Said E. Dawlabani. MEMEnomics: The Next Generation Economic System. New York: Select Books, 2013.
Laura Frey Horn
In MEMEnomics: The Next Generation Economic System Said Dawlabani presents a holistic approach to understanding the history and future of U.S. economics that goes well beyond money and finances. He embraces a whole systems philosophy that includes developing an understanding of history and economics as they align and integrate with complex human development theory. (This theory, based upon the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual Double Helix Model of Emergent Adult Development Theory of Dr. Clare Graves, has emerged and is now known as Spiral Dynamics Integral, primarily through the work of Dr. Don Beck.) By taking such a whole systems approach to understanding U.S. economics, Dawlabani demonstrates quite explicitly that economics is firmly rooted historically, psychologically, sociologically, and perhaps even biologically in the culture and psyche of an organization, country or larger scale culture. And, as Dawlabani carefully builds within MEMEnomics, the impact of those decisions affect not just the present era and environment, but long into the future of the United States and the rest of the world.
Dawlabani’s chapters on the levels of development in Spiral Dynamics Integral provide a useful resource for those new to the theory and provide a developmental map as he navigates the economic challenges in the book. By rooting the historical development of the United States and economics within the foundation of human development, it becomes easier to understand where and why some of the economic theories were “birthed” and why, even when they appeared unreliable, individuals and organizations may have had too much at stake, become too attached, and would not or could not let go.
Spiral Dynamics Integral includes individual human development as well as organizational and cultural development, so is also valuable for gaining a deeper understanding of leaders, where they are developmentally, and how and why they make the decisions and take action in the environments in which they function. This applies whether the environment is a tribe, organization, country or larger culture. If the strategies, theories, processes and actions they develop are appropriate for the whole systems environment in which they function, the outcomes can be successful and healthy. And, if they are not appropriate strategies, theories, processes or actions for the organization or culture, they can be damaging to individuals, organizations and cultures. The impact of leader decisions and behavior travels far beyond the individuals and their specific organizations. Dawlabani, again effectively uses the historical perspective and background, as well as Spiral Dynamics Integral, to create both the profiles and developments over time of the significant leaders – political and economic – whose impact on the development of our modern society and economic health extends well beyond limited parameters.
Through Dawlabani’s history of the development of U.S. economics, early economic experience can be logically explained through the progression of human and cultural development. As the country emerged into a nation with greater opportunity and became more developmentally complex, the economic structure, risks and opportunities also developed. Dawlabani, through the use of Spiral Dynamics integral, is able to explain the benefits, risks and evolution of healthy and unhealthy social structures of American society, including those within the financial and political structures that eventually took greater control of American society.
Within recent U.S. history and Dawlabani’s book, the ultimate cliffhanger for me, and perhaps for most of us who lived through 2008, was the potential economic disaster when the risk of abject failure of both the banking and the auto industry was at an all-time high. Dawlabani’s explanation is particularly insightful. His understanding of both economics and human development provides a fuller explanation than many of the analyses I have read from those who are strictly economists. By showing how tied to human, organizational and cultural development, our economic sector is to the health and wellbeing of our nation and future, Said Dawlabani has laid bare how dependent all parts of our society are, not only on one another, but on a global society as well.
If you understand economics, but were not familiar with human development at the different levels (individual, organizational or cultural), MEMEnomics, can serve as an excellent guide. The same holds true for those who understand human development, but not economics. And, if you come to MEMEnomics, without a background in either economics or human development, Said Dawlabani’s writing is clear and concise enough to serve as a general primer to start you out. MEMEnomics may even provide enough intrigue to challenge you to pursue deeper knowledge in economics or Spiral Dynamics Integral.
By integrating economic development with human development (Spiral Dynamics Integral/Gravesian) and a full understanding of the U.S. historical path or trajectory, Dawlabani has presented more than a “next generation economic system.” He has presented a whole systems understanding of the historic trajectories and crises the past economic “theories” have wrought and potential solutions for a healthier future for the U.S. economy.
One of the initial strengths of MEMEnomics is Dawlabani’s “gentle professor” approach to sharing Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDI) with readers. This book was written for a broad audience. Some readers may come from strong economic backgrounds, others from human development backgrounds (with or without knowledge of SDI), and still others from experience in leadership. Dawlabani honors the intelligence of his readers, assumes the gentle professor role, and without overtly teaching, shares background in human development—Gravesian theory and Spiral Dynamics Integral as well as a brief history of Economics. Even for those with a deep background as far as Graves’ body of work through current SDI research, I highly recommend the read. If you knew Clare Graves, it will bring back memories of all he accomplished and wonderful connections to the current literature. If you did not know of his tremendous body of work and sacrifice, it should provide an understanding of his body of research and how incredibly ahead of his time he was. And, if you were unaware of how much Dr. Don Beck has contributed, Dawlabani reminds us that he has furthered the field, not just with his work with Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and with Elza Maalouf in Palestine, and his work around the world but also in “seeding” the interest of others, including this generation of researchers, writers and consultants worldwide.
Dawlabani’s approach in MEMEnomics is to present economics within the complex integrated context of whole systems, a full U.S. historical backdrop and a rich, understanding of human development. This alone is significant, but that he uses Spiral Dynamics Integral provides a framework for a far deeper exploration. I recommend that his next book take on the international economic challenges presented in Europe and beyond.
About the Reviewer
Laura Fray Horn, Ed. D,, is Senior Research Fellow, Center for Human Emergence—Middle East, Adjunct Professor, University of Virginia, School of Continuing & Professional Studies, and President, Eureka Consulting Services.