On Yunus’s “Creating a World without Poverty”

I read a lot of reviews on this book before I got it and read it. They were all very positive, so one would have to conclude that the book is a magnificent piece of literature, right?

Wrong. I’ve read this book and reviewed it for a journal and it is horrible. It is horribly written – it consists of a number of narratives and personal experiences mixed with open-ended questions and loose thoughts. The chapters don’t even go well together – the book has no “flow.”

As for content, it is even worse. Yunus is an economics professor with a good education from an American university. Yet it seems, when reading the book and some of his most outrageous claims, he didn’t get far through the course literature. Actually, he couldn’t have opened any of the books, because he doesn’t seem to understand much at all about economics or how markets work.

Instead of facts and real arguments, what you get is a seemingly endless stream of politically correct statements and poignant empty phrases (if there is a difference between the two). And Yunus is frequently contradicting himself; whenever he states support for something only a page later it takes it back and states a contradictory opinion. Yet he doesn’t realize this is so.

The concept itself, the social business, is about as bad as the book. The reader doesn’t get much of an idea of how it would work, how it could be implemented, or exactly what it is. Rather, it seems to be all the things Yunus likes that is missing from other business ventures. Of the two examples mentioned in the book – the Grameen Bank and the Grameen-Danone yogurt enterprise – neither is, according to Yunus, a real social business.

We learn that there is no limitation as to how successful social business can be, yet there are no examples of social businesses around that can show us the true potential. And it is even the case that Yunus himself hasn’t even created one!

It is sad that in this book Yunus pleads for the reader’s support through using a language and words that makes the reader feel good. There are no real arguments available (it seems), so all you get is a ton of political correctness. If you believe no arguments for politically correct views are necessary (only because they are politically correct?), then this is definitely a persuasive and inspiring book. But if you want something more, something concrete and of substance, then you will be terribly disappointed by what Yunus presents in this book. I, for one, was a bit offended while reading this book – it seems Yunus assumes he doesn’t have to provide me with arguments for his supposedly revolutionary economical concept; I should trust his authority and go with the flow of the never-ending political correctness.

Frankly, I am surprised so many seem to fall for this terrible argument. I would personally consider using the book in argumentation class to show how terribly bad an argument can be – and what errors should be avoided. I could understand if you are moved by Yunus’ obvious dedication and belief in the social business – but if you are convinced by the so-called argument or are moved by the concept as it is presented in this book you are just plain stupid.

See also my review (co-authored with Mario Mondelli) of Yunus’s book published in the Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development in 2009.