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Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life 1St Edition Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0307265616
ISBN-10: 0307265617
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this compelling and important analysis of the triumph of capitalism and the decline of democracy, former labor secretary Reich urges us to rebalance the roles of business and government. Power, he writes, has shifted away from us in our capacities as citizens and toward us as consumers and investors. While praising the spread of global capitalism, he laments that supercapitalism has brought with it alienation from politics and community. The solution: to separate capitalism from democracy, and guard the border between them. Plainspoken and forceful, if somewhat repetitious, the book urges new and strengthened laws and regulations to restore authority to the citizens in us. Reich's proposals are anything but knee-jerk liberal: he calls for abolishing the corporate income tax and labels the corporate social responsibility movement distracting and even counterproductive. As in 2004's Reason, Reich exhibits perhaps too much confidence in Americans' ability to think and act in their own best interests. But he refuses to shift blame for corporations' dominance to the usual suspects, instead pointing a finger at consumers like you and me who want better deals, and from investors like us who want better returns, he writes. Provocatively argued, this book could help begin a necessary national conversation. (Sept. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Reich, professor of public policy and former secretary of labor, argues that as the U.S. has grown stronger as a capitalist economy, it has grown weaker as a democratic nation. Reich begins by looking at the political and economic history that has contributed to the particular brand of capitalism and democracy practiced in the U.S. and how democracy is threatened as more and more Americans are engrossed in their roles as consumers and investors and less so as citizens. He recalls the "almost Golden Age" of the 1950s, a period of stability as large corporations, big labor, and government managed the interests of consumers, workers, management, and investors for the "common good." The spread of capitalism to a global level hasn't corresponded with a spread of democracy throughout the world and has led to some negative social consequences at home, including widening inequalities and a shrinking social safety net. Reich asserts that although Americans dislike what lower wages are doing to us as a nation, when weighed against lower prices or higher return on investments, we vacillate or look the other way. Reich uses tables and charts and plain speech to describe how the economy has grown so efficient and effective that the human equation is lost and how the democracy has become less and less responsive to common values. As citizens, we need to "make our purchases and investments a social choice as well as a personal one," Reich maintains. Bush, Vanessa
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1St Edition edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307265617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307265616
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Izaak VanGaalen on September 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
According to Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, there was a time when capitalism and democracy where almost perfectly balanced. This was the period of 1945 to 1975, which he calls the "Not Quite Golden Age." During this period there was a three-way social contract among big business, big labor, and big government. Each made sure that they as well as the other two received a fair share of the pie. Unions recieved their wages and benefits, business their profits, and regulatory agencies had their power. It was also a time when the gap between the rich and the poor was the narrowest in our history. It was not quite the golden age because women and minorities were still second class citizens, but at least there was hope.

Fast forward to 2007, capitalism is thriving and democracy is sputtering. Why has capitlism become supercapitalism and democracy become enfeebled? Reich explains that it was a combination of things: deregulation, globe spanning computer networks, better transportation, etc. The changes were mainly a result of technological breakthroughs; unlike many leftists, he is not conspiratorial thinker. The winner of this great transformation was the consumer/investor and the loser was the citizen/wage earner. The consumer has more choices than ever before and at reasonable prices. The investor has unprecedented opportunities to make profits. The citzen, however, is not doing well. The average citizen does not have much voice - other than voting - in the body politic. And on the wage earner has been stagnating for many years. The most salient illustration of this trend is Walmart. Walmart delivers the goods at low prices, but the trade-off is low wages for their employees.
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Format: Hardcover
My friend Joanie's father was uneducated and had a very poor work ethic. Yet he worked for a union for 30 years, retired in his 50's and collected health care and pension benefits for 30 more years. His wife did not work, they lived in a nice home in the suburbs and he put three kids through college.
He was fortunate enough to have been born in the right place at the right time (as well as being of the preferred race and sex).
His grandson, Jared, Joanie's son, is 25, has three years of college education, works very hard (about 60 hours per week), lives with his mother and will probably never be able to afford the home and lifestyle experienced by his grandfather.
While the US GDP has grown rapidly, the benefits of the process are not readily visible to Jared - or millions of other young people like him.
Supercapitalism does an excellent job of explaining what has happened to the US economy - and why Jared is having a harder time than his grandfather.
While the term 'fair and balanced' is overused by parts of the media, this book is actually 'fair and balanced'!
Rather than bashing corporations - and corporate executives - Reich points out that they should be expected to do what they do - provide the best products at the lowest prices for consumers and provide a competitive return for stockholders.
He also says that we, as citizens, should become more actively involved in making decisions that are in the best interest of our country.
Reich discusses a major roadblock for citizens to overcome when he notes, "But the largest impediment to reform is one brazen fact: Many politicians and lobbyists want to continue to extort money from the private sector. That's how politicians keep their hold on power and lobbyists keep their hold on money."
Supercapitalism presents a clear analysis of why we are where we are - and a call to action for citizens to become more involved in promoting the common good.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Reich makes a compelling argument that supercapitalism has robbed democracy of much of its power. Supercapitalism by the definition presented in the book is simple--the consumer is king and prices ALWAYS go down. What Reich looks at is the cost of low prices to companies, society, the individual and its impact on the workings of democracy. So how is democracy compromised? Reich also points out that the rise of different lobbying groups, the cost of politics and globalization as contributing to this process. This isn't a surprise. It has just become more pronounced with time.

It's not due to some large conspiracy or any hidden political agenda as much as it is driven by consumption. Ultimately Reich argues that it robs the common citizen of any control over democracy. It's not surprising that this is a highly charged issue because the economics of what benefits society (or "the common good" as Reich calls it)often gets tangled up in the web of politics. Reich also points out that the cost of supercompetitiveness, constantly falling prices is a loss to the economic and social health of America. Reich points out that everyone wants to get the lowest price possible but he also suggests that we must balance that with our desire to have decent wages and benefits. He also points out that the move towards regulation was initiated by government and that corporations went along because it kept out competition and guaranteed a top and bottom for prices allowing companies to get a profit without fear of cutting prices so low that it would put them out of business.

I should point out that this is an oversimplification of Reich's points but it does capture some of the concepts.
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