time I began to realise that although society generally perceives competition to be universally good (the engine of innovation and lower prices for consumers), it also has a dark, destructive side. How many times have you taken a decision you knew to be wrong, justified simply because the alternative might be worse? Under the shadow of competition, its a compromise I became all too familiar with.
In it I share my experiences of the dark side of business, the dangers of competitive masculinity and the self-cooperative potential of therapy.
In the coming months I will be delving deeper into the psychology of competitiveness, and exploring the negative impacts of being a man in business and politics.
You can read more from the Good Men Project, a ‘community of 21st Century thought leaders around the issue of men’s roles in modern life’ at the link.