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Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  348 ratings  ·  55 reviews
A renowned Harvard professor debunks prevailing orthodoxy with a new intellectual foundation and a practical pathway forward for a system that has lost its moral and ethical foundation.
Free market capitalism is one of humanity's greatest inventions and the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen. But this success has been costly. Capitalism is on the verge of
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 28th 2020 by PublicAffairs
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May 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
I am a big fan of Professor Henderson's paper on Architectural innovation (Henderson and Clark 1990), but unfortunately this book fails to convince me that a business-led change can work. Even the most progressive-minded corporate executives face constraints due to their positions in a capitalistic system: either maximize profit, or lose to competitors and get fired by the board. While the book provides cases of firms that managed to increase profit by going green via architectural innovation, ( ...more
Rick Wilson
Worst book of 2020. I disliked this book so much that it actually concerned me a little bit.

This book is bad business fanfiction and anyone who reads it is probably worse off for having done so. Someone told Rebecca Henderson “shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.“ So she tried to write a book about “reinventing capitalism“ but instead of landing among the stars or on the moon, her book exploded during takeoff. She doesn't reimagine capitalism. She can barely reimagin
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read for our time. I’m inspired by the author’s commitment to a shared value growth model for business and being unsympathetic about it. I agree with this blueprint for a path to a better, sustainable and regenerative future for all people and living beings.
Miranda Debenham
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
You know that feeling when something amazing is about to happen? The music is building and your nerves are on fire and you're so close, teetering on the edge-- and then nothing. Cliffhanger ending, series cancellation, batteries died. You can feel it in your teeth. This book is that, for socialism.

I hate-read this book. I knew I wouldn't agree with it from the moment I read the blurb - "Capitalism is the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen." - and I was not disappointed. The a
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How to reimagine capitalism? From a Harvard Professor teaching MBA students:

1. Find value: a Norwegian recycling company found that proper recycling (rather than dumping waste illegally) generated high value recycled steel and other useful products, improving profits!

2. Investor activism: BlackRock demands the businesses they invest in has sustainable practices, not making profits by creating negative externalities.

3. Greenpeace: exposed polluting palm oil practices in Malaysia and Indonesia t
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you're lookung for suggestions about how individuals can impact climate change and suggestions for one's mid-level boss, this is not it. But it is an excellent summary of how a lot of companies are doing a lot of things right for the planet and humanity. I found it uplifting, ultimately. I can only hope lots of business leaders read this take it to heart, and take massive action. Kudos to the author, who put together an excellent book. Highly recommended for readers seeking hope and leaders t ...more
Kyle Weil
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire brought me back to my economic development days when I read book after book preaching the importance of equity, strong institutions, and a guiding purpose. Henderson distills these economic theories into an easy to understand micro-level guide on how businesses can make these changes themselves. Henderson specifically focuses on preventing climate change, reducing inequality, and strengthening the pillars of democracy.

Henderson's basic argument is that c
Oct 29, 2020 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
If something has served you well and then breaks, do you throw it in the garbage? Or, being the good environmentalist you are, do you instead try to fix it?

Modern capitalism is showing signs of wear. As a result, many people want to trash it in favour of something new. Henderson has written a book for the people out there who recognize that capitalism is the best economic system we've got, but who also think that its current American incarnation has some serious problems.

Is capitalism compatibl
Diane Deng
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
For a long time, I've been pessimistic about the future of the planet and feel powerless to make any significant change. This book shows me how this mindset is not necessarily right, by showing examples of purpose-driving companies, sustainability-driven financial metrics, countries that have achieved long-term sustainable economic growth by sacrificing immediate benefits. Moreover, it shows how each individual can make a difference in our daily lives and our seemingly ordinary roles.

Indeed, th
A bunch o fun facts on companies that managed to take envionmental or social action whilst getting more profitable. But to reimagine capitalism, as the title suggests, recquires more than mere anecdotes, and needs a framework that deals with theory, application on a grand scale, replicability, as well as an analysis for what's right, what's wrong, why is it that way, and how to change and replicate to other industries.
As a business case review, the book is fine, but the title has little to do wi
John Hopkins
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Professor Henderson writes engagingly and with a clear sense of hope. The book is filled with inspiring examples of people who saw a wrong or a need and found a way to address it. She makes an important point that the leaders we remember are so often people who just stepped out in front of a movement that was already underway at a grassroots level. Thus, don't wait for someone to wave the banner for change. Do what's right, wherever you are, and your action and example will spread. It helps if y ...more
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pop-econ
i had high hopes for this book after hearing her in an interview. instead it's a hobbled mix of smiley business stories and winnie the pooh quotes. very little rigor or substance ...more
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Insightful, practical and optimistic!

I had first come across Rebecca in a GIIN podcast in summer of 2020 promoting this book. Frankly I felt she was super American (ironically she is originally English) in her optimism towards the private sector being more purpose driven.

