My November/December reading list

business books

Part of my research involves a content analysis of recent and current managerial literature. The inspiration for this study came from Nigel Thrift’s book “Knowing Capitalism” (2005). Thrift argues that the coming into existence of modern capitalism (or soft capitalism as he calls it, or the network economy as I call it) is predicated upon the the continuous production of propositional and prescriptive knowledge. But where does this knowledge come from? Thrift identified in business schools, management consultants and management gurus the main responsible for its production. Together, they constitute what he calls “The Cultural Circuit of Capitalism“, a network of institutions dedicated to the analysis and codification of capitalist production and subsequent theorization in the form of business knowledge. This body of knowledge is a relevant and rich research site for two reasons.

First, this literature is the place where institutions of modern capitalism’s express their own critique about current forms of capital accumulation. By critiquing the status quo, these institutions enact what Boltanski and Chiapello call “displacement“: the incorporation of critical values into capitalist ideology (2007). By means of small and constant micro displacements, capitalist ideology is continually updated in order to fit with the cultural framework in which production takes place.

Secondly, business literature informs the work of people involved in flexible capitalism. It does so by creating and fostering the diffusion of new work practices, technologies and subjectivities. This does not mean that what people do, how they do it and how they experience their work lives depend solely on what the literature prescribes. Nevertheless, this knowledge provide important cultural references against which compare the lived experience of people working in the network economy.

Things have changed significantly since 2005, the year in which “Knowing Capitalism” was released. Today the Cultural Circuit of Capitalism is more complex and ubiquitous. Gurus, consultants and business schools are no longer the privileged members of this network. What we have witnessed in recent years is a proliferation of forms and platforms through which business knowledge is produced and conveyed. From blogs, to podcasts (e.g. Mixergy, Tropical MBA), to self published e-books, subscription clubs (e.g. Dynamite Circle), local events (e.g. business Meetups), and to some extend even prime time TV shows (e.g. Shark Tank).  Aware of this complexity, I am taking a first step into the Capital Circuit of Capitalism by reading (or re-reading in some cases) some of the most often mentioned books about startup and entrepreneurship. These initial collection of books was assembled by scanning the New York Times Business bestsellers chart and through reading recommendations collected through my interviews. I am planning to read these in the

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

Chris Guillebeau

The 4-Hour Workweek (Expanded and Updated): Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

Timothy Ferriss

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It

by Chris Voss

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

by Eric Ries

Principles: Life and Work

by Ray Dalio

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

by Anand Giridharadas

How To Win Friends & Influence People in the Digital Age

by Dale Carnegie

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

by Peter Thiel

Works mentioned

  • Boltanski, L., & Chiapello, E. (2007). The New Spirit of Capitalism. London, UK: Verso.
  • Thrift, N. (2005). Knowing Capitalism. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
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