That is the current working title for my book.
I combined everything I had thusfar into one very vaguely structured Word file a couple of months back. It added up to 44,000 or so words and not anything approaching a cohesive work.
But that’s OK. That was part of the plan, at that point.
I read through what I had, wrote up some notes, and then sat on it for another month or so.
Today, I sat down and put together a pretty good (all things considered) first draft of the first section.
I had had a basic idea of how I wanted the book to look by the time I finished filling in my notebook. The simple bulleted list was:
All looking at different aspects of life and society in terms of their relationship to commerce, with the goal of providing a defense of the latter.
The original idea had been The Bourgeois Virtues but a business book. In the new structure, I was having trouble figuring out why virtue would be included at all. Talk about business, as the heart of commerce itself? Check. Talk about food and art and how they’re deeply tied to commerce? Check. Talk about the relationship between commerce and the law, and how it need not be a hostile one? Check. Talk about…the virtues…in a kind of self-help angle…in commerce?
Which one of these is not like the other?
But I think I’ve figured out an approach that will work.
Here’s the new bulleted list:
- Making a Life
- Making a Living
- Making a Culture
- Making a Society
The unifying theme is an exploration of how we all go about trying to lead good lives. The first part talks specifically about our individual lives—through the lens of the virtues. The second part talks about how we materially support those lives, in business and the workplace in general. The third is about art and entertainment, a crucial part of our lives beyond the merely material, and showing how it is not only sustained by commerce, but it is deeply embedded in commercial activity.
The last section is about the relationship between commerce and the law. I’m not a fan of referring to this as “society,” but I can’t think of another word that would fit with the wording of the previous sections. “Making a Law” doesn’t work, and “Making the Law” or “Making Law” breaks the phrasing. I can rationalize by saying that it is commerce, law, and life in general that come together to make society, not merely law. But really it’s that I don’t have another word that could work with that phrasing. Anyway, I’m open to suggestions.
Once this structure clicked for me, it felt like things fell into place much more easily. I assembled a workable draft of the first part quite quickly—just today, in fact. The second part needs a lot more written from scratch, so there’s no way it will go so fast. The third part has plenty of material, while the fourth part will also need much more.
In any case, I do feel that I’m making concrete progress. I’ve wondered at various points whether I could really have a completed first draft of the whole thing by the end of the year. But as things stands, that seems more plausible a timeline than ever.
I’m sure I’ve doomed myself by saying so.