There was a brief period early in the life of ribbonfarm when I thought the blog was about business. But I was never quite comfortable with that idea, though I do write a lot about business matters.
I finally realized where I was going wrong: businesses, markets, products, even society, culture and civilization itself: these are all clumsy constructs that revolve around money. Money is the most basic stuff in this universe of consensual fictions that we call civilized life.
I am terrible at making money, but I have never understood people who don’t take money seriously, and have even managed to develop a disdain for it. I suspect it is sour grapes, pure and simple. Which is a pity, since money is absolutely fascinating stuff even if you don’t have enough of it to appreciate close-up or swim around in, like Scrooge McDuck. It is the fabric of social reality — stuff that is real because we collectively believe in it — the way space-time is the fabric of physical reality.
So with that bit of purple prose, I give you: the fourth and last sequence through the ribbonfarm archives, 2007-2012.
Money is more fascinating than the products that earn it, the violence it causes inside and outside our heads, the things it buys, and yes, the relationships it makes and breaks. Not because it is great to have it (though it certainly is), but because it reveals so much about everything it touches, while itself remaining ineffable. More ineffable than even its closest cousins, like information and risk. You can get to roughly equivalent results in thinking about social realities by following the principles: follow the money, follow the information and follow the risk. But follow the money tends to be the most tractable heuristic.
This realization led to one of my personal all-time favorite posts, and the first one in this sequence, Ancient Rivers of Money. I think I understood something about money for the first time in my life with this post, in 2010, at age 36. It ceased to be a completely impenetrable mystery to me. It is now merely 99.999% impenetrable. I am still terrible at making money, but I am starting to slowly appreciate it. Maybe the making will follow.
I now see money as the implicit organizing concept for all of my writing about social reality. Organizing along those lines, I have broken down this sequence into posts about money itself, posts about organizations (understood as things that move money around), posts about markets (understood as fields of money) and finally, civilization itself (understood as the space where money matters). Barbarian or exiled states of being, and possible post-civilizational futures, are best understood as the negative space of social reality. Their common salient feature is a vastly attentuated role for money, broadly understood. These states never quite rise above shared, communal, interpersonal realities to shared, impersonal, social realities.
- The Eight Metaphors of Organization
- The Lords of Strategy by Walter Kiechel
- A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100
Fields of Money
- Marketing, Innovation and the Creation of Customers
- The Milo Criterion
- Ubiquity Illusions and the Chicken-Egg Problem
- The Seven Dimensions of Positioning
- Coloring the Whole Egg: Fixing Integrated Marketing
- How to Draw and Judge Quadrant Diagrams
- The Gollum Effect
- Peak Attention and the Colonization of Subcultures
Life Outside Money
- Acting Dead, Trading Up and Leaving the Middle Class
- Can Hydras Eat Unknown-Unknowns for Lunch?
- The Return of the Barbarian
Next week, I’ll do a wrap-up of the wrap-ups and attempt to construct a big-picture view of what this blog is ultimately about, and situate the two crucial keystone pieces required for making sense of ribbonfarm. I expect a few of you can guess what those two pieces are. They haven’t been included in any of these sequences.
A free copy of Tempo for the first person to correctly identify the two missing pieces via a comment.