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America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy (American Crisis) Hardcover – September 25, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"[Speth] does a marvelous job of summarizing the most pressing problems and offering realistic and promising solutions. . . . This book is optimistic even in the midst of seemingly insurmountable problems."—Choice


"It is indeed possible to restore America to a true, durable, and decent prosperity and Gus Speth shows how. Cogent, clear, compelling and essential reading for liberals and conservatives; optimists and pessimists alike. We can and we must!"—David W. Orr, Oberlin College; author of Hope is an Imperative and Down to the Wire
(David Orr)

"A sweeping plan to save the United States by revamping the entire political-economic-societal paradigm...Speth concedes that his agenda is daunting... However, because he believes the country is in danger of failing the greater part of its citizenry unless current policies are altered, he chooses optimism, proposing specific reforms that can become reality if undertaken in a deliberate, measured way."—Kirkus Reviews 
(Kirkus Review)

“This critically important work brings together in a selective, judicious and integrated way the best current thinking on the American political economic crisis and related policies.”—Herman Daly, Professor Emeritus, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland; author of Beyond Growth
(Herman Daly)

“A brilliant, powerfully supported manifesto and an indispensable call to arms in the fight to build a democratic and ecologically sustainable system in the 21st century.”—Gar Alperovitz, author of America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty and Our Democracy (Gar Alperovitz)

“One of our most trusted elders in the environmental movement offers a sweeping and inspiring vision for how to transform a deeply ailing culture.  A true gift of a book, at exactly the right moment.”— Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine (Naomi Klein)

"In this hopeful and timely book, Gus Speth, one of the nation's leading environmental reformers turned system-critic, articulates what increasing numbers of Americans are feeling: a loss of faith in our market-centric, growth-oriented model. To jump-start a journey of transition, Speth presents a vision for comprehensive and deep change that is rooted in a sustaining economy and a new set of cultural values. Speth's profoundly humane sensibilities and common sense approach are sure to resonate with readers."—Juliet Schor, author of True Wealth: How and why millions of Americans are creating a time-rich, ecologically-light, small-scale, high-satisfaction economy
(Juliet Schor)

"Speth is a seasoned leader and passionate truth teller with impeccable establishment credentials. In America the Possible he presents a compelling case for economic transformation and spells out a policy agenda to achieve a secure and prosperous future for all."—David Korten, YES! Magazine board chair and author of Agenda for a New Economy and The Great Turning
(David Korten)

"Gus Speth’s wonderfully comprehensive account of the American condition is a devastating indictment.  Yet he lifts us up with his audacious vision of what can be."—William Greider, author of Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country
(William Greider)

"There is no more important commentator and visionary on ways out of the American economic dilemma than Gus Speth. His experiences are unique—in government, academia, and as a deeply engaged economic activist, working toward a systemic evolution that accepts natural limits and the primacy of democratic values. His new book is confident, comprehensive, rich with new ideas, and it confirms Speth as among the leading thinkers and voices in the urgent campaign for new economic models. I recommend it to everyone."—Jerry Mander, author, The Capitalism Papers; Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System
(Jerry Mander)

Honorable Mention, General-Non-Fiction category at the 2013 Green Book Festival sponsored by JM Northern LLC
(Green Book Festival JM Northern Media LLC 2013-05-08)

"At a time when forgettable blueprints for social change appear almost daily, this one stands out for being remarkably fresh, readable, and incisive."—Michael H. Shuman, Solutions
(Michael H. Shuman Solutions)

From the Author

A conversation with Gus Speth

Q: You have previously authored two award-winning books with Yale University Press. How do you see America the Possible in relation to the other two?

A: I see them as a progression, a trilogy perhaps, each digging deeper into what I think of as the American Crisis. When huge problems emerge across a wide front, such as we have in America, it cannot be for small reasons. What we have is system failure. Our current system of political economy is not delivering good results socially, economically, environmentally, or politically. That's America's real crisis. America the Possible takes all this head on; it is the broadest in scope and boldest in ambition of the three books.

Q: How so?

A: The book is brutally honest about the full range of major challenges America now faces, not just the environmental ones. It explains how we got ourselves into this sea of troubles and presents the specific changes now needed to get us out. Importantly, it describes a vision of America the Possible, an attractive yet plausible future that is still within our power to realize. And it sets out how system change can come to America.

Q: What should the first steps toward America the Possible be?

A: The truly good news is that important steps are already being taken. Look across America and one sees local communities reclaiming themselves, new forms of corporate ownership and management, families adopting new lifestyles, and much more. The future is being built from the bottom up. The next big step, which I discuss in Part IV of the book, is for progressives of all stripes to come together to forge a movement demanding prodemocracy political reforms. We've got to save our democracy from creeping corporatocracy and plutocracy, and we've got to do it soon.


