Umair Haque thinks Europe is poised to be the next "fountain of innovation", now that it's time to fill up all that new space we've made online with content:
Europe needs structures which create more liquid markets for entrepreneurship, sure. But that's a very small part of the next great economic game, truth be told; and Eurocrats are working to build them, in their own ponderous way.
But to focus solely on entrepreneurship is to miss the bigger picture. I think Europe is poised to be the world's next fountain of innovation; far more so than the US. Here's why.
Europe has two huge capital stocks that no one else in the world does: social and cultural capital.
I agree with Umair that Europe is a nice place to live, because of its superior cultural environment (as opposed to the mini-mall wasteland of the US). Yet... I think that Europe defines culture too narrowly, and too aesthetically. To me, the fact that Europe does not have an entrepreneurial ethos is itself a cultural shortcoming--if you define culture the way I do. I have lived in Europe, and in India back in the days of the closed economy, both places with rich cultures if your definition of culture favors the arts over commerce. But in both places, there's a quiet brutality to the socialist ethic that culture belongs strictly to the social and the artistic spheres.
Europe is responsible for this secularization (I mean this in the broadest sense) and subsequent ghettoisation of the arts--for making culture precious, and toothless. (Des Esseintes anyone?) The result is downright dissociative, a cultural sensibility marked by self-defeating superiority--paired with a sweet-and-sour cocktail of economic snobbery and self-pity.
Culture is about context and meaning, and should be expressed in the context of our economic life, where most of us spend the majority of our productive energies. And right now, the US is the world leader in business culture--more and more, we create, innovate and engage, rather than merely "working". It's the only place where work and commerce are talked about in terms of fulfillment, idealism and even pleasure. This, to me, is where the cultural innovations are occurring. Not in the arts, which are geared toward creative iteration, but not necessarily innovation. And not in Europe.
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