Principally, however, in the words of Harvard Business School's social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff, Americans these days "are seeking more control over the quality of their lives, not just the quantity of their stuff," a sentiment that shines through all the books under discussion. This is a sensible response to the lifestyle complexity generated by globalization and technology.
Not even the most brilliant seer knows where all these developments will take us. But common sense says that companies are going to have to do a much better job of listening to consumers, and doing more with what they have to say. In fact, retailers, manufacturers, and marketers might do well to turn H.L. Mencken's damning dictum, "No-one in this world, so far as I know has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people," on its head.
Kate Jennings ([email protected]), a regular contributor to strategy+business, is the author of Moral Hazard (HarperCollins, Fourth Estate, 2002), a novel about Wall Street in the 1990s, which won Australia's Christina Stead and Adelaide Festival fiction prizes and was nominated for the Los Angeles Times fiction prize. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel Snake (Back Bay Books, 1999).