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The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy Hardcover – September 1, 2003

26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

American society is a culture of paradoxes. Never has a country produced such great abundance, yet never have we had to work such long hours to sustain a quality of life marred by corporate exploitation and senseless consumerism. Collectively, our middle class possesses massive wealth, yet we are currently powerless to effect substantial change in both the capitalist or democratic systems. We have irresponsibly destroyed the world's natural resources, yet--as in the past--our "daring innovation" may help resolve the calamitous ecological crisis we have created in the first place. In his sixth book, The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, William Greider attempts to discover "how and why our brilliant economic system collides with so many of society's broader aspirations and regularly frustrates them." How did these paradoxes develop and how will they be redressed? Greider flatly states that his intention is not to discuss a utopian ideal, but rather to relate his "conviction that the arrangements within capitalism can be changed, little by little, to make more space for life through innovations that eventually become common practice."

Greider creates a sobering picture of the obstacles we must overcome if we are ever to re-establish "an authentic democracy," one that truly serves the values of the majority and not just the wealthy few and the status quo. Indeed his descriptions of the deleterious effects of capitalism on the environment, the American workforce (white and blue collar alike), and the very fabric of American life expose an urgent need for change. Greider maintains that the strength of the capitalist system is its adaptability. Therefore, despite his frank admission that substantial change will be difficult and a long time in coming, his catalogue of small successes and localized reform initiatives lend credibility to his hopeful claim that "the corporate institution is ripe for reinvention." --Silvana Tropea

From Publishers Weekly

The good news is, American capitalism has "solved the economic problem" of overcoming scarcity, says veteran journalist Greider, currently with the Nation. Most Americans live materially comfortable lives. The bad news: capitalism seems increasingly dysfunctional and alienating, and fundamentally conflicts with humanity's noneconomic values. Greider says we have the luxury and responsibility now to repair this, to transform the essential purpose of our economic system from the relentless pursuit of "more" to the fulfillment of "human needs." Greider (Secrets of the Temple) breaks from the standard left-wing critique in one critical respect: he believes the system will be changed not by activist government but by a variety of small-scale reformers working to transform the economic system from within. Greider reports on experiments in corporate governance, especially employee ownership and consultative decision making. He investigates initiatives in corporate financing, most significantly, the growing practice of socially responsible investing by union and pension funds. Toward ecological sustainability, Greider's proposals include industries' developing "closed-loop recycling that mimics nature." Arguing that current government policies amplify capitalism's distortions, Greider emphasizes redirecting government expenditures from corporate subsidies to long-term social investments. Greider is immoderately optimistic, but without illusions about the challenges these grassroots movements face. Wisely, he recommends local experiments before considering any grandiose plans. Greider concedes that people might perceive a "touchy-feely wishful thinking" in some of the reformers' projects, and that quality is not absent from the book, but his overall framework is fresh and valuable, and his reporting on specific efforts is resourceful and illuminating.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684862190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684862194
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,289,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Greider is the bestselling author of five previous books, including One World, Ready or Not (on the global economy), Who Will Tell the People (on American politics), and Secrets of the Temple (on the Federal Reserve). A reporter for forty years, he has written for The Washington Post and Rolling Stone and has been an on-air correspondent for six Frontline documentaries on PBS. Currently the national affairs correspondent for The Nation, he lives in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links.

The author has written a book that outlines an implementable vision worthy of the Nobel Prize.

If you buy just one book this year, if you read just one book prior to voting in the primary and general elections of any country, this is the book. It combines common sense, a deep understanding of the flaws of a capitalist system that has been hijacked by unethical elites, and an extraordinary diversity of interviews and sources that I found compellingly sensible and straight-forward.

Politically and economically, this book offers the citizen-voter-consumer-stockholder an objective and balanced account of exactly what is wrong with the existing American way of capitalism (both at home and abroad), and how we might, over time, fix it.

Most importantly, the author destroys all of the myths and lies about the rising American standard of living, and demonstates that when one revises the Gross Domestic Product calculations to substract rather than add the negative products such as prisons and health care stemming from unsafe products and practices, the over-all national economic indicators have been steadily declining for over thirty years.

The author is brilliant--truly brilliant--in studying the work of others and putting together a case for redefining capitalism and the financial accounting for capitalism to include social costs and benefits as part of the evaluative calculus. He excells at understanding and explaining the benefits to be had by introducing long-term sustainability, worker-friendly labor and management cultures, and balanced work force composition (save the middle class) and compensation (end the looting of America and its pension funds by an out of control corporate elite).
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm sure many players in the marketplace are not ready to embrace what Greider is reporting, essentially the call in many quarters for a new economic paradigm that takes into account such off-the-book realities as environmental and technological sustainability and corporate accountability.
But it should be required reading. As he shows, the tide is turning, consciousness is building, and there are certainly a growing number of constituencies, from private and institutional investors, business owners, academics, and government officials, who recognize the need for deep rooted change and revisionist thinking when it comes to the basic precepts of capitalism, a 19th century system that no longer reflects the complexities of today's marketplace. Instead, this maze of antiquidated legal and financial rules continues to create winners and losers, though the victims are certainly becoming the greater,from the environment itself to employees, union workers, investors and retirees to the generations of the future. And the winner's circle keeps narrowing to those few in the academic legal and economic community who expouse shareholder primacy, that a corporation exists to serve its shareholders and shareholders well, and then within those confines, the very few in the ensuing debacles of this past bull market, who actually profited from the internet bubble, not to mention those scamming executives from the likes of World Com and Enron, who managed to escape with their stock options entact before all the cookies crumbled.
Bravo, William Greider, who marches on as both a keen observer and visionary who points out that people certainly aren't going to change, but the system had better do a better job in reflecting the reality of greed and imbalance that is taking a toll globally.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on January 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
No one writes with more verve, insight, and human compassion than long-time Rolling Stone contributor and Editor William Greider. His perspective always centers on the human cost of social phenomena, and is always heartfelt, compassionate, and extremely well focused. In this book he centers in brilliantly on the ways in which the so-called "Third Wave" of global trading and commerce has both complicated and corrupted the social, economic, and political landscape of the countries in which it has flourished. His writing skills are superb, and the ordinarily dry and stuffy stuff of economics come alive in this highly readable and quite entertaining work. Moreover, Greider demonstrates his understanding of the Marxian critique of postmodern capitalism as well as its relevance for what appears to be a critical point in capitalism's history.
This is a brilliant and perceptive book, one which both recognizes the dangers that confront us as well as the opportunities lingering beneath the surface of the sputtering global economy, which has seemingly turned inward and against itself, with some quite disturbing retrogressive long-term effects for both the workers and middle classes of the societies in which it is most advanced. Yet, Mr.
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