Press Kit Contact Buy Clark Aldrich Designs Bio Books and Articles Blog, Facebook, and Twitter

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The New Existentialism? Are We Seeing The End of "Faith in Institutions" and the Birth of White-Collar Homesteading?

Are we are seeing the end of "faith in institutions?" If so, it has not come suddenly. This may becime the reasoning and new thinking:

HBO's "The Wire" documented and forecasted it. BP's monument in the Gulf to greed and incompetence just visualized it.

The false productivity philosophies of metrics and accountability have created cultures that hugely reward the "management" of value (read that, zero sum clawing of credit and hollowing out of others' work) rather than the creation of it. Sharp elbows, spinning, and relentless self promotion have become better adaptations and predictors of success than innovation. Ambition and entitlement have become dissassociated from competence or vision. As a result, people are busier than ever and getting less done.

Dilbert creator Scott Adam's term Confusopoly reigns as a model. Here institutions are most successful when they baffle and trap both the consumer and employee for exploitation, rather than meet their needs more efficiently than others.

The New York Times Pulitzer prize winning reporter and columnist Thomas Friedman used to write about "the golden straight jacket." In this model, people and companies and countries had to follow strict rules, but in exchange got access to huge wealth. Today, the gold is gone. For many people, the model of mainstreamed society has become a lead straight jacket in a pool of leeches and ticks.

It is no wonder that we are seeing the emergence of what can only be called "White-Collar Homesteading." More and more people are trying to untangle themselves from toxic institutions, from box stores to, in some cases, schools, and taking control of their own lives.

Emerging "white collar farmers" (I first used the phrase in a Businessweek article here) and homesteaders are working for themselves, creating a productive quilt of relationships, highly leveraging all different forms of technology, from blogs to LinkedIn to video Skype to Google Docs. They tightly collaborate with institutions, and add huge value, but do not rely on any one.

The faux safety of compliance (and the corresponding near-full time job of "making your boss look good") has been replaced with an accute need to actually be highly productive. And corporations are flocking to these "WiFi homesteaders" as consultants who actually get a lot done, and who learn faster and have a richer perspective than anyone on staff.

We may simply be in the death throes of the baby boomers' time at the helm. But seeing how many Gen Xers and Gen Yers have not just embraced but even refined their philosophy makes one think that the return to independence may be both inevitable for moral, productive individuals and collectively necessary for the improved wealth of nations.


  1. ::wildly applauding:: Very well said, thank you, Clark.

  2. Well said, Clark. Both profound and entertaining.

    Aren't we going from faith in institutions to faith in individuals?

    Dan Pink's "Conceptual Age" is arriving. Right brains trump left. In Berkeley, we'd call it "Power to the People."

    I'm optimistic we'll overthrow the bullshit institutions. You?


  3. Hi Jay!

    The post above this one should point to you!

    To your point, the true "bubble" may be the modern institution. This will pop, no matter how much governments prop them up.

  4. From my perspective (as a mother following natural patterns of mothering) this change can also be read as a rediscovering of our own human instincts and the knowledge built from experience based on the nature of humanity (rather than just on head-thinking or intellect alone). In this way, yes, we in the west are moving (back) towards faith in ourselves. Next we must reshape our institutions to be based on that. At last! And can we do it quickly enough to save our whole world?