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One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism and the End of Economic Democracy Hardcover – October 17, 2000

3.8 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

After nearly a decade of bull markets, Americans have come to equate free markets with democracy. Never one for mincing words, social critic Thomas Frank, editor of The Baffler and author of The Conquest of Cool, challenges this myth. With his acerbic wit and contempt for sophistry, he declares the New Economy a fraud. Frank scours business literature, management theory, and marketing and advertising to expose the elaborate fantasies that have inoculated business against opposition. This public relations campaign joins an almost mystical belief in markets, a contempt for government in any form, and an "ecstatic" confusion of markets with democracy. Frank traces the roots of this movement from the 1920s, and sees its culmination in market populism as a fusion of the rebellious '60s with the greedy '80s. The overarching irony is the swapping of roles--suddenly Wall Street is no longer full of stodgy moneygrubbers, but cool entrepreneurs "leaping on their trampolines, typing out a few last lines on the laptop before paragliding, riding their bicycles to work, listening to Steppenwolf while they traded." Meanwhile, "Americans traded their long tradition of electoral democracy for the democracy of the supermarket, where all brands are created equal and endowed by their creators with all sorts of extremeness and diversity." Frank's close reading of the salesmen of market populism nails such financial gurus as George Gilder, Joseph Nocera, Kevin Kelly, and Thomas Friedman. Their writings, he contends, have served to make "the world safe for billionaires" by winning the cultural and political battle--legitimizing the corporate culture and its demands for privatization, deregulation, and non-interference. Frank's incisive prose verges on brilliant at times, though his yen for repetition can be exasperating. In either case, his boisterous reminder that markets are fundamentally not democracies is worth repeating as the level of wealth polarization in America reaches heights not seen since the 1920s. --Lesley Reed

From Publishers Weekly

An incisive and incendiary survey of today's cultural, political and economic landscape, social critic Frank's latest salvo conclude, that the New Economy is a fraud, management literature and theory are nothing but self-serving forms of public relations, and that, despite its self-congratulatory commercials, business is not cool. During the recent economic boom, he argues, our nation's hallowed tradition of political populism has morphed into market populism, a reverence for financial success in the marketplace as the ultimate authority of all that is good and true. Frank, founding editor of the Baffler magazine and author of The Conquest of Cool, thinks he knows who is to blame and he names names. The list is long and makes irresistible reading. Distilling vast research into highly readable volleys, he backs up his rage against the received orthodoxies of the New Economy, globalization and free markets with hard facts. He shows the resemblance between the banking crisis of the 1930s and present banking practices and demonstrates that income inequality is on the rise with the richest 10% controlling over 70% of the nation's wealth. Heaping contempt on those he views as old-fashioned hucksters turned out in hipsters' clothing, he nominates such self-proclaimed pundits as George Gilder, the Motley Fools, best-selling author Spencer Johnson and the Body Shop's Anita Roddick to his personal Hall of Shame. A fierce and informed advocate for core American political values, Frank offers a critique of the way business has taken over American society that is especially resonant in this election year. (Nov. 1)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (October 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038549503X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495035
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,109,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I'm a Republican, sort of, and I've known and usually disagreed with Tom Frank for several years. Disagreed partly because of his and my age, educational, and career differences. But, as an older market research professional, disappointed with the ethos and ethics of our time, I heartily agree with Tom in his view that the American public has been sold a wrongful message on the state and - more importantly - the future of our economies. Plural is important, domestic plus export and import sales. I disagree with him on the unions' role, because he does not look at work rule problems. But otherwise, Tom Frank is right: The democratization of capital is largely a myth. Really, this is a thoughtful and - How did he have the time and stomach to read all that junk blah-blah management literature? - a very well researched and written book. The newspaper reviews, like the Chicago Tribune's, are right. Tom's written an important book about our futures.
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By A Customer on July 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
This thoughtful, well researched, highly praised, and cogently written book was published three years ago, so why all the recent vitriol from negative reviewers? In fact, these harshly negative reviewers are *really* annoyed at the favorable response to the author's new book (see the just-published WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?). And in their zeal to trash the author and his useful discussion of how conservative voters have ceded their own true economic interests to calculated -- but essentially dead-end -- appeals to conservative values, these frustrated rightwing critics have extended their campaign to all things Tom Frank-related. If they actually read any of Frank's books, they might find much in his work that is sympathetic and fair-minded. Unfortunately, they have yielded to the right-wing preference for shrillness and black and white thinking over nuanced argument and real debate (but alas, that's what's the matter with liberals). Ignore the bombast and read this book -- and decide for yourself.
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Format: Paperback
Before I say anything else about this book, I want to address the very strange claim made by a couple of reviewers that Thomas Frank doesn't understand economics. What is bizarre about that statement is that nowhere in the book does Frank talk about economics. If you look at most of the books by people like George Stigler or Gary Becker or Kenneth J. Arrow or any of a host of economists, you will find few of the issues discussed in this book. What is closer to the truth is that Frank discusses some of the assumptions that people make about business and the market. But this is largely unrelated to economic theory. When Milton Friedman argues for a radically free market economy, he has ceased speaking as an economist and has become a political philosopher, just as when Amartya Sen ceases writing about economics and begins talking about issues of justice and fairness in a political system, he has become a political philosopher. One speaks as an economist when stating what the effect of strong central regulation has on foreign investment, but one speaks as a political scientist when saying that deregulation is a bad or a good thing.

Nonetheless, Frank is very definitely concerned with the assumptions that underlie much free market-oriented policy of the past decade or so. In a sense, Frank is trying to revive questions that progressives such as Teddy Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt asked about the fairness of a society in which the needs of the many could be ignored in favor of the needs of the few. These individuals, like Frank, were deeply concerned with issues of economic equality.
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Format: Hardcover
Thomas Frank has trenchantly skewered the ideology of the market. Somehow this ideology has managed to insinuate itself so deeply that it is not recognized for what it is - an ideology - but is taken as simple common sense. Frank puts it back where it belongs as just one among many social class ideologies. He does this in two ways - by clearly showing where it came from and by exposing its absurdity in a range of areas from the internet to business to academia. I was going to write 'satirically exposing' in the last sentence, But Frank doesn't satirize, the material he quotes satirizes itself.
Frank has been criticized for repetitiousness and beating a dead horse. I did not find this to be true at all. What he conveys - forcefully - is the pervasiveness of this ideology everywhere in American life. His theme is that market ideology has replaced New Deal ideals and the labor movement with a patently self serving system of thought which inevitably enriches the few at the expense of the many. He contrasts this ideology with the postwar system of strong labor, effective government regulation of both business and the economy, and an adequate welfare safety net. He doesn't need to outline an alternative to the market, it existed only 20 or 30 years ago and still exists in places like France.
I hope that more works like Frank's appear before the Market Populists complete their bridge to the nineteenth century.
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