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The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism Paperback – February 4, 1992

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 4, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679736158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679736158
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #417,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This stimulating treatise urges Americans to prepare for a newly emerging global economic order.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

According to Harvard economist Reich, author of The Resurgent Liberal ( LJ 8/89), we are going through a historic transformation that is rearranging the politics and economics of the 1990s and the 21st century. Economies are no longer simply national in scope but global, rewarding the most skilled around the world with ever greater wealth while consigning the less skilled to declining standards of living. He sees the global work forces as already divided into three groups: routine producers (e.g., data processors), in-person servers (e.g., librarians), and symbolic analysts who manipulate symbols for large profits (e.g., financial wizards). In 1989, these analysts comprised about one-fifth of the population of the United States, but they earned more than half the income. As the rich get richer and the rest get poorer, Reich urges a national recommitment to the productivity and competitiveness of all citizens. This is highly recommended for all academic and public libraries.
- Jeffrey R. Herold, Bucyrus P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Patrick W. O'Hara on December 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Many of us outside of the manufacturing sector have not yet seen the changes that the global economy has in store for us.
In his economic model, Reich points out the "vestigial thought" of the American corporation -- which today consider themselves "global" with no ties to its home country. His point is that America as a nation should welcome foreign investment if it will provide jobs to Americans. The global economy, as he models, is comprised on global webs, with knowledge workers with ideas in the center, surrounded by support services that add global economic value and bring concepts and products to fruition.
He also segments labor in the global economy into three catagories. Symbolic Analysts (or knowledge workers) who have the greatest chances for success, in-person services which are not readily suceptable to downward wage pressures, and routine producers which have already seen jobs shipped overseas to totalitarian areas with low wages.
More important than his global economic model is the subtlties that lie deep within the text. At first glance these may be missed, but a careful study reaveals several important caveats.
First that the global economy will likely mean less social mobility to the majority, with an ever increasing inequality in the distribution of wealth: Hence, the end of the middle class. This means that in a global economy, there may not be enough jobs paying living wages to support our already declining standards of living.
Second, Reich points out the improbability of of everyone becoming sybolic analysts -- which is evidence on the growing population of people today who can not even perform basic skills. He refers to a study by William Julias Wilson, writen in "When Work Dissapears.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Pumpkin King on March 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Robert Reich is interested in labor. Not surprising. He's a former Secretary of Labor under Clinton's administration. He begins by telling us that corporations have lost their national identity. In other words, almost all American and foreign corporations consist of employees, investors, and machinery that are located all over the world, and so the traditional view that American economic progress being directly related to the profitability of American firms is no longer valid. So what then should be the economic goals of the state?
Three types of workers exist in Reich's thinking: routine producers, in-person servers, and symbolic analysts. Reich shows evidence that the symbolic analysts, who "solve, identify, and broker problems by manipulating symbols," are the winners in this age. The workers who are educated and can use their knowledge to supply a service will get the highest incomes. Those who have no knowledge to sell, who are engaged in routine jobs in factories or in-person servers such as waiters and cashiers will be left behind them.
So Reich proposes that education is of great importance, and devotes two chapters to "The Education of the Symbolic Analyst." It doesn't matter whether or not American firms, if definable, prosper. It is in the long term interests of the American people for the people to learn and be able to use that knowledge. If foreign firms come and employ Americans, good. The workers will still be Americans, and they will learn stuff in the process.
But not all Americans can be symbolic analysts, and perhaps not all symbolic analysts can be well off. Reich's main concern seems to be income inequality and the social attitudes of the symbolic analysts.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Newton Ooi on September 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
The author of this book is a respected economist and also a former cabinet secretary in the Clinton administration. Published in the early 1990's, this book provides a short economic history of the US, describes the American economy at his time (the early 1990's) and what lies ahead for America. In it, Reich covers various topics such as: industrialization, outsourcing of labor, gap between incomes, the growth of financial markets in both the number of people involved, the sums of money involved, and the influence they have on world affairs, and the role of America in world economics.

He points out trends both harmful and beneficial to America, and prescribes changes that could help America, and the world. These include the traditional liberal stands of investing in education, securing healthcare and other social nets for the poor, protecting the environment, empowering workers, especially those at the bottom of the economic food chain, with greater power in their economic success,

The book is clearly written. Reich is clearly a Democrat, but the book is not partisan in its treatment, and he emphasizes the importance of government budgets and tax rates in economic policy. There were several items he should have placed more focus on; privatization of utilities, the growth of intellectual property and its effects on technological growth and individual rights, the spread of credit, and the parallel rise in bankruptcies. In all the book tends to look at the bright side, and offers many good points for political leaders current and future to consider.
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