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The Market System: What It Is, How It Works, and What to Make of It 8.2.2002 Edition

9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300093346
ISBN-10: 0300093349
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ever since the worldwide collapse of Soviet-style communism, the triumph of the "market system" has been spoken of as a fait accompli, while the market has been touted as a panacea for every social ill from failing schools to Third World poverty. Lindblom (Politics and Markets: The World's Political-Economic System) explains what this "market system" is, details how it works, makes a strong case for its advantages and keenly outlines some of its limitations. Exploring the relationship between markets and democracy, for instance, he points out that while it's true that all democratic societies have market systems, we can't conclude that markets always foster democracy, because many antidemocratic societies also have market systems. Addressing nothing less than the nature of cooperation in human society, his discussion spans history, philosophy and political theory, an unusually multidisciplinary approach for an economics text. Lindblom, a professor of economics and political science at Yale University, also explores the relation of the market system to efficiency, ethics, social equality, power, the natural environment and culture. Posing bold questions such as "[I]s there in our time an alternative to the market system... ?" Lindblom provides refreshingly few definitive answers, making his the most mild-mannered economics book published in some time, as well as one of the most cerebral. (Apr.) Forecast: Admirably clear and penetrating, this book deserves to find a broad audience interested in an intellectual approach to economics. Unfortunately, since the title sounds dull, the author is little-known to general readers and the book is hard to categorize, it may not achieve the sales it deserves.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war have made the terms communism and capitalism seem obsolete. Instead, we have the "market system." Russia's deteriorating, gangster-driven economy has been labeled a market system. So has Britain's so-called third way. At the same time, the excesses of globalism and the growing power of corporations, the depletion of natural resources and the degradation of the environment, challenges to welfare, and unprecedented prosperity have all been attributed to the market system. Lindblom's goal is to reconcile these discrepancies. A professor emeritus at Yale University, Lindblom neither "celebrates" nor "deplores" the market system; he hopes to have us understand it. He defines the market system as the organization or coordination of "activities not through governmental planning but through the mutual interactions of buyers and sellers" and explains that it encompasses labor, agricultural, capital, consumer, and business markets. As Lindblom makes these abstractions more concrete, he also catalogs the benefits and liabilities of the market system. David Rouse
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Institution for Social and Policy St
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 8.2.2002 edition (September 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300093349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300093346
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on September 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Lindblom approaches his study of the "market system" in a rather circumspect manner but ultimately the book informs. The first part of the book is largely instructive. He defines the market system as "a system of society wide coordination of human activities not by central command but by mutual interactions in the form of transactions." Coordination is for both "social peacekeeping" and cooperation. Markets are an arena for mutual adjustment and not simply or even mostly for competition as some would contend. He contrasts the flexibility of markets with the rules and authority of a command system. The state under girds the market system by providing for liberties, property and contract rights, policing, infrastructure, a monetary system, etc. The author furnishes the analogy: if the market system is a dance, the state supplies the dance floor. He is especially wont to point out the interpenetration of the market system with society and the polity. The market system is not some purely economic formulation like, say, the law of supply and demand.
A key claim by purists is that the market system establishes efficiency prices, or the correct price based on the free interactions of all buyers and sellers. The author squashes that notion. There are any number of inefficiencies and compulsions that undermine claims of efficiency. Among them are so-called spillover effects or externalities, transaction termination, manipulation of buyers, inequality of resources, inequality of market position, arbitrary pricing by monopolies or governmental interference - to name a few. In addition, the author identifies "prior determinations" as distorting efficiency prices.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By James R. Mccall on March 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Think society, not economy." Thus Lindblom, our author, urges the reader to think about the market system in a more inclusive context than we ordinarily are wont to do. To what end?
Well, the subtitle of this book is "What It Is, How It Works, and What to Make of It." As he says early on: "For at least 150 years many societies have been trapped in an ill-tempered debate about market systems. Now we have an opportunity to think about these systems with a new dispassion and clarity. Market ideologues have learned that there is little to fear from communism... For their part, socialist ideologues have realized that aspiring for a better society is not enough. They have to face the complexities of constructing one."
One way of bisecting the population is by distinguishing those who see an imperfect world and want to perfect it from those who see an imperfect world and want to live in it as well as its imperfections allow. Charles Lindblom, a professor of economics and political science, is of the first sort. His viewpoints become clear as the book goes along, and he makes no bones about the imperfections of the various market systems and their supporting political systems. At the same time he is not an ideologue, and does not fall into the trap of yearning for a utopia of the right, or of the left.
Basically, he sees the market system as inducing cooperation and preempting violent interaction over a vast range of social interactions. That these take place mostly with money as intermediary does not remove them from the social sphere: it is, he claims, a false distinction to place economic interactions in some separable sphere from social interactions.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Tansu Demir on February 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The main objective of Lindblom in this book is to elucidate the market system, not only in relation with the economic system but also in relation with the "social system", about what it does mean, how it does work, and what the alternatives it does have. Though the author is a supporter of the market system, he clearly demonstrates the efficiencies and inefficiencies, and accomplishments and failures of the market system in some important points for the society as a whole. At a point of time in history in which the alternative systems, including socialism, to market system have collapsed and the market rhetoric has pervaded all spaces of civic discourse, especially that regarding public sector management, Lindblom presents an excellent account of the market system that I believe will be very helpful to anybody who is interested in applying the market model to the public sector, and to anybody who believes (sometimes blindly) that the State is an impediment to the effective and efficient functioning of the market system.
The book is grouped into three parts. In the first part titled "How It Works" Lindblom examines the dynamics of the market system that lead to "great accomplishments". In the second part titled "What to Make of It" the author focuses on the operating rules of the market system, the relationship of the market system with and impact on democracy and culture. In the third part titled "Thinking About Choices" Lindblom envisages the alternative system to the market system that is expected to solve the problems of the market system. I will try to summarize some important points below.
To Lindblom, "a market system is a method of social coordination by 'mutual adjustment' among participants rather than by a central coordinator" (p. 23).
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