Individual Careerism & Communal Materialism

Two of the major business-meets-culture stories over the past several years have been, one, the rise of the sharing economy and, two, the non-linear career path. Quasi-evidence: Thomas Friedman has written on both topics in the past year. One column from last summer was about Airbnb and the "sharing economy" (scare quotes his) and two columns from this winter were about "how to get a job at Google" by being supple of mind.

Lately I've been struck by the contrasts between these two trends. On the one hand, the career model shifted from the group-oriented mindset of "how can I succeed at this company" to the more individual mindset of "how can this company help me succeed". On the other hand, the consumption model seems to have shifted from "how can I get more stuff" to "how can I get the benefit of owning stuff". Our professional selves have become individualistic; our personal selves have become communal.

It's becoming clear to me that these two trends actually power each other. Communal materialism drives individual careerism by lowering fixed costs and personal overhead. Individual careerism drives communal materialism by expanding the pool of people willing to share their skills or excess capacity. In a post or two I'll talk about where I see some constructive interference between these two trends.