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America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471790020
ISBN-10: 0471790028
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Scheduled for publication on the 75th anniversary of the Black Thursday stock market crash, this closely argued treatise from University of Maryland political economist Alperovitz (The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb) claims we are in the midst of another deep economic, social and political crisis. Capitalism, democracy, equality and liberty have disappeared from the United States, he says. Corporations and rich people control the wealth and government; their power destroys liberty and the entrepreneurial freedom necessary for capitalism. Traditional reforms are inadequate. Progressive taxation and social programs only redistribute income; we need to redistribute wealth. Easier voter registration and campaign finances miss the point; federal power must be reallocated to regional governments and local citizens’ associations whose scale makes participatory democracy possible. We need shorter work weeks, stronger labor unions, worker-owned or directed firms, less debt and more respect for the environment. The first six chapters could have been written in the 1970s. The statistics and quotes are current, but there is no discussion of recent global experience with many of the ideas. The remainder of the book combines these ideas into what the author calls "21st century populism" working toward a "Pluralist Commonwealth." The book’s strength lies in its integration of diverse populist issues into a coherent agenda rooted in deep American values from the Declaration of Independence.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Alperovitz, an academic and political economist, calls on Democrats to "change the system," believing many Americans are searching for new policies as we face large deficits; unemployment; terrorism; and loss of belief in equality, liberty, and democracy. In his view, our unresponsive government, growing inequality, corruption, sprawl, and rising personal debt are reflections of a creative free market system that is no longer completely free or totally creative. Examining the extraordinary income and wealth controlled by elites and major corporations, he suggests that the future requires the development of a more community-centered, democratic market system. The author offers four fundamental suggestions to address current problems, including developing new institutions that hold wealth on behalf of small and large public groups (community-centered enterprises and worker-owned firms), and a regional rather than continental political system to appropriately represent a rapidly growing American population. His well-framed insight will appeal to a more liberal segment of library patrons during this presidential election year. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471790028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471790020
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #971,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The year 2004 has seen a heartening upswing in progressive activity, largely in response to the abuses of the Bush Administration at home and abroad. But whichever way the election turns out, all those who care about progressive values have some difficult questions to ponder: why, in spite of our best efforts, do things seem to be getting worse, not better, on so many fronts, from environmental destruction to runaway consumerism to heightened poverty to international violence?

Gar Alperovitz has had his eye on the bigger picture for a long time, and in "America Beyond Capitalism" he shares with us a hopeful yet hard-headed vision of what a dramatically reformed political economy might look like, a political economy which could reinforce, not undermine, democratic aspirations. In the process, he encourages liberals and progressives to see beyond the obvious and depressing fact that mainstream liberalism in the U.S. is a spent political force, and recognize other promising avenues for bottom-up change, such as the emergence in the last 30 years of a slew of grassroots-based democratic econoimc alternatives.

But this book is much more than just cheerleading for progressives. It also makes a major intellectual contribution by tackling the fundamental structural issues that a healthy 21st century democracy must confront: the question of scale and the proper locus of political authority; the question of wealth inequality and who controls our vast technological inheritance; the question of time and how we might convert productivity gains into greater free time; deep-seated gender inequalities that are reinforced by our current organization of work and space; and perhaps most difficult of all, the question of how to achieve ecological sustainability.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Boy, oh boy, do we need this book? The Left, it seems, has been in headlong retreat - politically, ideologically, and intellectually - for decades now, with the end of the postwar boom, the fall of Communism in the East and the (still unfolding) crisis of Social Democracy in the West, accompanied by a full-blown counterattack by capital. We are all familiar with the results: falling wages, the energy crisis, recession, the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, the "financialization" of capital, the Third World debt crunch, the decline of organized labor, cutbacks in social provision, downsizing and global restructuring, deregulation, privatization, and the sorry tale of a quarter-century's political and ideological swing to the right. What's left of the "official" Left (American liberalism, the rump of the European social democratic movements whose leaderships sold out long ago to become the craven servants of power) is - at best - still splashing away far downstream from where the real action is, seeking a way forward among the muddy puddles of 'tax-and-spend' transfer policies and modest redistribution left behind by the high tide of Keynesianism and the welfare state. The antiglobalization movement may have brought with it some renewed sense of energy and hope that "another world is possible," but often seems to lack any convincing comprehensive vision of what an alternative political-economic system might look like.

Into this valley of ashes steps Gar Alperovitz with a vital new progressive vision and a realistic politics of how to get there. Better known as a historian and author of the definitive book on the decision to use the atomic bomb, Alperovitz is also a distinguished political-economist, and this is obviously where his heart really lies.
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Format: Hardcover
I give this book five stars for orginality and scholarship and three for the quality of the writing.

The ideas presented here hold the key to future progressive political success. Unfortunately, most political activists on the Left are not aware of the rich history of democratic localism that progressives can draw on to win a progressive governing majority. This book is the antidote to this lack of awareness. By studying "America Beyond Capitalism" progressive thinkers and activists can learn how to develop popular policies that will earn the trust of the American electorate.

However, the quality of writing leaves much to be desired. The writing style too frequently degenerates into tiring catalogues of examples that could be easily summarized, allowing the curious reader to more easily absorb the main theme, while still having the option of researching examples by looking at the original sources cited. This is why I give it only three stars for the quality of the writing.

Overall, I give this book four stars and I highly recommend it to any progressive who is seriously interested in building a progressive governing majority in the 21st century.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
3.5 stars.

ABC is not exactly a ground-shaking book (unless you've been living in a cave, or a political bubble, for your entire adult life). There are many interesting ideas here but they are not new and the are not the authors. Still, I found many things that were new and interesting to me. For example, I was not familiar with Community Development Corporations or that so many Americans worked in worker-owned businesses. This book is especially relevant because we are in the middle of an election cycle where there are two competing views about the fundamental nature of American society: one is the "I got mine, Jack, so screw everybody else" approach and the other is the "we're all in the same boat together" approach. This book, quite obviously, pulls for the latter of the two.

If you accept the premise that the system is screwed up, then the questions becomes: what to do about it. This is something we, collectively, need to figure out and ABC makes a worth-while contribution to that discussion.

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