Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise
18 February 2017

by Matthew Manos

I’m a sucker for any book that resembles Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage. This book definitely fits in that tradition, with an added photocopier art zine vibe that is quite in vogue these days. That being said, the woo-woo of Mccluhan and the other books that follow that tradition have started wearing thin on me.

It’s not a bad book, it is readable, has some interesting fragments of design fiction about the “post-work economy”, Bruce Sterling pops in to debunk a few ideas (I’m not holding my breath or nervous about AI to taking my job as a developer/project manager/generalist weirdo), but the book never really rises above MBA level marketing speak.

I couldn’t quite determine if a “Social Enterprise” is a business or a non-profit– I suspect Manos would say “both! neither!”, but he doesn’t go into how a such an enterprise would be managed, or could truly fit within the neo-liberal capitalist system or beyond. Only that it takes into account everything! And it’s sustainable! And good! And lots and lots of different things!

Manos tries to kludge design fiction and conceptual art into what a Social Enterprise looks like, but the best he can really do that fits his argument Tom’s Shoes. Alright, I get it, but I wouldn’t write a book about it. He also references Oblong industry– a military-industrial-complex-funded surveillance design company — as a company working in the Social Enterprise Space. Manos talks about how utopias are personal, but dystopias are universal. The future Oblong wants to build is distinctly dystopian in my book, and if that’s Social Enterprise, then consider me an enemy of it.

Personally, I’d reach for Steven Shaviro’s 4 Essays on Accelerationism or Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future instead of this book, were I looking for arguments to lean on.