This book however is not just about that optimism and the private sector- it is flooded with well researched examples and case studies to back up ESG/impact values. However more so and very importantly it moves from how govt an
Gray Somerville
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business, big-ideas
This is a very thoughtful, well-researched, well-written book on the role that businesses and business leaders can have in bringing capitalism back in line with human thriving. I found it both inspiring and instructive and highly recommend it to all business leaders who are striving to do good while doing well.
Ben Rogers
Jan 23, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All
I enjoyed this one. Another important read.

Good points about the climate crisis, issues such as income disparity - CEO profits, etc.

It was a little heavy on the social justice side, but I really enjoyed it!

Marvin Saccucci
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. Gives a great overview of all of the different parts of business that we need to re-think if we want to create a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable world: changing corporate structures, maximizing stakeholder value, moving away from a profit maximizing finance industry towards impact investing, creating collaborative industry associations, improving ESG indicators, updating outdated accounting systems, and the role of government and public policy to account for externalities ...more
Justin Nipko
Jul 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Another book that should’ve been an article. Great in theory, but I’m not sure how you really change the underlying economic incentives to make her ideas work. Should private businesses have a more vested interest in the social good? Yes. Are the long term economic benefits too remote and abstract to motivate them to do so? Probably.

Great ideas and clearly written, but it just took too long to explain something that doesn’t seem realistic to me.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
A small minded governmental bureaucrat going straight for the same argument in the last century : give himself more power and hopefully a bigger cut from the taxes collected by the State. At every page turn, as in the old zombie movies you don't hear "Braaaains!", but "Power!"

In itself the discourse is not original in any way. A century ago Bolsheviks were seizing the power and started systematically killing the peasants "for the common good". In 2020 this bureaucrat is ready to seize the power
Juan Farfán
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to understand how the private sector can solve our greatest problems of climate change and economic opportunity this is the book. Firms must focus on value not only money, finance must be reformed, investors can change their incentives, self regulation is a great tool, and there is no dichotomy between the government and the private sector. For a free society both are necessary. Rebecca Henderson wrote a wonderful book and all based in hard evidence
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Many interesting ideas and insights into how modern socioeconomic changes are shaping business world. In addition the book provides profound picture of how the smaller nations with little to no natural resources managed to succeed in building a prosperous countries.
Jan 31, 2021 rated it liked it
I have two more chapters to finish, so I will update this review when I've finished the book.

The book details many case studies in reshaping companies to take into account their impact on the environment and society in an effort to convince business leaders to voluntarily change their behavior. The author has excellent ideas and makes a clear case for why "changing the architecture" of the way businesses are conceived and run is a necessary public good. It's an admirable project, but the author
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book shed light to the notion of capitalism - starting from how it all begun, making rampant in the late 90s, and compromising social and environmental in its maturity. Of course, one can already without a read, to conclude that her point was made to overthrow capitalism. But unlike other books that criticize matters without trying to be on that side, we are quickly pulled to certain tendencies.

I'm no expert in economics, but I enjoy reading this accessible books: I think she dedicates it f
Nov 26, 2020 rated it liked it
The thing I liked about this book was the many examples of purpose-driven firms that have decided to make a difference in the way the world works. I felt like I knew a lot of what she was talking about, though, probably from other readings, but this would be a good primer for someone just trying to learn how stake-holder vs shareholder could make a big difference in the world.
After reading the whole book, her suggestions of what you (the reader) can do were a nice addition. Books like this can
Cathy Jaskiewicz
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was eminently readable and interesting, even for non-business entrepreneurs, who seem to be the target audience. It assumes a knowledge of basic economics & business, but explains all in terms a layperson can understand. Henderson is asking us to take action to "reimagine capitalism" in ways that make the world a better place environmentally, socially, systemically ("creating value") while still fulfilling the necessity of making a profit. It's inspirational and positive, without sugar ...more
Dan Finkelman
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book. Insightful, thought-provoking, and readable. Rebecca Henderson provides an erudite and informed look at the major problems confronting America and the rest of the world (climate change, inequality, misallocation of resources) and provides cogent analysis of how the problems came to be, the imperative of solving them, and what actions are required for those problems to be solved. She is able to provide the economic and political elements that are the cause and what could ...more
Stephen Rynkiewicz
Now that we're all thinking about systemic change, it's worth considering how climate change shifts costs to the disadvantaged (subsistence farmers, asthmatic children, polar bears ...). Henderson finds comfort in exceptions to business as usual--companies driven to do the right thing by supply chain issues, market opportunity or just bad PR. A system that respects minorities would do a better job of respecting the environment. Will corporations come to see tyranny as one more business risk? Tha ...more
Aditya Shevade
I read this because I found the author level headed when I heard her with Russ in econ talk podcast. The book, for the large part, does a very good job of showcasing how businesses, of their own accord, have benefited the society.

Any calls for regulation to enforce this should be considered a slippery slope. I would rather those chapters were omitted.

Finally - there was a rant about LGBTQ representation and treatment which was nothing but a ploy to sell more books. It has no place in re-imaginin
Oct 28, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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