There’s a convergence happening. When I read about the state of the art market, the economy, social change, politics, the financial sector or just how to survive personally in this brave new world of 2009, the solutions are starting to have a common theme. What used to be compartmentalized and fragmented (bankers caring only about banking, political activists focused only on their particular cause) is now showing up as increasingly more inclusive and whole system-oriented.

For example, Rachel Sklar on The Daily Beast has written about a phrase first coined in 2004 but particularly well suited for today’s state of things. Smart Power–“a subtle combination of brains and the wisdom to use them to get things done”–is a concept that has more meaning than just political clout.

From her article:

Smart Power applies across the board to the new realities of 2009. To put it bluntly, the old way of doing things doesn’t work anymore—for anything. Every reality from a year ago seems hopelessly out of date—a thriving auto industry, actually owning a home, wanting to date an investment banker. Thriving and surviving in this brave and weird new world takes more than just the raw brute power of, say, money—Lehman Brothers learned how quickly that can go—or feeling smug over a print byline (especially if the article can’t be found online). How can Smart Power apply to those of us who don’t have to negotiate trade treaties or appease mad dictators? The Daily Beast asked Suzanne Nossel, the former Clinton-era deputy to UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who coined the phrase in a 2004 article in Foreign Affairs. Nossel, now the chief operating officer at Human Rights Watch, could see how the concept might apply beyond the foreign-policy world, recognizing that applying Smart Power required that special game-changing extra spark. “It’s not just about putting smart people in place—the Bush administration had many smart people, which didn’t always make for smart policies,” she said (cough, Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, cough). “We should exercise our power in ways that are sustainable instead of draining.” So how does that apply to, say, media companies, or a junior senator? Simple—by being practical instead of ideological; by looking ahead and planning accordingly; by convincing others to support you. All of these things make for Smart Power, says Nossel: “Who uses tools hard and soft, who combines them in a supple way, who does it in a way that proves sustainable, who mobilizes others behind their ideas, who has a longer view.”

On the same site, Judith H. Dobrzynski addresses the change in tenor of the current art market. In writing about the 21st Annual Art Show in New York:

This year, things are different…“We need to get away from the notion of art as solely a commodity, and back to the language of art,” says Roland Augustine, of Luhring Augustine Gallery, “and the way to do that is to have a carefully curated and qualitative approach.”

In other words, dealers want to make art precious again—not just pricey. Galleries that look like museums help do that and, when Wall Street woes have scared off buyers anyway, why not? “They are taking this approach now because they understand that this long-term approach is the sure-fire way to go,” Augustine says. Instead of encouraging people who speculate in art, treating it like a stock, these shows aim to develop true collectors, who buy and hold for years.

Whether viewed from the macro level or from our small personal outposts, retrenching and “making do” sound passive and strangely old school. Is there a catchy phrase for the Obama era mindset yet? As inferred by the now infamous statement by economist Paul Romer, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”, these are watershed times.

Advertisements