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The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism Paperback – February 4, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
This stimulating treatise urges Americans to prepare for a newly emerging global economic order.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
According to Harvard economist Reich, author of The Resurgent Liberal ( LJ 8/89), we are going through a historic transformation that is rearranging the politics and economics of the 1990s and the 21st century. Economies are no longer simply national in scope but global, rewarding the most skilled around the world with ever greater wealth while consigning the less skilled to declining standards of living. He sees the global work forces as already divided into three groups: routine producers (e.g., data processors), in-person servers (e.g., librarians), and symbolic analysts who manipulate symbols for large profits (e.g., financial wizards). In 1989, these analysts comprised about one-fifth of the population of the United States, but they earned more than half the income. As the rich get richer and the rest get poorer, Reich urges a national recommitment to the productivity and competitiveness of all citizens. This is highly recommended for all academic and public libraries.
- Jeffrey R. Herold, Bucyrus P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Throughout, his text is very concise and direct, without an extraneous word.
He loses a star only for the last chapter, which is a utopian and not-very-convincing prescription for a way out of the morass. He no doubt felt a responsibility to provide some sort of solution after 300 pages of problems -- but his days with the Clinton administration immediately following the publication of this book may have disabused him of such easy answers.
According to the author, when the dust settles from the U.S. economy being "globalized," the only job left for America as a surviving nation, will be to train its immobile work force so that it can better position itself to respond to the global economy on its own, that is, left to its own devices. That sounds like its time for everyone to run before the lights are turned out on the old US of A?
The book raises some fundamental and far-reaching questions that we as a nation have never had to face before, such as: without a national economy, will we still be considered a society? A nation? With our economy dispersed and integrated into the global economy, will there be a need for a national defense, or will the military simply become privatized mercenary armies raised to protect corporate interests wherever they may be? What happens to American society, and to those lost in the global economic competition? What about the implicit moral contract between corporations and the citizens of the state in which they reside?
The author's answers are not reassuring as he suggests that this will depend on "whether there is still enough concern about retaining the notion of an American society to elicit sacrifices from the most advantaged to help the rest regain ground it has lost in the competition for a foothold in the global economy."
.One of the problems inherent in this "new world without economic borders," is that without being able to rely on the loyalty of American patriotism, corporate incentives will be to train workers only in places dictated by the global economy. And this will undoubtedly mean doing so in places where labor and training provide the greatest return on the dollar, in other words where they are both cheapest.
For a whole host of reasons, an argument can be made that America is unlikely to be such a place: its infrastructure is already crumbling, it is beset with social problems that make return on both the education dollar and the labor dollar unattractive and un-competitive.
Reich builds a convincing case that the global economy is indeed already a fait accompli, but he is totally unconvincing when he intimates that the U.S. can survive intact, through retraining, dividing skills into routine producers, in-person servers, and symbolic analysts, etc. (Whenever I hear the word "retraining," I know I am being sold a wooden nickel.)
What is left unsaid in the subtext is that anyone with an ounce of brains had better get himself a Beijing address and letterhead.
A very strong read. Five Stars.
He points out trends both harmful and beneficial to America, and prescribes changes that could help America, and the world. These include the traditional liberal stands of investing in education, securing healthcare and other social nets for the poor, protecting the environment, empowering workers, especially those at the bottom of the economic food chain, with greater power in their economic success,
The book is clearly written. Reich is clearly a Democrat, but the book is not partisan in its treatment, and he emphasizes the importance of government budgets and tax rates in economic policy. There were several items he should have placed more focus on; privatization of utilities, the growth of intellectual property and its effects on technological growth and individual rights, the spread of credit, and the parallel rise in bankruptcies. In all the book tends to look at the bright side, and offers many good points for political leaders current and future to consider.