Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Capitalism Is Slowing Us Down

The Renaissance changed our world in almost every way imaginable. We sailed and mapped the globe. We discovered that we revolve around the Sun. We first mass-produced books. And Michelangelo made his David.

But the Renaissance also brought us a hoax that lives on today: the myth of the individual.

For the first time in recorded history, renowned thinkers and academics saw human beings as the most valuable thing of all.

Human achievement was no longer a gift from God. Instead, human civilization was a result of our own ingenuity.

We undeniably took a step forward in thinking. But we didn’t just step, we leapt.

Almost every innovation of the Renaissance was made to empower the self-interested individual. Which would eventually lead to magnificent developments such as human rights and liberal democracies 

But not until after vast soot-covered cities chewed up the countryside and capitalists exploited both craftspeople and children because it was okay to pursue your own selfish interests.

The Renaissance’s thinking embraced unbridled competition between individuals. And it never left us.

Open any economy textbook and see for yourself. The free market is based on the idea that every person is a rational actor who acts in accordance with his or her own self interest.

Which is eerily similar to Adam Smith’s free market theory from 250 years ago. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

The problem?

This whole self-interest spiel clashes with thousands of years of social evolution. While we definitely are individuals, we are also social creatures that can’t properly function without a tribe.

We need to remake society. Not as individuals, but as the team we actually are. 

P.S. That one-liner wasn’t mine. It comes from Douglas Rushkoff and his new book Team Human where he argues that we’ll reach our greatest potential when we work together. Check it out here.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach