Jobs was a tremendous CEO and worthy of a case study or three at Harvard Business School, but it is ridiculous to suggest that he “vastly improved” the world in the manner of Luca Pacioli, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luca_Pacioli or Thomas Edison, or even Samuel Gompers. As Malcolm Gladwell has recently shown, he did not invent the point-and-click visual interface for which Apple first became famous, and it is ludicrous to suggest that Xerox’ innovation would have died had Jobs not seen it first. Ditto the handheld MP3 player, smartphone, and tablet. Jobs was a design genius with an incredible instinct for the market and he deserves all the money he has made . . . but that is all.
Constituted as I am, it is difficult for me not to read into the response to Jobs’ death the final conquest of consumer culture as secular religion. Something has changed in the last thirty-one or fourteen years. I am aware how ludicrous this sounds. Fortuitously, three luminaries, who did actually vastly improve the world, died within a day of him: Derrick Bell, who invented critical race theory, forever changing the way sensitive citizens look at the law; Fred Shuttlesworth, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and made this country a better place in a direct and obvious way; and Bert Jansch, who made possible the art of, among others, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Paul Simon. But none of them were direct participants in consumer culture, and they have passed mostly un-mourned, overwhelmed by tidal wave Jobs.