Noam Chomsky once observed that the US was one of the most ideological societies on earth but this was also what made it so interesting to work there. Thomas Frank, who as editor of left-wing magazine The Baffler has consistently and eloquently chronicled the will to power of America's business class must sometimes have to suppress an author's bubbling sense of glee at such fertile material. His latest book One Market Under God is based on a simple proposition - that during the 1990s, the American public allowed themselves to be seduced into thinking that anything that was good for corporate America was ultimately good for everyone. The results, Frank laments, can been seen in the rampant casualisation of the workplace, the ripping up of the welfare state, the spiralling prison population and the incredible statistic that in 1999 the average income of CEOs was 475 times that of blue collar employees. The ideological tool with which this determined assault on the relatively egalitarian settlement of the `middle class republic' of the `50s and `60s was carried out, Frank dubs `market populism'. Ditching the conservative culture wars of the `80s just as the internet boom was beginning to take off, Wall Street and its journalistic outriders embraced the wisdom of the common man. From rebel teenagers to midwestern grandmothers in investment clubs, everyone was seen to be making money from the unstoppable boom of the new economy (partially, though this was seldom mentioned, to compensate for stagnating wages and the decline of social security). The market became the embodiment of the popular will, expressed through consumer preferences and stock options - much more immediate and representative than clunky, once every four years elections. Newsweek expressed the faith in borrowed soundbite - `Markets `R' Us'. The reverse logic of this equation of democracy with the market was that anyone or anything that opposed the unfettered will of capitalism such as the regulatory state or trade unions were, by definition, elitist enemies of democracy and progress, and deserved to be dumped in the dustbin of history together with Stalin, Castro and the French in general for being so snobbish and protectionist. As Frank relentlessly trawls the endless repetitions of the market faith culled from business literature, journals and the mainstream press, you are left, as with parts of No Logo, with anxious sense of unreality, tinged with a naive wonderment at how people can, not just comply with the market, but come to imbue it with a divine, supernatural wisdom. As one `soloist' consultant approaches a lull in her career: `I decide to let the market tell me what it wants from me, and in a few days I get an invitation to have lunch with Andrew, a successful investment banker.' Or in New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's assertion that if God were to design the ultimate economy He would ensure that it had `the most flexible labor market in the world' and that managers could `hire and fire workers with relative ease'.The afterlife as sweatshop. At times, as Frank assiduously brings out, business thinkers cannot decide whether they are celebrating the will of the people or demanding that the world's populus meekly submit to the dictates of a divinely-inspired perfect system. Very often, the latter is held in reserve should the former fail to convince. `The two ideas were often connected, rhetorically in a kind of good cop/bad cop routine,' says Frank. `The market will give you a voice, empower you to do whatever you want to do - and if you have any doubts about that, then the market will crush you and everything you've ever known.' Even though the book makes only occassional sideglances to the anti-capitalist movement, it will undoubtedly be read, as has No Logo, as an expression of that movement's thinking. Curiously at times, and maybe this says something about anti-capitalism, Frank appears as something of a rebel conservative in his nostalgia for the `middle-class republic' of the post-war boom and his narrow definition of `economic democracy' as a broad equality of income and workplace rights. The strength is of the book is that, as with Chomsky, you are left with a far more sensitive awareness of the ideology that bombards you every time you pick up a newspaper or magazine. His description of Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal and The Economist all lining up Pravda-style to accuse Seattle demonstrators of stopping the world's poor from making a decent living is memorable. Behind the righteous exterior and `end of history' certainty, there was more than a little nervousness that things might be getting out of control.