The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the New Economy

  • by Pekka Himanen, Linus Torvalds, Manuel Castells
  • Narrated by Oliver Wyman
  • 5 hrs and 18 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Nearly a century ago, Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism articulated the animating spirit of the industrial age. Now, Pekka Himanen - together with Linus Torvalds and Manuel Castells - articulates how hackers* represent a new, opposing ethos for the information age. Underlying hackers' technical creations - such as the Internet and the personal computer, which have become symbols of our time - are the hacker values that produced them and that challenge us all. These values promote passionate and freely rhythmic work; the belief that individuals can create great things by joining forces in imaginative ways; and the need to maintain our existing ethical ideals, such as privacy and equality, in our new, increasingly technological society. The Hacker Ethic takes us on a journey through fundamental questions about life in the information age - a trip of constant surprises, after which our time and our lives can be seen from unexpected perspectives.*In the original meaning of the word, hackers are enthusiastic computer programmers who share their work with others; they are not computer criminals.


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Customer Reviews

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Enjoyable Discussion

This book is essentially a sociological study of human resources and managment and how the current business culture does is out of sync with the workers' needs, desires, and personal values. It contrasts the motivations of a programmer coding open source software against the (presumably American) heirarchial business managmement's working environment.

What I found interesting about this title was its recounting of the basis and continual reshaping of cultural attitudes toward working. I liked this because it explored the historical development of the modern perceptions in the importance of work, e.g., issues of how in introducing ourselves to others we self-define ourselves through our work, those with poor work ethics are condemned, etc. I enjoyed the questioning of societal values that are treated as dogma.

While the title does continually pass in and out of feeling didactic and many of the principles are not as novel as the authors may believe, this title presents great context for lively discussions with friends on a subject that affects us all.

NOTE: This title does place a biased dicotomy that, upon continual listening, becomes along the lines that Hackers have the working environment all worked out and those of us that work for a boss are fools. I had to adjust myself to translate upon hearing "Hacker's ethic" into simply meaning "a better way".
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- Craig


Okay, I'm a little concerned about the other reviews this book's been given. They seemed to be from people that either didn't finish reading the book, don't understand the subject material, or just plain don't know what they're talking about.

First, despite rampant media mislabelling, hacking is *not* breaking into computers, and this book won't talk about the ethics of computing exploits. There are a number of books and websites for that, and if you can't find them, you probably don't deserve to know about them.

Second, this is a socio-economic look at a new working ethic, which I doubt any true tinkerer-geek "in the inside" would have had the perspective, time, or the interest to write about. Ethics equals values, not in the sense of whether something is a "good" or "bad" in the moral sense, but the values on which you build your life. Just as historians didn't have to have installed telephone wire in order to comment on the industrial revolution, I don't think the author had to have programmed in Alair BASIC to be able to make a social commentary.

Third, this book isn't going to tell you how to have more free time if you're working 9-to-5, have 3 kids, and eat your meals in front of a TV. It's a shift in perspective and values. I'm not working to play, I'm playing while I work. I'm not trying to find free time in between my day job and leisure time: *All* of my time is free. I work at a game development company and I see the "hacker" culture all around me. Yes, we wear shorts & sandals, show up at 10am to work, and take breaks at work to have Quake III tourneys, but I dare anyone to walk in at 8pm during crunch time and call us a bunch of "slackers". But I guess such misunderstanding are to be expected when we're talking about a complete shift in social values.

If you have a mind open enough for it, this is a fascinating read and worth the effort of digging in.
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- Yicheng

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-16-2001
  • Publisher: Random House Audio