Flourishing

That is the current working title for my book.

Been a while since I did a book update, eh? If my 2015 review post counts, it’s been about three months. The last post I wrote just about the book was in October.

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:

  • Virtue
  • Business
  • Culture
  • Law

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.

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Adam Gurri

Adam Gurri works in digital advertising and writes for pleasure on his spare time. His present research focuses on the ethics of business and work, from the perspective of virtue and human flourishing.

6 thoughts on “Flourishing”

  1. Adam,
    Since you asked – my 2 cents:
    First-time author should not write a single comprehensive Book of Life. Even if you have all the material I suggest that each of your sections be a stand-alone volume.
    If Making a Life is well received go ahead with Making a Living. Don’t let on how many volumes there are.
    Also the more manageable (200 pg ??) form will force concision.
    There – my 3 cents!

    1. Thanks for the advice! I appreciate it.

      As it stands, it doesn’t look like length will be a concern. The book is on track to be maybe 60-70k words. And the idea that being a good person, making a living, experiencing and creating art, and living lawfully are unified things looked at from different perspectives is the main takeaway I want the reader to get.

      If anything, later works would be deeper drilling down into each; this will be but a survey. But a survey intended to push against our tendency to treat these things as isolated and distinct.

      1. I get that…your holistic alternative to the atomizing of the modern project. The fusion of vita attiva e contemplativa…Your aim is grandly comprehensive.
        The issue for me is the appropriate form for you now. Sonata or symphony; essay collection or grand unifying theory; Siddharta or The Glass Bead Game.

  2. Just one year ago Edmund S Phelps issued “Mass Flourishing.”

    Cognitive Theory people use that title quite a bit.

    Your shifting to using the term “making” might seem to put you into the school of the constructivists. Perhaps you may be?

    Most of the “bullet points ” could also be looked at in terms of human responses to circumstances and to the factors that range from influence to determination of responses.
    Often the nature of structures is shaped by the materials available as much as by motivations.

    You say:
    “The unifying theme is an exploration of how we all go about trying to lead good lives.”

    You might give that a bit more thought (as to validity).
    [Back to the Greeks; seeking “THE Good?”]

    As to LAW, you might consider:

    To bring the concept of Law into its connection with social order:

    LAW describes, defines, but does not necessarily delineate observed social order and the relationships within it.

    Legislation differs from law, since legislation is only Rules of Policy.

    Rules of Policy (legislation, regulations, ordinances and their excrescences) are attempts to describe, define and delineate ** desired** social order and the relationships necessary for it.

    Order generates Law. Law does not generate order. It does not delineate relationships. Law results from the identification, delineation, reconciliation (including enforcement) of obligations commonly recognized and accepted within the social orders extant and as they change over periods of time. Those actions may occur within or without an institutional framework. Those social orders which develop an institutional framework may be regarded as having some form of Rule of Law.

    It should be noted that any particular social order may be extant, developing and changing within a larger social order – such as among thieves, there may be law.

    Confusing Rules of Policy (legislation, etc.) with Law, creates great difficulties when the systems and institutional frameworks that determine Law are employed to give effect to Rules of Policy. This is undoubtedly due to the problems associated with the determinations necessary to delineate a commonly accepted desired social order and the relationships within it.

    1. Good point on Phelps. I haven’t finished the book yet, and the publishing process is slow enough (and the audiences for this different enough) that I think it’s probably fine. If not, it’s still good to have a working title for now.

      I don’t know if I’d call myself a constructivist. I’ve certainly been consulting the Greeks a lot 🙂

      Have you read Hayek’s Law, Legislation, and Liberty? Your point about law sounds exactly like his.

      1. Yes, I have read (and have) most of the translated or English Hayek.
        My views on LAW probably fall more in the Hohfeld class.
        I was admitted to the Va. Bar in ’52, started practice in ’54 @ age 29.

        Since you are into “Commerce” you are probably familiar with the history of the Law Merchant. But, have you also looked into the origins and commercial applications of “Equity” in the system of English law?

        You might try: “The Urge To Flourish.” or “The Flourishing Instinct.” going after why the various instincts, drives and urges in their distinct forms and expressions cause humans to flourish AND when they fail or are thwarted. You can explain those expressions seen in human relationships in commerce, law, social facilities (instruments), and elsewhere.

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