The Genius of the Beast:
A Radical Revision of Capitalism
New York: Prometheus Books, 2009
by Keith Bellamy
Recently, the thought of reading yet another Integral Theory book, or even an integrally informed book, has filled me with a sense of dread. Sadly, many of the books being published in this genre are, paradoxically, attempts by the author to demonstrate not only how well they understand integral theory, but how their understanding surpasses that of most of the original founders of said theory. As a consequence, for a movement that espouses transcendence of ego, most books rapidly descend into an ego boosting experience for the author, with little new being transmitted to the reader. We are treated, in most instances, to yet another presentation of the “map” with minor modifications and explorations that are, if we are to believe the blurb on the cover of the book, major breakthroughs in mankind’s thought processes. Rarely do the expectations set on the outside match the content on the inside.
It is a delight, therefore, to be presented with a book t that bucks the trend. In Howard Bloom’s latest opus, we are presented with a masterly treatment in the application of Integral Theory without any direct reference to the theory anywhere in the 600+ pages that make up this publication. Yet any serious student of IT cannot fail to notice as Bloom meanders gleefully through quadrants, up-and-down lines, in and out of types, all with consummate ease. The Genius of the Beast is an integrally informed work that has relevance not only to the small population that has truly transcended first-tier, but acts as a reference manual for anybody seeking to practice leadership in these trying times.
Howard Bloom chooses to wrestle with the 800lb gorilla called capitalism, not by changing the name into something more trendy such as “conscious capitalism” but by recognizing the beast for what it is, a manifestation of the evolutionary spark playing out through history and still going strong at the beginning of the 21st century. Capitalism for Bloom is but one face of the force that has existed since the Big Bang and will continue to unfold for the rest of eternity. He is under no delusions that Capitalism is either good or bad, it just is.
This is a work that fails to fit into any easy categorization, yet considering the enormity of the subject matter it is not unreasonable to expect it to do so. It has elements of autobiography built in telling the story of the nerd from upstate New York raised on a diet of science and classical music falling into the world of Rock Music and ending up at the heart of the decision-making processes of that cut-throat industry. It is a work of a polymath who flips between the classical sciences, history, politics, economics, the arts, anthropology and neuroscience in order to make or stress his point. It is driven by a philosophy that suggests, “why take a single perspective when there are many to be considered?” It’s overall essence is the pursuit of truth, even if that means being contrarian to conventional wisdom.
There is a sprinkling of mischief throughout Howard Bloom’s writing style, where he attempts to move the reader to a point of understanding, only to upset the apple-cart and leave you wondering, “How did I arrive here?” There are some fundamental points that he feels the need to stress and resorts to the adage “If I say it thrice, it must be true.” However, in Bloom’s case it is more like if I say it “thirty-thrice.” There were times when I found myself wanting to scream, “OK I get it! It’s a Secular Genesis Machine! An Evolutionary Search Engine!” There are clear moments of personal preference that come through where passion momentarily takes precedent over reason, but normality quickly returns.
Yet it is this chemistry that makes what could otherwise be a very dry subject come to life and engages the reader. The technique of using short paragraphs overcomes any lapses in attention span. At times it almost feels more like sitting in the coffee shop in Brooklyn and listening to the master speak his truth, than reading a book. Howard Bloom recognizes the needs and demands of the emerging Integrally Informed Leader and seeks to serve those needs with all his might and passion. And it works. Reading The Genius of the Beast is a pleasurable experience rather than a chore. And in achieving such an impact, Bloom not only talks a good talk but demonstrates his ability to walk the associated walk.
About the Author
Keith Bellamy is a member of the Management Review Board for Integral Leadership Review and a regular contributor through his column, Leadership for the Masses.