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Wall Street: How It Works and for Whom Paperback – June 17, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this "down and dirty" diatribe about American finance, journalist and New York radio personality Henwood makes no attempt at a balanced portrayal of Wall Street. He aims to "embarrass official wisdom" and expose the financial world's weaknesses, perhaps too gloatingly. Intemperate phrasing abounds, e.g., "real estate is based on milking wealth from land and tenants." Admittedly, Henwood flails at both the Left and the Right, and he doesn't hide his biases, but he lovingly quotes Keynes and Marx a little too often. Henwood doesn't claim to be offering any practical investment advice; nor does he present any solutions to the problems against which he fulminates. The result is a difficult, divisive, unpleasant, querulous, and uninstructive book that larger business collections might tolerate.?Alexander Wenner, Indiana Univ. Lib., Bloomington
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Doug Henwood's engaging book is a razor-sharp dissection of the world of high finance... Henwood has the natural-born teacher's ability to make the obscure transparent. -- Gary Mongiovi, The Nation

If Karl Marx wrote as well as Doug Henwood, who knows what course history might have taken? -- James Grant, author of The Trouble with Prosperity

Indispensable to anyone who wants to know where our economy is, where it is going, and why." -- Eric Foner, author of The Story of American Freedom

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; n edition (June 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860916707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860916703
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,013,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have worked on Wall Street and I have to say this gives a pretty decent macroeconomic view of Wall Street. He explains stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies, the Federal Reserve, Bretton Woods, the (in)efficiency of markets and many other topics. He then interprets what these things mean from a leftist perspective. The financial world is heavily right wing and accuses the left wing of not understanding how economics work and thus why the right wing is right about economics. This book will demystify acronyms like LIBOR, GDP and CAPM, and explain to you in Wall Street terminology how the rich are robbing the working class in this country (and the world) blind. Henwood's book, like Marx's Capital, is at heart an economic treatise with political ideas sandwiched in between the economic data and analysis. I said at the beginning I have worked on Wall Street and that is the truth - once you see the machine up close, or even become a cog in the machine, you realize how right people like Mr. Henwood really are.
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Format: Hardcover
Wall Street is that most rare thing, a critique of capitalism that knows what it is talking about. Doug Henwood has been writing about Wall Street for some time. He produces the Left Business Observer, subtitled 'accumulation and its discontents', which looks like a cross between a bulletin for investors and a revolutionary manifesto. Henwood's insider knowledge of Wall Street means that he can be as radical as he likes, without being shrugged off as inconsequential.
Henwood is scathing about the idea that the stock market and its financial off-shoots exist to mobilise resources for production. As he points out, that is not what they have been doing. If anything the mergers and shake-outs are about taking resources out of production where profits are low. Over and over again Henwood emphasies the divergence between making money on the markets and real production. As he points out, growth in the stock exchange can as easily reflect faltering production as a boom.
Henwood reports the growth of investor-power in the USA, the increasing clamour for a greater return on their stock. Astutely, he traces its origins to the first stirrings of ethical investment, when small investors first started to make their voices heard at shareholders meeting by demanding disinvestment from apartheid South Africa. But as Henwood notes, what started with the highest of intentions quickly turned into furious demands for bigger dividends, to be paid for by more lay-offs.
Henwood's sources are eclectic: the most up-to-date neo-Keynesians jostle Sandor Ferenczi's psychoanalytic theories of money, Karl Marx's Capital and even the lyrics of a song by eighties punk band the Slits. But what keeps Henwood sharp is his basic intuition that it is the whole system that is at fault, not any singular feature of it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ten years have passed since the publication of Henwood's paperback edition. In economic terms, that's an eon, so why bother in 2008 with a 10-year old book, given all that's happened financially in the meantime. Mainly, I wanted insight into how Wall St. really works. For a layperson such as myself, the lexicon and mechanics of the stock market are as untranslateable and arcane as the Runic alphabet. However, I didn't want one of those texts that uncritically repeats the official version every time a probing question appears-- you know, about how the market sends investment signals while directing funds into the most promising sectors of production. Sounds good, but I've been around long enough to separate theory from reality and recognize a self-serving statement when I see one.

So I picked up Henwood's tome for two reasons: the first three chapters define the basic lexicon and mechanics of the market, while the remainder presents contrasting points of view on how the markets really function. Sure, in the latter context, Henwood has positive things to say about capital's arch-enemy Marx, but considering how wealth is actually distributed-- or more accurately, not distributed-- Marx deserves a hearing, along with other critics, notably Keynes. How ironic that we as a culture are so quick to blame Marxist theory for its practical failings, but refuse to blame official capitalist theory for its 300 years of gross inequality and trickle-down. But then, I guess that's the function of apologetics, which among other benefits does offer the "exogenous" ready employment.

The first three chapters worked pretty well for me. I'm somewhat more conversant about "derivatives", "calls", "puts" and the rest.
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Format: Paperback
First a word about the publishing house: Verso Publishing is probably the finest publishing house in the world. When in a bind simply pick up any one of their titles and one cannot go wrong. It's imperative to read at least a few of their books at least once.

Henwood's Wall Street blows the lid off high finance like few other works. It's the definitive critical analysis (along with some of William Greider's books) of the high circles of wealthy investors.

Throughout Wall Street it rips apart the Federal Reserve Board and exposes its gritty innards. Henwood demonstrates that the Fed is an undemocratic institution that's obsessed with any hints of labor militancy, its biggest fear being wage inflation.

The Monetary School is also dissected by Henwood, being exposed as the fraudulent theory it truly is (or clever ruling class ideology). He points out that the Monetarists' ostensibly blamed the federal government for the Great Depression. Of course this has the fascinating effect of letting capitalism completely off the hook. The concepts of over productivity and income polarization, which were the defining characteristics of the 1920s, are rarely to be found in their school of thought.

Constant pressure by Wall Street for ever higher stock prices is what spurred most of the downsizing during the last decade according to Henwood. He smartly points out that this pressure for quick profit growth can often squelch research and development and investment projects which would benefit society. Because shareholders may very well deem these projects irrelevant to short-term profit growth.

Underlying Wall Street throughout Henwood continually pays homage to Karl Marx and some of his incredibly accurate predictions.
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