Dr. Jeff Trexler, JD is a mensch. Here he in the Chronicle of Philanthropy ebulliently debunking the Social Enterprise bubble:
Movements, like markets, can experience destructive bubbles. The same rhetoric that expresses the spirit of an age can seem a dead language once that moment has passed....enterprise is as much a product of the latest market bubble as subprime loans and credit-default swaps. The tragic result is that the movement has fetishized a commercial world it barely understands....
Predictions of a shift toward socially conscious capitalism or the transformation of charity into social business have no basis in economic theory, historical experience, or the dynamics of linguistic evolution. They are wishful thinking, pure and simple, and a betrayal of the rigorous strategic analysis that social enterprise says it represents.
Jeff is a profoundly learned man who carries his learning so lightly that you hardly notice its depth. His critique of social venture thinking is decisive. He, towards the end, lets up a little and says that social venture theory is a human all too human search for meaning in the mundane. In Jeff's work I sense his own unstated and unfulfilled quest for the transcendent or some ideal impervious to debunking and worthy of faith and sacrifice. He is a theologian in nonimalist guise. Or, he is a theologically trained thinker whose nominalism is both an antidote and a curse. When he is able to draw on his theological, philosophical, legal, and aesthetic training to point the way to a more just and noble way of life, based on business, government, faith, art, comix, and civil society, we will have found our new Marshall McLuhan. Today he is a devastating critic of facile and fashionable syntheses; when his work is fully achieved, he will provide a mature, life-enhancing, synthesis of his own. (I can't wait to read it.) His interest in Aristotle seems a very promising foundation for a theory of happiness, nobility, magnanimity, and justice in cities, kingdoms, and companies we build on earth, whether there be a heaven or not.
Someone had to burst the bubble, if only it were done sooner. Sometimes the sharpest barbs are not the most effective.
Posted by: Michael Maranda | November 25, 2008 at 01:56 AM
Yes, it reminds me of an Oxford Philosophy Tutorial in which an experienced professor takes apart an undergraduate's glib position and shows how it might be put back together. Jeff is half laughing, which takes some of the sting out of his devasting critique. There is some benefit to be gotten by deep immersion in the liberal arts.
Posted by: Phil Cubeta | November 25, 2008 at 01:15 PM
"And if I laugh at any mortal thing
'Tis that I may not weep."
Well, actually I learned that from an old DC comic in which Alfred explained to Bruce Wayne what Elongated Man meant by his cryptic reference to Canto IV of Don Juan, but the sentiment still holds.
Posted by: Jeff Trexler | November 25, 2008 at 02:31 PM
"What Fools the mortals be," as, I think it was Puck, said in A Midsummer's Night Dream. Business is as fertile a source of metaphors as agriculture.
Posted by: Phil Cubeta | November 25, 2008 at 03:55 PM
The Bubble of Vanity in derivative forms: physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, and of which, I am the thorn :)
Posted by: @harrylyme | November 26, 2008 at 03:18 PM
Harry, might you be the finest flower?
Posted by: Phil Cubeta | November 26, 2008 at 06:46 PM