Photo of Rebecca Henderson with the logo of the podcast

ReImagine Talks – Rebecca Henderson: “Capitalism is a Fantastic Servant but a Horrible Master”

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Harvard Business School professor Rebecca Henderson, author of the bestselling book ‘Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire’, strongly believes that we should rethink a capitalism model that only focuses on shortterm profits, causing growing inequalities and fostering people’s political polarization. Her advice: focus on innovative business models that care for citizens, the climate and the planet. This is not only the right thing to do, but also a good business model. Henderson shares her views in Re-Imagine Talks, a podcast series launched by the think tank Re-Imagine Europa and other leading European media. 


Professor Rebecca Henderson is convinced that “capitalism has provided enormous benefits to humanity”. “Over the last hundred years, GDP per head has more than quintupled, at the same time as the world population has tripled”, she explains. An unsurprising analysis coming from a John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard Business School. The conversation becomes nevertheless much more challenging when we delve into how capitalism has evolved and become an economic system that focuses only on short term profits, without taking into consideration how its activities affect climate change, the well-being of workers or the survival of the planet itself. “Capitalism is a fantastic servant but a horrible master”, states Professor Henderson.

“Generating profits by pushing wages to the bottom and polluting our world, that’s not the capitalism we want”, she explains in Reimagine Capitalism, first episode of the ReImagine TALKS podcast series launched by Re-Imagine Europa in collaboration with leading European media partners. According to the professor, we need to rethink the way we think about many issues, “including the idea that Government is a dirty word”, and recover “the best form of capitalism. If you look at what we had, mostly in Europe, after World War Two. We had a real balance between democracy and capitalism. A real understanding that the goal of capitalism is not to make profits. The goal is to help us generate a rich and thriving society”.

The author of “Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire“, a book shortlisted for the 2020 Financial Times McKinsey Book of the Year Award, is convinced that we can build successful business models that are economic, social, and environmentally responsible. And that this is indeed the only way to guarantee future prosperity for all.  To solve problems like climate change and inequality, we need business actively engaged. “Thousands of firms and the world’s big banks, and all the big accounting companies are moving in that direction, which is incredibly helpful”. Are we in time to reimagine capitalism before it is too late? “We’re going to be too late in the sense that there are going to be massive human suffering”, but we have to put all our efforts “to build a society that’s more resilient and more focused on the common good”. “And business needs to be actively engaged to achieve these goals”.

ReImagine Capitalism is the first chapter of Re-Imagine TALKS, a series of video podcasts launched by the think tank Re-Imagine Europa together with leading media partners and featuring some of the most innovative, influential and original thinkers of our time to explore key concept that define how we understand the world we live in, challenging conventional thinking and reimagining the concept with an unexpected and contemporary lens. The series is hosted by Erika Stäel von Holstein and Luca de Biase; RIE’s CEO and Research Director, respectively; and will present over the coming months conversations about how to Reimagine POWER with the Sociologists Manuel Castells, Reimagine TRUST with the Internet pioneer and thinker Lisa Gansky, Reimagine ANGER with the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio and Reimagine ETHICS with the expert on Ethics and Technology Professor Jeroen van der Hoven, among others. 


You can watch and/or download the series at: 


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