Journal Article | Harvard Business Review | September 2011

Global Capitalism at Risk: What Are You Doing About It?

by Joseph L. Bower, Herman B. Leonard and Lynn S. Paine

Abstract

Market capitalism, a system that has proven to be a remarkable engine of wealth creation, is poised for a breakdown. That sounds dire, and it is. Increasing income inequality, migration, weaknesses in the global financial system, environmental degradation, and inadequate government and international institutions are just a few of the forces that threaten to disrupt global market capitalism in the decades ahead. In conversations with business leaders around the world, the authors found that virtually all of them shared a deep concern for the sustainability of the market system, but their beliefs about how to respond varied widely. Some said that changing their behavior would be unnecessary or even inappropriate. Others were unsure how to deal with issues seldom thought to be the responsibility of individual firms. The authors call for business to be both innovator and activist in protecting and strengthening market capitalism. Instead of seeing themselves as narrowly self-interested players in a system that is overseen by others, business leaders must spearhead entrepreneurial activity on a massive scale-devising strategies that provide employment for the billions now outside the system, inventing business models that make better use of scarce resources, and creating institutional arrangements for coordinating and governing neglected and dysfunctional aspects of market capitalism.

Keywords: Disruption; Economic Systems; Globalization; Corporate Governance; Markets; Risk and Uncertainty;

Citation:

Bower, Joseph L., Herman B. Leonard, and Lynn S. Paine. "Global Capitalism at Risk: What Are You Doing About It?" Harvard Business Review 89, no. 9 (September 2011).