ELEPHANT AND THE FLEA: reflections of a reluctant capitalist
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Charles Handy has been an oil company executive, a university
lecturer, and a much sought after convention speaker.
A 48 year old advertising executive was complaining to
Handy that there were no longer any jobs in the ageist advertising world for
people like him. While he was
talking, the electrician repairing the wiring in Handy’s home put his head
round the door to say he would be back in a week. “I’m sorry,” he said, “ but I’ve got too many jobs on at
“That was the future,” Handy told this his account executive;
lots of clients for the independent worker, but fewer and fewer jobs for
full-time executives of large organizations.
The employee-oriented society of the twentieth century had
delivered so much that was good. It had replaced the world of the individual
new flea-oriented world that Charles Handy sees is “fraught with insecurity,
uncertainty, and fear.”
‘We don’t want that sort of world’ people say.
Handy is sympathetic. “I, too, didn’t much like the worst of world that I saw
emerging, but wishing it away was not going to help.”
In 1996, 67% of British businesses have only one employee,
the owner. In 1994, employees
with less than five people represented 89% of all British businesses.
This is a book about how to survive as a flea and in world
of few elephants and many fleas.
It is written in typical Charles Handy humor and
insight. It is also his most
personal book to date.
ELEPHANT AND THE FLEA is easy to read and too important to