Capitalism has won. But it has yet to fulfil its own promise. Market-driven economic growth has succeeded in making us richer; but it is no longer enriching our lives. Money isn’t buying happiness.
The sources of a good life are increasingly to be found in the quality of our relationships with each other, and in the conduct of purposeful, rewarding work. This is why Gordon Brown has called for ‘full and fulfilling’ employment and why David Cameron – a decade later – supports a ‘modern vision of ethical work’ as part of a drive towards ‘general wellbeing’. There is a strong, consistent link between job satisfaction and overall happiness. Work is where economics becomes human, where the connection between the creation of wealth and cultivation of wellbeing is strongest.
At the same time, the financial success of organisations now relies on the whole-hearted participation and extra effort – in other words on the ‘engagement’ – of employees. Labour productivity, economically speaking, is where the action is. Successful enterprises are ones in which employees are active ‘co-creators’ of value, rather than passive followers. But there are no MBA-taught wheezes which can boost an individual’s interest in the overall success of an organisation.