What the eighth annual Aspen Ideas Festival can mean for a world badly in need of new thinking
There's nothing like a prolonged economic crisis to afford the American businessperson some time to rethink what it's all about. For the past several years, all kinds of people have emerged to tell the corporate leaders of this country that mindless pursuit of maximum profit is not all there is to running a company. From Umair Haque to Paul Hawken to every devotee of the triple bottom line or social entrepreneurship, many varieties of gurus want to usher in a new era of American business that's adds meaning to work.
All of our modern day gurus are about 50 years behind Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, the promoters of modern Aspen, and the would-be civilizers of America's post-war executives. In 1949, they celebrated an era of humanistic business with a 20-day festival on Goethe and went on to found The Aspen Institute, The Aspen Music Festival and School, and the International Design Conference in Aspen.
Without the Paepckes, there would be no Aspen Ideas Festival, which kicked off its eighth edition here in the Roaring Fork valley. The Paepckes' seemingly quaint notions of progress and cultivation of the mind have never seemed more necessary than in a political and economic environment of divisiveness, uncertainty, and turmoil. Supercapitalism, and the massive lobbying efforts it necessitates, is now the rule of the land, which means that there is a genuine purpose to educating the successful profiteers.