Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mandarin Duo

"A mandarin...is a'powerful official or senior bureaucrat, especially one perceived as reactionary or secretive. Michael Edwards is not a secretive fellow...he is certainly reactionary, and those beliefs have been poured into his new book, Small Change."

Doug Bauer, "A Mandarin's Lament, Review of Small Change: Why Business Won't Change the World, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2010.

"From one mandarin to another" might have been a good subtitle for this review. And according to my Webster's, reactionary means "relating to, marked by, or favoring reaction; esp: ultraconservative in politics." That's not Michael Edwards.

I also found the one-sided dismissal of anything business to be rather old-fashioned and besides the point in 2010. Yet after just reading Michael Lewis's The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, and now the oil spill, I would hesitate making too big a case for the glory of business thinking and ethics.

The mandarin reviewer also forgot to address Edward's argument about the evidence problem for some philanthrocapitalist endeavors. Moreover, dismissing notions of "civil society" and grassroots social change as mandarin or even nonprofit is as myopic as writing off the business community. Not much appreciation of history in this review--or book.

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