Mid-twentieth-century capitalism has turned into global capitalism, and global capitalism - turbocharged, Web-based, and able to find and make almost anything just about anywhere - has turned into supercapitalism. But as Robert B. Reich makes clear in this eye-opening book, while supercapitalism is working wonderfully well to enlarge the economic pie, democracy - charged with caring for all citizens - is becoming less and less effective under its influence. Reich explains how widening inequalities of income and wealth, heightened job insecurity, and the spreading effects of global warming are the logical outcomes of supercapitalism. He shows us why companies, fighting harder than ever to maintain their competitive positions, have become even more deeply involved in politics; and how average citizens, seeking great deals and invested in the stock market to an unprecedented degree, are increasingly loath to stand by their values if it means biting the hands that feed them. Reich sets out a clear course to a vibrant capitalism and a concurrent, equally vibrant democracy.
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It also made me quake with rage on about every other page. First, Reich has to state the problem. Second, he knocks down several arguments. Third, he shows us the real reason. As communication technology computers, phones, etc. By and large, Wal-Mart just used its size to put unprecedented pressure on their own suppliers and workers , moving to any spot on the globe which was cheaper.
I had noticed this myself, in the semiconductor industry. Perhaps, but not in time to keep your job. While we all know and despise how CEO salaries have skyrocketed, a lesser discussed fact is how CEO firings have skyrocketed.
If you embark on a course which will pay off in three years, but cost you market share now, shareholders who hold their stocks for months, weeks, or even just a few days will sell, and the CEO will be sacked long before the payoff comes.
To summarize: technology has so far made us far more powerful as consumers and investors, than it has as citizens. Reich goes to a great deal of trouble to illustrate this across many industries and even countries, and this part of the book is a great read.
Now, for the part I found less convincing. Reich has little good to say about attempts to use this consumer and investor power, to advance our cause as citizens. In his opinion, the root of our political problem is that we allow corporations to behave as if they were citizens. Corporations can donate to political causes, file lawsuits in court to block regulations they dislike, and so forth.
Reich thinks this has led to a government which is primarily run for the benefit of fictional people corporations , and rarely for actual humans, even the humans who run them. For comparison, consider how the current market forces would have responded if Microsoft had attempted to behave as Bill Gates currently is in the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Giving to charities in the billions? Shareholder suits would have quickly blocked it. The very rules of our current system only allow us to worry about price, and anything which our market does not currently quantify, we are prohibited by our market-driven laws from taking action on.
This is all true, as far as it goes, but the idea that we will fix this by electing a different kind of politician seems naive. The real conclusion I drew from this is that, if modern technology has empowered us only as consumers and investors, then that is the route we must use to empower ourselves as citizens.
What makes it a great read is that it is an excellent analysis of How and Why We Got Here, with a great deal more depth backed up with data and documented sources than we will ever get from our impoverished political process. Not a fun read, but a good one. Just put it down if the sound of your teeth grinding in anger starts to distract others, and take it like bitter medicine, a chapter at a time.
He is an intelligent, insightful, engaging man. I wish I were so privileged as to have an opportunity to take a class with him at Berkeley. Like, really short. And nice.
I enjoyed this book. I knew of him from his time as Secretary of Labor with the Clinton administration, although nowadays his face is plastered on any news program discussing the projected policy objectives of the soon to be inaugurated Obama administration. Specifically, as such discussions pertain to economics. No really, go now! Paving the way for democracy need not mean a people must thereafter prepare for free market capitlism.
The arguments made in favor of this idea tend to originate from financial and commercial camps, or their supporters on the right of the political spectrum. No surprise there. In light of the current implosion in the marketplace, more and more people are interested in interrogating this notion of an inevitably threaded capitalism and democracy, if only because equality and a commitment to genuine democratic institutions demand nothing less.
Reich examines the perversion of the political process a la the infusion of PAC cash and lobbyist influence and the blatant engineering of the policy landscape which permits our public officials to pander to the public with posturing task forces and Congressional hearings which do nothing to tackle the real problems.
But then again, how many of us ever ask the real questions? The real problem with the U. Are we citizens or are we investors? So long as refuse to decide which we are first and foremost, we are the problem. Corporations have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders, and who are shareholders?
People like you and me. Not me, I have no money, but you get the idea. This concept of shareholder value has become so signficant in the sway it holds over decision-making in corporate circles, that maximizing returns for the sake of the investor, corporations do all of the things they are so often villified for move jobs overseas where wage rates are much lower, for example , but that is what corporations are designed to do.
Corporations, as they are currently conceived, are not benevolent constructions seeking to ensure equality for citizens. They are only concerned with making money for their investors. At first, I had a hard time reading this, but it just makes sense. Our lawmakers! If we want genuine change, the only way to create it is to confront the rulemakers.
I should start reading some Danielle Steel. Or something. Mr Reich was labor secretary during that most probusiness of administrations, the Clinton years. A probusiness stance only furthered and exacerbated in the following 8 Bush years. One could rightly accuse Mr.
Reich of being an architect of the present global meltdown. But any mea culpas would be hard to find. No, what you will find here I have no idea why I thought that Mr Reich would deliver the knockout blow or at least the stunning indictment of unrestrainted global capitalism in place today. No, what you will find here is blame cast at history.. To empower the working man in the face of relentless assualt by big business and to enact laws and regulations to protect jobs and employment from ending up in dollar a day sweatshops in S.
Reich goes on to place blame exactly where a hindsight seeing and unrepentant power broker would. At the feet of you and me. Certainly its a lot easier for a man of means and Reich has millions of means to stop shopping at Wal-mart than it is for the working poor.
With one percent of the U. As Obama continues with the recycled Bush economic policies, shoveling supertankers full of money at people and systems that have failed, delivering all of the profits to them and all of the risk to the people. How long will the people stand for it? Obama must take a differnet path to fix the broken system, to punish the wrong doers, and instead of the current quick fixes TARP programs, industry bailouts implement lasting changes and redistribution of power.
I thought this book might provide a roadmap. I was dissappointed.
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Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life
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Knopf in In this book, Reich analyses the relationship between contemporary capitalism and democracy. He explains how in the relentless fight for profit, investors and consumers have made gains, but citizens and the democratic process have fallen behind. Summary[ edit ] Reich sets out to compare the three decades after World War II with the recent decades noting that in that "Not Quite Golden Age" the interests of business, labor, community and government were generally in balance the times were "Not Quite Golden" as sizable segments of the population were excluded, namely minorities and women.