From Publishers Weekly
How might government best respond to a world of ever-accelerating change? That's the question that Mohn, the German media magnate (and great-great-grandson of Carl Bertelsmann) considers in this slim volume. His answer? Governments should become more like businesses. First Mohn outlines the dilemma: corporations have responded to the demands of global competition by reinventing themselves; control from above has given way to the flexible decentralization of responsibility and function, and employees, overseen by capable and enlightened management, are motivated to innovate. Meanwhile, the democratic governments of the West, he charges, remain hierarchical monoliths incapable of rapid change. More concerned with popularity than progress, politicians promise much but deliver far less; they preside over a population alienated from government and devoid of a sense of community. Largely unaccountable, big government centrally rules to maintain the status quo. If, however, governments were to follow the lead of business, decentralizing and privatizing their functions and reporting to the public in a clear, coherent way so their efficiency could truly be judged, all the difficulties would be solved. Mohn seems to be offering a viable prescription for a humane re-creation of the modern state, but his confusing and convoluted writing makes it difficult for readers to draw conclusions. He often substitutes aphorisms for analysisAthere is, for example, a "deficit in development in many areas of life forces"Aand fails to marshal the intellectual depth and rigor his ambitious undertaking requires. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Mohn, retired for almost 20 years, is the billionaire patriarch of the Bertelsmann media empire, which spans 50 countries and now includes Random House, Doubleday, and Bantam. He also served in the German army during World War II and spent three years in U.S. prisoner-of-war camps, where he has told of being "reeducated." Mohn's philosophy is based on servant leadership; he believes that management must work in partnership with its employees and that companies must make a contribution to society. Now, argues Mohn, social institutions and governments must also operate under those same principles while they decentralize and become less hierarchical. He considers how families, partnerships, schools, work, and the state are being affected by globalization as he warns that we must reform our economic and social systems. Although a number of Mohn's comments seem to be directed at his fellow Germans, his observations originally appeared in the form of a report to the Club of Rome, a group of influential international business leaders still best known for the first report it commissioned 30 years ago called "Limits to Growth." David RouseCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved