- 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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 116 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #508,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life 1St Edition Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
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
Top customer reviews
Robert Reich writes in his book on Supercapitalism that Hierarchy and the Price System have gained supremacy over Polyarchy (democratic governance) and Bargaining. He opines that “[s]upercapitalism has triumphed as power has shifted to consumers and investors. They now have more choice than ever before, and can switch ever more readily to better deals. And competition among companies to lure and keep them continues to intensify.”
Reich artfully describes the road to supercapitalism in the second chapter of the book. He says that new inventions destroyed the large staid oligopolistic systems of the past. The other factors that led to supercapitalism have been technological change, globalization, and deregulation.
Technological change-Pentagon and NASA engineers in a race for better weapons systems—and race to outer space—invented vacuum tubes, and then “semiconductors and then tiny integrated circuits etched on silicon wafers.” Out of those discoveries came smaller and smaller computers, the internet, and ultimately all manner of handheld devices. This change obliterated the oligopolistic barriers to entry that had existed in the economy previously.
Globalization—Transportation costs plummeted as products became smaller and lighter. Reich describes the process of containerization as a case in point in enhancing globalization. “In 1967, no commercial container service linked Japan and America. A year later, seven companies had entered the business. By 2005, more than 3,500 ships plied the seas, loaded with 15 million containers.”
Deregulation—The shift to deregulation actually started ten years before Ronald Reagan took office. But a lot of it occurred under his watch. Technological change and smaller scale economies, created the need to reduce barriers to entry and dismantle the regulated industries. The airlines were deregulated in 1978, transportation (rail and trucking) in 1980; banking and finance in 1980 (mutual funds emerged in that year); and telecommunications in 1982. After the deregulation of trucking, 300 large companies closed their doors. But 10,000 new smaller independent companies opened theirs.
Reich writes about election finance, compensation of CEOs, growth of lobbyists and other factors that fuel the new supercapitalism. He also makes it clear the days of statesmanlike corporations are over. If there is to be a balance of power within the polity then polyarchy (democratic governance) needs to step up. In Reich’s words, the purpose of capitalism is to get great deals for consumers and investors. The purpose of democracy is to accomplish ends we cannot achieve as individuals.” And “it is Illogical to criticize companies for playing by the rules of the game; if we want them to play differently, we have to change the rules.” The book has many interesting facts and charts that further the reader’s understanding of supercapitalism. I recommend the book highly.
Basically, the whole book is about how this country is supposed to run on the dual ideals of capitalism and democracy, but lately, the forces of capitalism have been crushing the democracy part. Reich says it's our own damn fault: our greed for $$$$$$$$$$ and Return On Investment have driven the vast majority of our actions as consumers and investors, causing the very social ills we complain about (job insecurity, massive wage inequality, depraved garbage on TV, etc.)
He makes the point that it's illogical to scapegoat Wal-Mart and friends no matter how big they are, since they're basically playing by the rules and doing exactly what we demand of them. In fact, when a company shows the slightest sign of generosity (i.e. when Costco's CEO lets its employees pay only 8% of their healthcare costs instead of the usual 25%) it instantly gets slammed; any CEO that isn't doing everything to "maximize shareholder value" usually gets the boot. Investors don't care about much else besides the bottom line (and even when they do, their purchasing patterns don't reflect it), which is why they're willing to pay whatever it takes to get the most profit-generating CEO (and then later, of course, everyone gripes about massively overinflated CEO salaries).
Basically, we're all hypocrites and morons, but Reich reminds us that it's not entirely our fault, because the system makes it a lot easier to express your voice via capitalism than via democracy. For example, you can choose where to shop, what companies to invest in, and what CEOs you want in charge, but if you try to speak your mind about something like how the media is debasing society, well, there's no real specific constructive outlet for it, and chances are you won't be heard above the din.
I guess this stuff should be obvious, but I never really thought about it before, and anyway it's rad how he analyzes everything so deeply, fairly, and realistically -- lessons yet to be learned by sycophants like Michael Moore.
As a sidenote, I also picked up on a few interesting nuggets of truth, like:
- Costco's customers have more than 2X the income of Wal-Mart customers. I also heard that Costco's CEO only makes a six-figure income (unheard of for CEOs) and the company pays people about $17/hour vs. Wal-Mart's $10. Sounds like a really thoughtful company.
- Reich thinks it's silly that the 80s was known as the decade of greed, as if that mentality wasn't there before. Plus, a lot of the seeds and statistics of this gaping inequality started in the 70s. Ack, I forgot which ones.
Anyway, definitely recommended.
Whenever I read conservative political I get the feeling they haven't bother to understand Dr. Reich (and Paul Krugman) are all about. I wish they would. The good professors trying to bring light in to dark caves economic theory, especially among the "dismal science crowd. (Yes, my biases are showing.) Recommended by all means.
Most recent customer reviews
Reich nails the situation: as a consumer, I want everyday low prices and shop at Walmart; as a citizen, I want domestically...Read more