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Product Details

  • Series: American Crisis
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300180764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300180763
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Wilson on September 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gus Speth is a very good writer and especially on a topic that often seems dry and incomprehensible to many. His description of the economic mess in which we find ourselves and how we got here, is very clearly presented; a degree in economics is not required. I especially applaud the distinction he makes between ideology-driven policy on the one hand and realistic, fact-based analysis on the other. The reader will quickly learn that Gus Speth is in the latter camp. While ours is truly a "troubled" economy, Gus Speth presents an optimistic manifesto for the future, based not on idealism and wishful thinking, but on careful analysis of what has gone wrong and on positive and action-based trends he observes already appearing across the land. While he is more optimistic than I am as to whether we can overcome the paralyzing divisiveness and gridlock in our political arena, I do find myself more hopeful now that I have read this book.

I recommend this book to any citizen who is concerned about our country and what it will hold for future generations and anyone who, rather than lapsing into a negative and cynical view of our democracy and our future, is eager to be a part of the solution.
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Format: Hardcover
America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy by James Gustave Speth shows that it's possible to fix our economy, our environment, and our democracy -- and that fixing each goes hand-in-hand with fixing the others.

As millions of people in the US and billions around the world suffer unemployment and deprivation, those who care about workers instinctively reach for economic growth as the way to create decent livelihoods for all. Yet those who are paying attention to what is happening to our land, waters, and climate know that the unintended consequence of modern economic growth is the destruction of the very ecosphere that makes life on earth possible.

Speth synthesizes a wonderfully wide range of models, proposals, and forms of action into a synergistic whole. He shows how we can create full employment by greatly expanding our production of things that people need -- from education and healthcare to climate-protecting energy, manufacturing, and transportation systems. At the same time, we can phase out the kinds of production that are hurting us -- from fossil fuel energy systems to yet more weapons to make the rubble bounce. And he shows how such a program can draw labor and environmentalists, local communities and advocates of global justice, and many other constituencies out of their silos and into a broad-based movement for a sustainable future.

"America the Possible" is still possible, Speth believes, but only if we change directions with genuine urgency.
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Format: Hardcover
If you want a hard-headed analysis of the global disaster that is looming, and possible pathways to cope with that challenge in sustainable ways, then you need to read books by the former head of Yale's school of environmental studies James Gustave Speth. Several years ago, I strongly recommended Speth's prophetic, research-based manifesto, The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability.

There's no coincidence that we are receiving Speth's newest book in the same week that the great pioneer in writing about world religions, Jacob Needleman, is releasing his latest book: TITLE In this new America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, Speth's repeats and expands upon his appeal for a new progressive vision as well as a worldwide network to push for social, economic and environmental change. World events are moving so rapidly now that thinkers from realms of religion, like Jacob Needleman, and science, like Speth, are honing their messages into clarion calls that just might make a difference.

In his earlier book, Speth ended with some strong questions to teachers, religious leaders, social activists, scientists as well as anyone else who would listen and start thinking. Now, he is mapping out an even clearer appeal that he describes as a new progressive movement. Toward the end, he writes: "Throughout this book, I have made references to the various progressive communities. Note the plural. What does not exist yet, and what must now be built with urgency, is a unified progressive community." He explains in a clear-eyed way why most sympathetic men and women seem determined to construct barriers that so far are hobbling any hope for a unified movement.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was forced to read this book for a class I took at IU so my review may be a little bias to the fact that I did not pick this book up for leisure. I enjoyed reading the chapters dealing with basic facts of our political fallacies and economic "growth" fetish a lot and learned a lot on these examples alone. My main problem is that Gus Speth hyper-focuses on the far left ideals and priorities without ever trying to appeal to the right wing ideals. I consider myself a left-wing liberal and feel Speth has a lot of the same beliefs I do which is great. This is good discussion when you are talking with your social group who share similar interests but when you are trying to initiate a change that would emcompass every political background, you cannot fail to include the side you will have to convince the most. Speth describes his ideas for a "New Economy" without ever suggesting a reasonable and cooperative approach that would help both sides combat the problems of social inequity, climate change and foreign entanglement together in a feasible manner. He suggests things like a 55% tax margin on people with income over $410,000 and converting our political structure to resemble ones in Spain or England (where the legislative branch is filled according to the percentage of votes a party receives; example: Lets say the Republican party gets 44%, Dems get 40% and Libertarian gets 4%, then Reps would have 44% of the House, Dems 40% and Libs 4%). These are great ideas and I'm all for them but in our system, they would be shot down by Republicans and even some Democrats so fast that it wouldn't even be worth drafting a bill. Speth just seems to be speaking to a specific audience and his ideas are just too left to have any momentum with the general public.
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